“I need a hundred camel spoons,” my friend said, and since we all sort of think on the same track, no one looked at me like I was crazy when I said “let’s all meet for breakfast, shop when the souks open and leave.”
In fact, they didn’t look at me like I was crazy for two reasons. One was that we really sort of think alike, and meeting for breakfast is just the kind of thing we don’t do often, but it is a good time to grab some time together in lives that get very busy later in the day.
The second reason is that we are all introverts, and three of us were doing most of this arranging by e-mail. We’re not really phone chatters, although every now and then we will dial, but it tends to be the exception rather than the rule.
The weather is perfect. You would be amazed how lovely and peaceful the souks are early in the morning. There are customers in the restaurants, but it is a very laid back time of the day.
For a significant sum – I can’t remember how much, but I think I remember like 80 QR – you can park in VIP parking. Me, I was there an hour, and paid QR4 (just a little over a dollar) I just wanted you to see the difference from plain old everyday common folk parking and the VIP parking (above.) (Those signs in front of the stores straight ahead say VIP Parking, and at night they are roped off with red velvet ropes)
We find a shady table and order breakfast, across the street guys are into their early morning hubbly bubbly, there are people sweeping up to be sure everything is Disney-tidy, and it really is. As we are sipping at our coffee, the mounted police come by. Their horses are gorgeous, with high bushy tails and beautiful dressings in Qatar’s blood red and white colors.
What I like even better is the police-riders. They are handsomely dressed, and they ride like cowboys – look at that posture, the way real horsemen ride, with that cowboy slump and the weight firm in the saddle. The horses aren’t big horses, but they have beautiful bones. I wonder where they stable these horses in the souqs?
On to find the Yemeni Honey Man, relocated from Karabaa / Electricity Street. The police help us find him, hidden back next to a metal kitchen crafter, and we see he has other old customers who have also found him. His new shop is shiny and clean, with great shelves for displaying his beautiful baskets from the Asir.
“Big troubles” he says, and I know he is right, many people are being evacuated from that area while the Saudis and Yemenis have problems near the border. One of his customers communicates to us with gestures that in our new baskets, we must pack our jewelry in the bottom, then our abayas, and then food, oud or honey on top, so people won’t know where we are hiding our jewelry.
My Kuwaiti friend told me that in his memory, before oil, people kept all their clothes in baskets like this, folded neatly. They didn’t have a lot of clothes, he told me, and then there were other baskets specially woven to hold food stuffs, and to keep the insects off the food. Those baskets are not the same as these sturdy baskets, the more local Kuwait and Qatteri baskets are woven from palm fronds, I believe, and you can still find them in the more traditional stores at the Souq al Waqef, behind where the Bedouin women sell foods on Thursday night and sometimes on Fridays.