An Arab woman wearing abaya is buying spices from a traditional souk

 

The futuristic Dubai offers something even for the admirers of the old and the traditional. The Spice Souk, the Golden Souk, the Fabrics Souk, and the Fish Souk carry the lively atmosphere of the Arabic bazaars from Scheherazade’s Thousand and One Tales.  

Massive golden jewels and precious stones weight down the shelves behind the shops’ windows. Linen bags of herbs and spices stacked along the narrow streets fill the air with heavy aroma. Merchants peep out the doors and call upon you “Hello! Buon giorno! Zdrastvyi!,” inviting you inside in many different languages. There is nothing fake about the merchant’s manners, and his words are not memorized lines. When he asks you where you are from, he asks because he loves talking to people. He knows Bulgaria’s best football players Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov. He gives you a few compliments, fox example that you look Italian, takes a picture with you in front of the colorful shop, and offers you his best price for the local cardamom or the candlenut from Indonesia.  

Despite of their archaic look, the souks are not a tourist attraction. They are real and functioning marketplaces with aggressive salesmen, wide variety of marked-up goods, and sometimes significant profit.  

Persuasiveness is the greatest skill of the souk merchants. They become your friends, sell you a ton of useless things for a very high price, and make you walk home feeling glad and happy!

 

Among the spices: rose petals for tea, incense for burning, laurel for cooking, chili, blue paint for coloring fabrics

 

Souks offer not only goods but also an experience. They are a perfect place for one to practice one’s bargaining skills and, inevitably, to get cheated.  Although they seem ages apart from a modern supermarket, souks and bazaars like these are suppliers to “the grocery store down the street”. It mesmerizes me how tradition and modernity work together in a small souk in Dubai.