The Souq Waqif dates back several hundred years, and was the place for trade for Bedouin tribes. In 2006 the Qatari government launched a massive restoration effort, and the results are spectacular. The former princely palaces surrounding the market were also renovated to become a collection of boutique hotels, one of which we stayed at during our time in Doha.

The “modern” streets of the market are fresh and polished, and made for an architecturally delightful walk during the afternoon pause.

The oldest part of the market is the shopping scene. I took this snap just as the afternoon pause was ending and the vendors started opening doors and displaying everything a Qatari woman needs to prepare the home, from snacks to spices to silks to cashmere (oh yes, I purchased) to platters nearly large enough to serve a Jordanian dinner.

If I understood the merchant, this is the Qatari equivalent of chewing gum.
Brightly colored textiles in the “Women’s Market,” many locally produced, but also a wide selection from India.
Other parts of the market were devoted to gold and metalworking, and antiques and handcrafted goods, including bling for your camel saddle.

The Souk Electrical System?

The Souk Art Center was modern and gorgeously lit.
The Bird Souk was animated, but definitely not for diehard PETA members. Efforts are being made to bring this market up to higher standards, and that is a good thing.
This man was terribly captivated by the adjacent bird auction, standing with his phone for a long time, recording the event.
Thankfully most birds were not as crowded as those chickens. Judging by the cacophony of screeching and chirping, the budgies and finches all seemed pretty happy.  Not to mention colorful.  Tony just gave me “the look” when I said I wanted to bring a rainbow of birds home, though I did get him to promise that if we ever move to Paris I can have all the birds I want from the Marche aux Fleurs.

Whatever is this little creature?  We had no idea.

This being the dessert, there was of course, the Camel Souk.  We missed the morning sales routine, alas, and we broke protocol by not bringing pita to toss to these smiling dromedaries. Next time.

 

 

 

Supplies and the like are delivered via wheelbarrows throughout the market, though on only one occasion did we see the delivery men actually delivering anything.

 

 

All that remains in the market from the age of pearling, once a mainstay of trade now lost to oil.  We had a lengthy and sad conversation with an older Qatari gentleman who explained that all the pearls in his shop come from China.
I just liked how this man sat so elegantly on a market bench, watching the world pass.

In another part of the souk a group of men (naturally) were holding an auction of various goods. We had no idea of the significance of the truck, but quite a few people took selfies with the Ford.

More birds!  Toward evening we toured the Falcon Souk; like a schoolgirl, I was giddy to see these amazing birds of prey up close, and would have loved to be in that little boy’s place, learning to tie the helmet on my very own raptor.

 

 

 

My obsession with birds was matched only by Tony’s obsession with the street cleaners. These men would sprinkle sand upon a tile, run a pumice over the surface, and move along to the next tile. Other men were employed to sweep the tile dust, and still a third would wash the tiles. No matter the time of day we walked through the market, the tiles were always being polished and cleaned.
The terrace of our hotel, with its freshly buffed tiles.
We had but one evening to enjoy the Souk (the other was reserved for the concert). From our restaurant atop a terrace we could spy couples, families with children, and, yes, the traditional harems enjoying the warm spring evening. It all seemed a world away from the heuriger evenings at home.

 

 

Good night, Doha.