I never thought I would be as thrilled as I am to have found a ‘glitzy’ shopping street where one can loiter to one’s heart’ content, albeit competing for walking space with donkeys with their vast loads of exotica from the East.
They were slowly meandering along the rutted sand road together with. coolies dashing hither and yon, and by no means least well dressed European ladies and also the burka brigade all with their eyes glued to the gaudy window displays dreaming of waking up in the morning adorned in gold!! I think it would be fair to say that the street is raining gold!!!
To say I was awestruck would be an understatement; it was love at first sight. I was led to believe that diamonds were a girl’s best friend but I have now had a monumental change of mind.
Entering this little back street obviously couldn’t be compared to entering Harrods, there were no super tall doormen clad in their distinctive green uniforms, doffing their top hats to one and all, red carpets or splendid chandeliers, just scruffy little men dashing hither and yon going about their business.
This was serious jewellery shopping, par excellence, Dubai style. For many entering this golden heaven must have been akin to stepping into paradise, just breathing in the atmosphere was an aphrodisiac in it’s self to actually purchase a talisman of gold was enough to make the most blase of shoppers swoon with delight and maybe pass out into the bargain – A golden moment to be treasured.
I was now definitely warming to Dubai, little did I know what other delights were awaiting me in the labyrinth of alleyways that made up down town Deira – Next I was introduced to the Spice Souk which ran adjacent to the main road that ran along side the Creek, where Dhows were moored. Deck hands and collies were always to be seen working frantically loading and unloading the ship’ cargo. The coolie’s carts being loaded with great sacks of spices from distant shores, India, Kenya and maybe Zanzibar then to be trundled along the alleyways that made up the Souk to their destinations. Not surprisingly the Souk always had a pungent smell, the air being filled with exquisite aromas of eastern spices, a curry cook’s dream. In those days many of these spices were unknown to us, as yet, not having reached European shores.
Yes, this was another walk into the unknown and into the past surely this little corner of Dubai hadn’t changed for many a moon – Just after the Spice Souk one turned into another small passage which also ran adjacent to the Creek, it had shops on either side everything being crammed in up to the gunnels, this time the walk way was quite narrow consequently no room for roaming donkeys. Along with enormous sacks of colourful spices, yellow turmeric, red chilli powder orange curry powder, cloves, pepper corns and cinnamon there were mountains of metal cooking pots and utensils all big enough to cook giant curries or rice to go with their wonderful mutton grabs, this passage surely must have been the for runner of Habitat, it stocked everything for dining Arab style.
One usually found the shopkeepers lolling at the back of their little shops, really more like holes in the wall, patiently waiting for custom, swatting the flies that were buzzing around and fanning themselves to ward off the stifling heat. Surely this was a hard way to earn a living but what else was there to do. These shopkeepers were mostly from afar, possibly, Persia, India or Pakistan, consequently they had to make a go of things but, perhaps, they were better off in this tiny little corner of the World than from whence they came. This was something one would never know, but in my book though they sure got ten out of ten for tenacity and optimism.
My next foray was to the material Soak, another delight awaiting an eager shopper, this street was in the hinterland of the Souk, no wonder I had to be taken there in the first instance by those in the know. This quarter was entirely made up of shops selling material and surprise they all stocked the same glorious gaudy cloth that we Europeans would only have considered buying to make a fancy dress outfit, surely we must have been missing something.
These materials were mostly imported from China but there were one or two exceptions, a beady eyed and seasoned Souker had spied bolts of Liberty Print material in one shop and in another bolts of the best Worcested material that the UK could offer and then there were bolts of the bright fine white cotton material that was used to make the Arab Dish Dashes and it’s black counter part which was used to make the ladies Abyers.
The Indian ladies were catered for too, as there were wonderful Sari materials in all colors of the rainbow sitting on the shelves all vying with each other in their splendor, begging to be transformed into an exotic dress or sari to grace the next ‘state occasion’.
This hadn’t quite been a walk on the wild side but the sights and sounds of this little corner of Dubai surely made one’s heart want to sing together with the sun sinking over the skyline, the mullahs calling the faithful to prayer and the smell of the shawama’s cooking on every corner, at that moment in time what more could one have wished for.
Actually, this down town foray had thrown up a little conundrum where did I find a tailor pronto! Having done that I would be able to indulge my fantasies to my heart’s content, my goodness it was now clear I had another objective in life!
Oh, another thought, I wonder if there is a Vogue pattern book lurking somewhere, no, not over the rainbow but under a counter in one of these dusty emporiums. Seemingly, this part of the World has many surprises up it’s sleeve, so fingers crossed.
On that note I am going to meander home along the creek, this time dreaming of many more happy shopping days in my newly adopted ‘shopping precinct’ with the sun exquisitely setting in the west creating an amber hue across the sky. My goodness what an unexpectedly happy outing this has been.
Essay l4 will be published on lst July, which I do so hope you will find time to read and enjoy.
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Have a good week