Sheesha and the Camel Souq
United Arab Emirates, © 10.Apr.2002 gM
Photos of UAE
Introduction to United Arab Emirates
Sheesha and the Camel Souq
Exuberance: Architecture and Greenification
My Tripod, a TV Repair Shop, and a Fountain
Tiles at mosque, Sharjah
Tiles at mosque, Sharjah / © gM
A muezzin calls for prayer from a minaret nearby. We pass men clothed in traditional dishdashas, long white robes which never seem to get dirty. Women often wear black abayas which cover the whole body, always shaylas to hide their hair, and quite often, especially in smaller rural towns, burqas to cover mouth, nose, and eyebrows. At the corner, a Lebanese restaurant offers tabouleh (couscous salad), chickpea dishes like hummous and filafil, eggplant dishes like baba ghanoug and muttabal, fatoush (salad with crunchy pita bits), stuffed vine leaves, as well as chicken or mutton shawarma. Across from the Lebanese restaurant, Indian and Pakistani restaurants serve biryanis, curries, tandoori, nan, and roti. Chinese, Thai, and Filipino cuisine is quite often available to tickle a different set of taste buds. A little further down the street, the sweet smell of fakher rises in the air from a group of men smoking sheesha, the water pipe. Fakher is the apple-flavored tobacco burnt in a dish at the top part of the pipe. The typical sheesha is made out of clear glass and is about a meter high. It has two bellies and a shape similar to a beaker on top of an hour glass. The belly at the bottom of the sheesha is filled with water and is roughly twice as big as the belly in the middle. The smoker sucks the tobacco smoke through a long flexible tube and exhales either through mouth, nose, or both together. The smoke travels from the top of the pipe through the water and the tube. The water cools the smoke, thus smoothing the smoking experience. Although kN and I do not smoke, we are easily able to exhale through the mouth and we like the taste and smell of the sheesha. We, however, did not like exhaling through the nose. Fakher is only one on a long list of flavors to choose from. Some smokers even add ice cubes or a little bit of lemon or orange juice to the water to influence the taste.

At the camel souq
At the camel
souq / © gM
As we continue walking, we enter the souq, a market place where everything is sold from housewares to jewellery, clothing to plastic kitsch, carpets to spices, and fruits and vegetables to camels. The camel souq is a bustling place where not only the sellers come from near and far but also the camels, sand-colored camels from the UAE and black ones from Saudi Arabia. All camels here are actually dromedars since they have only one hump. We talk to camel traders from the UAE, Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia - the longest with a Sudanese lawyer because he is perfectly fluent in English. He needs to help his brother at the camel souq because he cannot find work in his profession, neither in Sudan, Oman, nor the UAE. We are invited to sit on a camel and get a brief glimpse of the camel souq from high up on the camel's back. kN even milks a camel, competing successfully against a young calf. I drink the warm, frothy milk. From time to time, we hear the screams of camels, unwilling and uncooperative as they are loaded onto the back of a truck. The camels seem to sense that there is only one more stop left after this: camel kebab somewhere in a restaurant in the city.

Introduction to United Arab Emirates  /  Sheesha and the Camel Souq  /  Hierarchies  /  Exuberance: Architecture and Greenification  /  My Tripod, a TV Repair Shop, and a Fountain