|The Yemeni Souk (in Jeddah KSA)
by Halema Mudaffar | Asharq Al-Awsat
Written by www.ArabNews.com
The Yemeni Souk, located in the Al-Hindawiyah area of south, is one of the city’s oldest markets. Those who visit it today get a feel for earlier times in and a more relaxed way of living. Everything is slower and more relaxed, not least because of the narrow streets and the number of people thronging them.
Sulaiman Ali, a 60-year-old man, was standing in front of a three-legged wooden table. He was selling Yemeni bananas — smaller and sweeter than the ones we normally buy — and other fruits as well as traditional Yemeni food items. In addition, he was also selling a variety of kitchen appliances — none of them very new. He noted that the souk was usually crowded and full of people. “We are busy all the time except during lunch. Things get really busy in the evenings right up to midnight. It’s very common for people to come here to the souk and want to take our pictures. What are we? Movie stars? No matter, we are proud to do honest work and earn honest money.”
A large number of people in the souk are visitors; they are not from the area and have come there for a variety of reasons. Abdullah, an English teacher in a government school, said he comes to the souk every so often. “Many things that my mother used to make for me when I was a child are now found only here in the Yemeni souk. Now my wife is making the food my mother used to make but in order to buy some of the ingredients, we have to come here. I live in northbut I enjoy the Yemeni souk because people are so relaxed and pleasant and it gives me a glimpse of my past and ’s too.”
There are a number of old women in the area; many live there and others do their shopping there. They normally buy traditional food and fruit. Coming to the souk is also very much a social activity for them. In addition to the women who come to shop and buy, there are others who are working. It is common to see Yemeni women in one area and Africans in another. All the women know each other and if one has to leave her place for any reason, her friends will take care of her goods and even sell things for her. When she returns, the money is handed over.
Aminah, a 40-year-old Yemeni businesswoman, said, “I am fromand I have been working in this market for many years. I sell all kinds of fruit. My husband is sick and I have five children to support. The whole family depends on me for help and I work hard because I want my children to get a good education. Thank God, they are all doing well in school and I am waiting for them to graduate and go to work so I can retire.”
In other parts of the souk are found old kitchenware. Ahmad Ali said, “I sell the traditional kitchen utensils that are used to make south Yemeni dishes. I also sell henna and many women come here to buy it. Thank God, there is no shortage of customers who come to see what we have and to buy. There are even some rich people who come here to buy old and unusual items which they display in their sitting rooms.” He points out, “Everything here in the souk reflects. We have been here for many years and we feel like one family. We have very good relationships with each other which is how life used to be and how we like it.”