By Deepa Narwani (ABOUT DUBAI) www.khaleejtimes.com
At the Dubai Mall waterfront, stone steps beckon you to cross the bridge and step inside the rustic Souq Al Bahar. Albeit not a traditional souq, it does not disappoint one with its modern-day outlets.
Souq Al Bahar, which means the market of the sailor, derives its name from both its traditional souq architecture of natural stone corridors, high archways and subdued lighting and its unique seaside location on the Burj Lake. Its wind towers, wooden screens, and fortresses recreate an old-fashioned souq experience. The cultural theme flows throughout the mall, with boutique shops showcasing the Arabian heritage through a mix of authentic handicrafts, fashion and accessories.
On the perimeter of the souq are an assortment of restaurants on two levels, most with outdoor seating and a view of the Dubai Fountain. It’s an exciting atmosphere which benefits from the pedestrian access to the mall boardwalk and hotels.
National Iranian Carpets sells high-quality handmade rugs at the souq. Arvind Akshn, in charge of the shop, said: “We sell handmade Iranian carpets. The business is quite satisfactory here and has picked up in the recent months.”
He added that mostly Europeans and Russians like to buy these carpets. “Tribal designs in different colours are the most popular carpets. People usually prefer medium- and small-sized rugs as they are convenient to take back home.”
The souq features over 100 shops, some of which are still to be opened, in an eclectic retail mix that includes 22 restaurants, cafés and lounges that line its waterfront promenade. The extensive food and beverage offer makes Souq Al Bahar an ideal leisure spot for friends and families to come together. The interior features Turkish lanterns hanging from the ceiling to give to it the old-world charm.
Al fresco dining at any of these restaurants offers the city’s best views of Burj Dubai and the Burj Lake.
Toshkhana offers a range of carpets that include delicate handmade silk and cotton rugs, costing anything from Dh1,500 to Dh15,000 and sturdier woollen carpets priced between Dh800 and Dh1,500. For something a little more unusual, embroidered velvet-trimmed rugs with decorative jewel effects are on sale for around Dh2,500. Jalil Haqim, store manager, said: “The store specialises in authentic crafts such as garments and furnishing items.”
Jalil added that the business has been a little quiet and the store caters to both Emiratis as well as tourists. “The Europeans specially like buying the Pashmina shawls.”
The souq’s bridge is a hotspot for tourists capturing Burj Khalifa or the Dancing Fountains. After the show, Souq Al Bahar is their destination and is crowded in the evenings.
A laser show on the façade of the souq also takes place in the evenings. At other times, it is lit by a soft purple light.
At the second entrance of the souq, there is a kiosk selling colourful sand bottles. The stall called Souvenirs of Dubai attracts maximum attention as tourists stop by to click pictures of Mohammed Yousuf Antawee, the artist who finishes painting the souvenirs in less than five minutes.
Mohammed Saif, salesperson, said: “The raml (sand) that we sell is from the UAE. The bottle prices range from Dh50 to Dh1,000 depending on the size. Tourists and locals both buy souvenirs but Japanese tourists buy them the most. We sell almost 1,000 pieces on weekends.”
Souq Al Bahar is also home to the popular Farmers’ Market that takes place every Friday from 10am to 5pm. It is worth a visit to buy locally grown, freshly picked, seasonal fruit and veggies. All proceeds of the sale go directly to the farmers with no middlemen involved. It is the perfect place to buy organic and fresh produce at reasonable prices.
Rebecca Oain, a visitor to the souq, found the backdrop very pleasant. She said: “It is tastefully done keeping the Arab culture in mind. I bought a pretty Pashmina from one of the stores. The souq is a little empty but the restaurants are quite nice.”
The souq also features a Spinney’s market, a pharmacy and a couple of gelato shops.
Ideally located near the iconic developments of Downtown, this signature souq is both a tourist destination and a lifestyle shopping mall offering all conveniences of a community mall in a cultural and leisurely setting.