Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Breakfast in the Souks

“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.

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November 17, 2009 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Shopping

7 Comments »

  1. I love this post! Beautiful Arab horses and with traditional bridles! That is such a lovely photo!
    Of course Arab horses have good bones, they maybe smaller as warmbloods, but they are stronger and tougher! When we are out on our weekends you can see the Tarq maybe sweaty when it is hot and we have been riding really hard, but he is dry in ten minutes! When other people come home with a hot sweaty tired horse, the Tarq is looking around asking ”what are we going to do for fun now?”

    Qatar seems to be a very nice place. In certain places.
    More photo’s of arab horses please!
    Yes! find out where they are stabled, and make more photo’s!

    I love the photo of the honeyman and the baskets too, Lovely baskets! Beautiful craftwork! Itยดs good to know there are still people who can make stuff like that.

    Comment by Aafke | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Nice post BTW what did you order for breakfast? no mention about the food…
    Hope you saw my reply to ur comment…

    Comment by qatarfoodie | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Oh Aafke, have I got a place to show you. One time I toured the Amir’s stables, and he had a walk in pool for the horses! The stables were beautiful, and full of horses, gorgeous horses, and baby horses, too! ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope I can find some photos from my old disks to share with you.

    The souks are wonderful, a great place to wander.

    LOL, Foodie, I had latte, and a haloumi and bacon sandwich, one friend had an omelette and another had haloumi on sajj. It was more the time together than the food. This was Zatar wa Zeit, but I also like Beirut or Tajine for breakfast. You?

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  4. Okay, so clearly I have to give the souq another try…And definitely find the honey man–soon! I’m thinking Christmas gifts? Which souq is he located at? I’d never thought of going in the morning…that would work so much better for us with the kids. Do they have an official opening time? I think what I need is a tour from someone who’s lived here as an expat and come to make the most of it. When we were here on our recruitment visit, they hired a company to give us a bus tour. We saw the souq, the Emir’s stables, etc….But it wasn’t personalized. It didn’t show us the people and what they have to offer.

    Comment by AcadeMama | November 18, 2009 | Reply

  5. AcadeMama – I thought of you when I posted the band concert. It might be a perfect opportunity for you to give the souks a try with a family visit. One very cool thing about these Gulf countries is that they are family-friendly.

    Have your kids had felafel? Start at the top of the street, at the Beirut, have felafel, and hummous, and some of their fresh hot bread. It’s not expensive. Drink tea with mint – chai ma naaaa naaaa. You will be surrounded by other families with kids making noise. Then, go to the free band concert for a while, as long as the kids are happy. When they get restless, wander around, then go home. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Some restaurants open early, some open around eight. The shops start opening around eight thirty or nine – some not till ten. Morning is a good time to go, to wander, take your camera, take your kids to the bird market, just wander.

    Saturday mornings are a really good time, by the way, surprisingly quiet. Go early, wander, explore, have felafel, drink some water in a shady little cafe on one of the side streets.

    The Yemeni Honey Man (there are several, but THE Yemeni Honey Man used to be on Karabaa street/ Electricity street. If you are parked in the upper parking lot, you will see a mosque over to your left, a small mosque, close to the souks. Head over to that mosque, and on your right you will see green benches where police sit. That street is closed off now to traffic. Across the street are stores, and near the beginning of the street, you will see a small standing sign that says Yemeni Honey, and you will see a shop full of metal kitchen things and metal boxes. You go down the little hallway past the metal maker guy, and the Yemeni Honey Man is on your left.

    If you can’t find him, ask the police. Tell them you are looking for the Yemeni Honey Man from Karabaa. His Name is Hussein Haithem Askar.

    Here is the secret of success in the souks. Americans are noisy, have you noticed? Keep your voice low. Negociate your price in a quiet, low-key way. He will offer you a sample of his honey – it is marvellous. You will see he has a lot of Arabic customers; they buy his honey for energy and the way we buy vitamins, as an immune-system builder and for libido. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The other thing you and hubby and the kids need to do is to stroll the Corniche. Some evening, as you are strolling, you can also take a boat ride – it’s like 30 minutes along the Corniche – and it’s like another, glorious, peaceful world. Part of the Doha experience. You will love it, and the kids will never forget it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 18, 2009 | Reply

  6. Camel spoons? Sounds interesting. Also LOVE the baskets. Might have to ask (please, please, please) you to go on a shopping trip for me! Of course, i would do the same in return, so if you need anything from here…let me know!

    Comment by Q8Dutchie | November 19, 2009 | Reply

  7. Hi Sweetie!

    The spoons come in three sizes, tiny coffee / appetizer size, normal coffee size, and bigger. The small sizes are perfect for scooping up a little sauce or something. They run around $1.30. The baskets are wonderful. The medium size with the dome/smokestack lid runs around $36.

    My friends husband’s are saying their wives can’t play with me anymore . . . I’m trouble. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We all found great “bargains.”

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 19, 2009 | Reply


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