Saturday, September 03, 2011

Souq Waqif

I feel like titling this post "The Epps Have Arrived," but I won't, because I'm already corny, and that's just crossing the line. But there's something about looking at the pictures I'm sharing here that gives me this overwhelming sense of "It's going to be alright." Half the time I don't know exactly what the heck we're doing here, and my cultural experiences have so far been mostly, and unfortunately, limited to the shopping malls. But the souq.... ahhhhhh, the souq. Even in the heat and humidity and dripping sweat and dirty toilets, it was a truly inviting place.

Yes, everything is going to be alright.

A souq is simply a traditional marketplace. Souq Waqif is the largest and most popular one in Qatar. I like this little description I found on Qatar Visitor:
Souq Waqif was an old Souq, so the government decided to knock it down and build a new Souq that looked like an old Souq. And, to my surprise at the time, they did a very good job at it.

I also read that its busiest time is Friday after 4:00pm. We were there Friday from 6:30-8:30.

We saw many elderly men in thobes pushing around full wheelbarrows, like the ones pictured here. I was going to say that I didn't know what that was all about, but I just read on Qatar Visitor that
Men with white beards and grey turbans wait in the pathways with wheelbarrows ready to carry your purchases.
What do you know, I'm learning new things every day.

Jeff did a nice job, wouldn't you say? Those of you who've been following us since we started this blog in Japan get to see firsthand how his photography skills have exploded. Mad skills, I tell you! It's wonderful being married to a photographer!

The souq is like a crazy maze, with one narrow alley leading to another. Fabrics, spices, traditional dishes, clothing... it's all here. I'm waiting for another trip to the souq to buy a lot of my spices. Our tour guide pointed out one of the popular spice shops, and I made sure Jeff got a picture of the sign.

This is one of my favourite shots of the evening. The center of the souq is spacious and open. Pedestrian only, cobblestone streets, lined with traditional and modern restaurants. The seating spills out of the restaurants onto the streets, but there are these misting fans everywhere, helping to ease some of the heat. This photo reminds me of a movie set.

There is also an "animal" section of the souq, with mostly birds, but also fish, rabbits, cats, some dogs, and the occasional snake. Here I'm admiring our neighbour Jabbour - at a safe distance - for his fearlessness.

Jabbour's children, Celine and Jimmy checking out the snake, along with a cautious Kaiya.

Kaiya wanted to hold the bird, but said it hurt her, so I stuck out my hand.

I don't really want to talk about these, because I'm definitely not a fan of dyeing animals...but yes, there were lots of these to go around...

Our tour guide, Nasser, who works for Qatar Foundation (on the left), and his cousin (who he kept referring to as his "assisstant.") :)

Men around here are constantly adjusting their head-piece thingies (I'll find out what they're actually called, promise.)

Okay, so when we were standing around taking pictures of one another, this guy walked up and wanted us to take a picture of him. So of course, Jeff did. He leaned in and told Jeff proudly that he was King Abdullah from Saudi Arabia. Er, um, okaaaaaayyy...

Nasser took us to a small restaurant right in the heart of the souq, run by this wonderfully warm woman. She treated us to ice cold water and a variety of sweets and other foods. We were also given a chance to try traditional coffee, which is flavoured with cardamom, saffron, cloves, and cinnamon.

While I was taking Kaiya to the bathroom, Jeff was "dragged" to a restaurant nearby to smoke some shisha. (Eye witnesses report that no actual dragging took place.) That whole contraption, including the thing he's sucking on and the stand beside him (a hookah), is used for this purpose. His was strawberry-flavoured. Yummy, until I actually inhaled and then coughed for five minutes (such an amateur, I know). Our more health-conscious neighbours informed me that smoking a shisha is like smoking an entire pack of cigarettes. I had to laugh. This was the first time Jeff had ever smoked in his life. Starting with a whole pack? Not bad, hon.

Tracie, exhaling her grape-flavoured shisha. She also blogged about the evening; you can find her take here.

Dave, clearly in his element...

The shisha group, saying good night.

When I took Kaiya to the bathroom down one of the many alleyways, we had to wait for a minute by another open-air restaurant. Up on the wall, giant screen, the restaurant was broadcasting American music videos. I had to smile at the scantily-clad J-Lo singing and dancing down at me. I'm still figuring out the rules and contradictions of this country. But then came OneRepublic, with their song, "Good Life." It's a great song that's been in my head in the months leading up to our move here. Seeing them belting that song down at me somehow was a sign.

Yes, everything's gonna be alright. Much love to you, friends. Tomorrow begins my first full work week. This is it.


Erika said...

fabulous. ok, be sure to buy me some fabric and lots of spices. jealous of the market, for sure. would love to wander those streets with you.

jabbour boudaher said...

i like that souk .

Rose said...

Yup - this is it. This post gave me shivers. This is why you came! The pictures are amazing. You are there!