The following article was conducted by Fatima Mouttaki. Her Interviewee is Mr. Abdullah Ahmed Al Moaazen.
Doha, Qatar- Abdullah has a small shop in a corridor alley in Waqif Souq (an open air marketplace) in the heart of Doha.
Abdullah is a kind man with his weathered features wearing his dish dash (a long one piece tunic worn by Arab men) always smiling, welcoming his visitors offering them a cup of tea or Arabic coffee flavoured of Saffron and cardamom. He demonstrates a passion arranging his Cashmere wool scarf and other goods with which he is very proud, littered by many customers from all walks of life.
First time I saw Abdullah he was displaying his wares calling out, “cashmere!” cashmere” small 10 Riyal, large 30 Riyal, “cashmere” “cashmere”.
Abdullah moved from his native country Iran in 1961 with his father when he was 12 years of age. He has two wives (not uncommon in the Arab world), with one in Dubai with his children and the second staying with him in Qatar.
The Souq in the centre of Doha is within walking distance of the Corniche. It was founded around a century ago in a dry riverbed known as Wadi Musheireb. Originally it was a gathering place where Bedouins and locals would trade goods primarily livestock. It has a limited number of hotels including Bismillah Hotel, Hotel Souq Waqif and the Al-Khariss Hotel.
Going into the Souq waqif one would think they are in dry Sauna with its intensive heat, as Qatar is part of the sandy desert, bordering Saudi Arabia on one side and the crystal blue Persian Gulf on the other.
The Souq is pleasant place to explore and stroll around for hours amongst a mix of antiquities, modernity and cultural architecture. You can smell the scent of the spices and Arabic incense (known as oud) from a great distance, as the aroma attracts one from a far with its strong and invigorating fragrances.
The Souq is open from 10 am to 12 noon daily, and again from 4pm to 10 pm except during the holy month of Ramadan, it is then open until 1am.
Within the Souq there are some tiny artistic shops displaying their variety of handicrafts, souvenirs products including Islamic art, daggers, swords, and numerous objects made of carved woods, beautiful colour carpets hand made and others by machine, fabric fashion, crystal perfume bottles, and jewelry. Others shopfronts include luxury air conditioned surroundings with higher quality products. Other areas of the Souq sell various domestic pets including dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, birds and other.
The souq has several small boutique art galleries one of them teach how to write calligraphy, display ancient back century photos, sculptures and also hosts local concerts during the holiday seasons.
There is life outside Souq waqif many restaurant and cafes adjacent to each other serving multicultural foods, as well as Shisha lounges whereby you can also enjoy a drink.
The good thing is if you have a lot of shopping you can hire a trolley man, who many are elderly gentleman dressed with the same standard uniforms, whereby they push older style wheelbarrows to carry your goods for a cost of 10 Riyal per hour (approximately 3 Australian dollars).
I asked Abdullah if he was rich and if he would prefer to stay at home rather than coming every day to the Souq, he said, “I enjoy running my small business rather than staying at home,” He also said he has another shop in Dubai which his son looks after. I also asked him if there are any needy people around the place requiring help as I felt sorry for the elderly wheelbarrow trolley men as I wanted to help, he said , “there is no poor here as the government gave everyone 500 Riyal per person, along with what they earn from customers”.
After a big day of exciting shopping there are readily available taxis, including a fleet called “Sydney Taxis”. Cost of taxis have a meter start rate of 4 Riyal during the day, with a higher evening rate and some drivers wish to negotiate. There are also private taxis and limousines available.
If you are fortunate enough to visit Qatar Souq waqif is a must see.