My first visit to an Arab market or souk was in Dubai at a place called Madinat. It was not a real market, rather a touristy adaptation attached to a beach resort. Being a souk virgin, the place looked, felt, and smelled authentic to me.The owners spent a lot of architecture, but the presence of Cinnabon and Trader Vic’s spoiled the atmosphere.
Next, I visited the original market of Dubai, which is at the port. One can drive, but it’s more authentic to arrive by boat. Although hardly matching the photos I had seen of souks in Istanbul or Marrakech, the place was more like I expected, oozing with atmosphere and local colour. Of course, tourists were attracted, but wise traders could do business and informed shoppers could find bargains. Staples needed for everyday life were on display, as well as world-class gold/jewellery area.
I thought of this a week ago today, as I peered out the window of an airplane departing Dubai Airport. I could recognise the location of the market (nestled in the curve of the Creek (looks like a river, but isn’t). In the distance, the high-rise towers of Downtown Dubai (a misnomer because this part of Dubai is only a few years old, whereas the Creek district is centuries old), mark the location of the most-modern markets known to man: the mall.
Inside the Dubai Mall is a “souk”, recreated to attract modern-day shoppers. They have done a better job than the folks that built Madinat. But, the malls are a bit extreme, with skating rinks, aquariums, dancing fountains, and ski slopes; movie theatres and countless restaurants; huge grocery chains and every high end brand; and massive decoration, from waterfalls to huge mobiles to dinosaur fossils.
The souk has evolved...
That’s the nice thing about Dubai: there’s something for every taste…in market, food, hotel, and entertainment.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.