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06 October, 2007

Death of a Souqman

Few things are sadder than the wanton destruction of history and tradition, and in the 21st century the loss of an old, working souq is inexcusable:

Abu Dhabi: Residents say they are nostalgic about the good things which the old souq provided and miss the exotic smells and the bargaining.

The old souq was knocked down more than one year ago and residents say they have mixed feelings of the 'mall culture'.

"People just roaming around the malls without purchasing anything," said one resident.


This is UAE culture that has actively, wilfully been trampled into the dust for the sake of lucre and "progress". When people complain that longer time residents of the sandlands - whether expat or resident - sound bitter or negative, this is why. Because the things that people loved and cherished in this country are being destroyed. Disneysouqs such the Madinat are zero compensation.

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17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can a learned islamic scholar please advise. Where in the Koran does it state that during Ramadan, eating in public is forbidden for those who are not fasting? I am a muslim and cannot find this 'rule' so I may explain it to my non fasting colleagues. They understand it is disrespectful to eat or in front of anyone who is refraining from sustenance but it is actually considered a crime? Does this rule also applies to those are sick and infirm etc?

06 October, 2007 08:16  
Blogger nick said...

It's sad but you mustn't be nostalgic.
The old souqs are invariably in the older centres of towns, and today, must be economically feasible if they want to survive. Those which are still exist as in Instanbul or Damascus. Those souqs which are not, are obsolete and must make place for commercial space that makes sense and cater to today's needs.

Despair not. The new 'Abu Dhabi central market' which will replace the old souq was planned by one of the world's best architect firms, Foster and Partners, who have strong interest in hi-tech but also 'green design'. I have seen a bit of the design and it will be a smashing place - a far far cry from the Disney kitsch of Ibn Battuta mall or the pseudo mediterranean central court at MOE.

Times are a changing...welcome the new souq - and you'll still be able to get your plastic buckets and five nails at Satwa.

06 October, 2007 10:21  
Anonymous Magic Bus said...

Why don't they just replace it with the World's Biggest/Tallest/Longest/ Fattest Old Souk. Then Michael Jackson can fly in and buy exotic treats for his pet monkeys there (but keep an eye on yer nippers..)

06 October, 2007 12:20  
Blogger Seabee said...

It's something that Dubai has done well, keeping the old souks but updating them. I hope the spice souk gets the same treatment.

06 October, 2007 12:58  
Anonymous Kyle said...

Recently, we had family come over from the States. None of them were impressed with the gargantuan, gaudy monstrosity of malls here. Superficial, absurd, and way too artificial was the term labeled after a view.

But the fun began when we took them to the old souq in Deira and the spice souq. Let's just say their eyes lit up at the sight of these old markets! In addition, we had a whale of time at these places; arguing, bargaining, etc.

Can't beat old school to modern age!

06 October, 2007 14:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old is gold. The souqs are not only more fun but tell alot about Arabic traditions, which would be a point of interest for tourists.

Xalimah

06 October, 2007 15:57  
Blogger DUBAI JAZZ said...

Nick, after the great Sir Norman Foster has retired, Foster and Partners are surviving on his name; not necessarily the best architectural firm in the world...
Now if it was designed by Zaha Hadid, that's a different story!

06 October, 2007 22:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi to All,

Dubai Jazz, although I am not into architecture, but you made me curious to know more about Zaha Hadid. She is quite an achiever. Correct me if I was wrong, she designed the dancing towers that will be built in the Business bay, Dubai, they look amazing.

S

07 October, 2007 03:41  
Blogger nick said...

Dubai Jazz,

To say Foster and Partners are surviving on their name is stupid. Any big firm has a 'brand ambassador' and lots of good people who produce the work. Foster himself has a great team even if the man himself is not involved in day to day business any longer.
And don't kid yourself that Zaha Hadid is involved in all aspects of all projects herself, after the initial doodles.
(I happen to know people working in either of these firms)

As for the souq - Zaha Hadid produces spectalur work - but is totally unsuited for something like a sensible commercial development like a market / mall.

Let's take sport as an analogy. If architecture was sport, Zaha Hadid would be the Olympic gold medalist in figure skating.
Foster or SOM or KPF or HOK etc. would be the Premier League: Big teams consistently churning out quality work to reach the last four at the end of the season. See what I mean?
Different ballparks.

(Atkins would be in the third Yorkshire County division.)

07 October, 2007 09:53  
Anonymous fellow atheist said...

@ Anon 06 October, 2007 08:16

There is no such rule. This is a law dictated by the country and is not linked to Islam. It's just designed to make it easier for the Muslims to go about experiencing a semi-Muslim environment of Ramadan (given that the majority of residents/expats are not muslims).

@ SD,

I don't understand this. You want us to be stuck in 1890? This is what you liked about the UAE? This is like traveling back in time and seeing how things were done and finding that 'exotic' style so great.

I'm a city boy. I don't do 'old souq's, neither do I find them one bit exciting. Don't get me wrong, neither am I a fan of malls. I prefer open space, coffeeshops and restaurants on a square.. European style.

I just don't see it as a reason to be bitter about anything. The place is growing up. It needs to be economically viable as nick has pointed out.

07 October, 2007 18:47  
Blogger DUBAI JAZZ said...

Nick,
I have a problem with your metaphor, on the individual level, Zaha Hadid is not the slightest less than Norman Foster at his best...
And while Zaha Hadid is still involved in projects, albeit on the concept level, Norman Foster is not involved anymore, in fact, it is rumoured that he's been suffering from senility for a while now...don't ask me to prove it to you or to give you a substantial piece of evidence, i also happen to know people who work for him...

07 October, 2007 19:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellow atheist said..

"I don't understand this. You want us to be stuck in 1890? This is what you liked about the UAE? This is like traveling back in time and seeing how things were done and finding that 'exotic' style so great."

It's perfectly possible to be in the 21st century and retain the original character of a city - look at Istanbul, Marrakech, London, New York, Paris... The problem is that Dubai has succeeded very well at making itself look exactly like everywhere else. And why should it reject Arabic architecture in favour of European squares etc? A city being exotic is no bad thing - it's the reason that I don't just stay at home, and it's no doubt the reason why tourists flock to London - to me it's just home, but to the thousands of people who visit every year from elsewhere in the world, it's somewhere DIFFERENT.

08 October, 2007 09:20  
Blogger nick said...

Dubai Jazz,

I was not talking about Hadid or Foster as individuals or personal merit but about the kind of work they and their firms do best.

There are playing on different ballparks. I believe Foster and Partners are better suited to design a commercial, working building.

08 October, 2007 10:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be sad if Dubai losses its character.
WWW.SAVELOUIS.COM

11 October, 2007 04:47  
Blogger ammaro.com said...

we see this happening infront of our eyes in Bahrain. Everything is going down to make way for "more development", from the old buildings, the souqs, as well as some of our national monuments!

national monuments!

can u frickin believe it?!

16 October, 2007 16:06  
Anonymous Sand Man said...

Another nail in the coffin of anything traditional left here. I guess the souq was not deemed 'economically feasible' so they've slapped up a hyper air-conditioned mall full of a haphazard selection of boutiques and stores and the de rigeur megamart...incongruous shops in an incongruous structure. No one says we have to hop back on camels and head back to the desert..but a touch of the local would not go amiss. Souqs are as Arabian as the sands.

16 October, 2007 22:04  
Anonymous barry lando said...

hi, i am a journlist and tv producter currently writing a book on the impact of modern tourism and would like to learn more about the destruction of old souqs etc. in the uae as well as the attempts to preserve the old traditions and culture...apprecaite contacts..thanks barry lando

31 October, 2007 13:48  

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