Saturday, July 10, 2010

masafi souq al juma (masafi friday market)

I had enough of sneakily driving around in the city after midnight everyday and decided to get a little bolder yesterday to visit the Masafi Friday Market.

Being Turkish, I am very used to getting almost everything by the roadside while driving between cities. A trip from Bodrum to Istanbul gets me the best olives in Gemlik, honey in Marmaris, freshest nuts near Izmir. Most are sold directly by growers, in the trunk of their car or on a stall by the shade of a tree. So coming to Dubai was shocking; because of the harsh climate there was no roadside culture. No stalls, no mom and pop eateries, no locally grown stuff on a car trunk, nothing at all. After two trips with no food (you can only get the packaged boring stuff from the gas stations) I learned my lesson and started picnic-packing whenever I was going outside of Dubai. Years ago on my way for a day trip to swim in the ocean in Fujeirah I came across a roadside market. It was a colorful surprise among the curvy mountain road, lined with nothing but the desert. There were stalls on both sides of the road, selling fresh fruits grown mostly in the UAE and Oman . It was heaven; the fruits weren't flown 5000km from wherever, they were ripe and I was able to taste them before buying, even bargain a little. Afterwards, I never got the chance to go there again.

Yesterday, I drove about 175km one-way to get there. First surprise was seeing a road sign saying “masafi friday market 500m”. A great indicator that the place became more known and popular. 500 meters later, there was no need for more indicators. The once small and unorganized stalls now had  parking  in front of them wider than the spots in the Mall of the Emirates. Of course there were more shops and they looked pretty uniform. I have no objections to receiving better service but the real shock came when I saw that most of the fruit sold was also flown in from Syria, Turkey and India.

After 4 hours of driving in 45+ degrees of heat and blinding sunlight reflecting from the desert, I ended up buying Indian bananas, mangoes and coconut, Syrian cherries, Lebanese grapes and some local fresh dates; all just marginally cheaper than the supermarket price. The punch line was when my camera decided to stop working as a protest to the heat after only shooting 10 frames. I was really expecting to linger around for quite a while to shoot photos but apparently the camera felt more like taking the friday off. Still, I was very satisfied to be outside the city, seeing long stretches of desert and buying fruit from the road.

Would I go again? Yes, but only on my way to Fujeirah and in a season that my camera would not suffer a sun stroke.

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