Sharjah: The Souk
United Arab Emirates
April 4, 2016
I am guessing there are about one hundred and fifty shops. Have you ever seen so much gold jewelry in one place?
The elaborate pieces on display in the Sharjah Gold Souk seem fit only for the wife of an Emir or a Sheik! Considering my bank balance and my current marital status, I smiled at the merchants, took my photos and walked on.
On the second floor I found a number of rug shops. The items ranged from exquisite woven Iranian silk designs to simple tribal kilims. I was tempted. Oh, so tempted. Then I remembered: there is no more room on the floor of my apartment. But that never stopped me before.
I have learned in my travels never to ask the price unless you are interested in making a purchase.
I never asked the price.
Across the road I found the food souks: Meat, Fish and Fruits and Vegetables.
Souk or souq is the Arabic word for market. (Arabic: سوق , Hindi: सूक, Hebrew: שוק sūq.)
Here in Sharjah the enormous souks are not the hot and dusty, noisy and chaotic variety. The emphasis is on air-conditioning, cleanliness, and polite discussion between well-dressed customers and courteous shopkeepers.
In the Meat Souk I hear no moos, bleats or baas. No clucks or quacks or honks or cock-a-doodle doos. The livestock have already completed the first step of their journey to the dining room table. But only the first step. On display are large chunks and head to hoof whole sides of beef and sheep from foreign lands: Pakistan, Syria, and Australia. The butchers hack and saw and slice according to the customers’ preference.
I couldn’t resist taking photos of “Special Cuts.” Animal body parts not usually found in the pristine meat cases of Tesco or Carrefour or Kroger or even Walmart.
Fish and sea food from the tiny to the huge are on offer. And best of all, inside what looks like a hospital surgical theater, the souk provides a cleaning and scaling service while you wait.
In the fruit and vegetable souk, it appears that all the scales are connected to a central computer. Weight and prices are uniform and accurate.
A young man insisted I sample his product. I finally succumbed. I cheerfully purchased a half kilo of small, light in color and marvelously sweet dates from Saudi Arabia.
As the guidebooks say, “Worth a visit.” The gold jewelry was elegant, even outrageous and of little interest to me. But the rugs? I can still picture them in my mind. And I do have the business card of the owner of the shop.
I am pleased with my visit to the souks. My credit card never left my wallet. And I estimate that the dates will provide a nutritious and delicious snack for the remainder of my trip.