If ‘confession is good for the soul’ let me have some therapy and confess that I have a weakness for markets. Not malls but markets. I don’t necessarily need to buy but I love to walk around and see what is up for market.
I had to go to Dubai yesterday and on my return to Fujairah I needed to stop off at the Friday Market. I convince myself that after being hemmed into the car for over an hour I need to break the journey and stretch the legs. But honestly I love nosing around the stock that is laid out higgeldy-piggeldy, looking at what is for sale and chatting with the shopkeepers.
Yesterday I showed an interest in some of the musical instruments in one of the stalls that had everything from treasure boxes to some cute toy camels. The vendor took an instrument in his hand and asked, “How much will you pay?” I said that I didn’t know what it was but he told me it was an oud العود (al-‘ūd) and that it was made in Syria. It is a fascinating instrument. It has a tradition that goes back over 5,000 years and it has a body that is shaped like a water melon.
I asked, “How much?” He replied, “500 dirhams” and foisted it on me. He dislodged a plectrum and told me to have a play. I said I hadn’t come to buy a musical instrument and I didn’t know how to play the oud but he wouldn’t have any negativity of that sort. “How much will you pay?” he insisted.
I had no intention of making a purchase and coming home with a lute under my arm but I couldn’t resist the bartering (that Baudolino describes). “200 dirhams,” I said trying to shake him off the trail. He looked a bit wounded and then he said, “300 dirhams” and when I showed even less interest he knocked it down to 250 dirhams.
I told him that I wasn’t going to buy a musical instrument and certainly not in 5 minutes flat. There was a little bit of disharmony for a while. I played the last movement and then handed back his Syrian oud.
The Friday Market is not just about oranges and olives. Stop for a while. Poke around. Feel the music. You might come home with an oud.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: The Friday Market Oud Salesman. See the other knick-knacks in the background.