The beauty and energy of Souq Waqif keeps me returning each week…..of course for the dancing, (see previous post!)….. but mainly because it has such an electric atmosphere – even during the week when there is no music.
The heat of the day lifts the aromas of coffee, spices and perfume and when the evening comes, the searing heat gives way to a soft warmth, mingling the aromas with the scent of the shisha. People from every part of the globe come to eat, shop, chat, smoke and haggle of course!
I had my first experience of the haggle this week and what fun it turned out to be! The shop keepers are friendly and not at all pushy – at least the ones I visited. Now that I can speak a little Arabic, it helps. I would go into a shop and say “as-salaamu alaykom” (Peace be with you) and would get “wa alaykom is salaam” in reply. ……Yes I am conversing, this is great!!!!
Generally speaking, they leave you to browse – the odd one or two would follow me around closely which I find a little irritating, but its all good natured, so its fine. There is alot of tat in the shops, but some of it is actually really nice stuff and some of it is alot of fun too. Anyway, I went in and out of a dozen shops, all selling pretty similar stuff and then I went into a really tiny shop, which again sold very similar stuff but this time, I lingered.
The shop keeper made me laugh by pulling the most apalling stuff off the shelves to show me – the worst being a turqouise and gold plastic Mosque alarm clock, which wakes you up with the adhan (call to prayer). At this point I looked at him and said “that is awful, truly awful, in fact its horrible……. no Ill go even further, its nasty, really nasty!!!”. There was only one other customer in the shop – a Spanish guy, who then joined in and said “she’s right, it really is terrible”…. and we all fell about laughing!!
At this point, his colleague came in from outside and he went to fetch us all some tea. So I sat for 30 minutes or so with the shop keeper and his Spanish customer, who it turned out was a Qatar Airways captain. When I told him I worked for Al Jazeera, he said that he had been interviewed by them 21 years ago, during the first Gulf War (which actually would be a bit difficult as the Gulf War was 1991 and Al Jazeera wasn’t born until 1996)…… perhaps he meant another Arabic Channel. Anyway, he claimed to be the youngest pilot in the first Gulf War which is why he was interviewed.
Not that anyone around here was particularly impressed, as you can imagine….. “why would he want to be involved with that?” was most people’s reaction. Of course we’re so conditioned in the west to view these guys as heroes (has never been my personal view) without questioning the bigger picture……. anyway, that’s something for another blog…. otherwise Ill be going all Ronnie Corbett on you!! (For anyone who doesnt know who that is, Im really sorry – youll have to look him up….. something to do with going off at tangents and taking a very long time to get to the punch line) !!
The punch line for me, was that after my tea, some delightful conversation, and choosing a few fun gifts to take home to my family, I charmed my way to an extremely good deal while making some new friends……. Doha and its amazing Souq truly are wonderful!! It always pays to linger 😉