Traditional markets in the UAE
Ali Muhammad Rashid
Markets are among the most important facilities in states and cities. They serve as places for shoppers to meet and have fun while they visit stores and cafes.
In the UAE, markets have been through several phases, taking different forms and locations. The goods and services have been adapted to meet the needs of people who come from different communities and countries.
In the beginning, markets were located in public squares. The vendors displayed their goods on the ground until they had sold everything or until evening, when they returned to their homes within or outside the city.
Traditional cafes played a vital role in the history of the UAE and the Gulf region. People went to these cafes to play games, meet friends or attend traditional Majlises.
Cafes played an important role both socially and in the spread of information. They provided both old and young with a place to meet and listen to news and stories, which were related verbally before the age of radio. Cafes were the only places to learn of local, regional or international news.
People also went to cafes to listen to poetry, songs and folktales full of proverbs, anecdotes and wisdom.
Traditional cafes also offered a place to exchange knowledge. People had the chance to meet with travellers from more open societies and from other countries. Merchants who had sailed from Basra, India, East Africa and Iran brought commercial information.
After travellers brought radios into the country, people began to gather around a radio in a cafe to learn of local and international news that affected the UAE. The Voice of the Arabs from Cairo and other programs from the BBC and Delhi Radio gave people insights into cultural, political and economic developments around the world.