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Souk, Souq, Suq

You can smell it as your abra touch-parks at the riverbank. The aromas lead you stumbling up the gangplanks and into a throbbing intersection. You ponder for a moment – safe stroll through the subway, or manic death-wish rush through Deira traffic? You opt for the road – the thought of darkness, dankness and odors assaulting your senses is overwhelming.

Suddenly you find yourself on the other side, and snicker at the fools coughing and spluttering while collapsing out of the vile tunnel. You are already striding ahead into a different cloud of air pollution, the kind you find at a spice souq.

It’s my favorite of all the markets here in Dubai – sure, it’s ripe with the standard pitfalls of a tourist trap – cheap rubbish dressed in clever disguise, laughably high prices that are never offered to the locals, spruikers offering fake (and substandard to Karama) designer goods. But this, to me, is the closest we get to a traditional Arab market, and the atmosphere is intoxicating.

turmeric, ginger, star anise, rose petals and buds
There are fewer westerners here than in the Old, Textile, or Gold Souqs, particularly as you delve into the deeper, narrower aisles. On many visits I am a lone white face, and the only unveiled female. The stall holders always think I’m German, and when I don’t respond to their greetings, they switch to French, then finally English. I skirt them expertly, I have “my guy”, the man who’s prices start halfway up the scale now he knows my face.

I pass pots large enough to cook Hansel and Gretel, rows of Shisha pipes, plastic bowls that look like porcelain, dinky toys, perfumes, and finally I find him. On the corner, near the money exchange. He smiles and welcomes me in, never remembering I have been here before until I request the spicy cashews that often are not on the shelf. His father sits at the desk beside the other exit, grumbling occasionally, snorting and frowning until I finally buy something.

And what do I buy?…

…Continue reading on The Hedonista here



One Response to “Souk, Souq, Suq”

  1. […] has been your best experience in Dubai to date? I love the souks, particularly the spice souk. I look forward to the arrival of visitors – it gives me a chance to take them on the abra […]


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