The souq was once used as a meeting place for Bedouins. Jamil Khan/Gulf Today
Jamil Khan, Senior Reporter
Old souks that adorn the Rolla area in Sharjah are a haven for antique collectors as they can find their trophy at bargain prices.
Out of many scattered in the area with their own uniqueness, one such is Souk Al Arsah located in the Heart of Sharjah. It has been renovated into a traditional marketplace with a high wooden roof, small but long alleys and shops on both sides selling every kind of antique item.
The souk has been in the same place for decades and is known as one of the oldest marketplaces in the country. It was once used as a meeting place for Bedouins while catering for the needs of their camels at the same time.
Multiple renovations by the authorities in the last couple of years to bring back the traditional bazaar experience for visitors resulted in the whole market becoming a traditional Arabesque souk. Now the market with dozens of shops seems new with shining wooden doors, glass windows and paved small but bright alleys.
Talking to Gulf Today, a group of shopkeepers admired the facilities that have been provided by the authorities to benefit them and where visitors, mostly foreigners, throng daily to pick antique pieces.
Thamer M Amir, an Iraqi dealer in the market, has been part of the shop operating for the last 35 years, dealing in authentic antique items from copper and bronze households, toys and armour objects belonging to different times and areas of the Middle East. “We are catering for multinational customers of ours who always look for various types of antiques belonging to different periods of Middle Eastern countries.
“The collection we have includes items discovered in excavation in different parts of the Middle East. We have armoured pieces like swords dating back to different dynasties, bronze warrior helmets belonging to armies of past Islamic rulers, household items like water vases, trays with lids used to present food and fruits during family feasts in olden times, toys excavated depicting the glorious past of many wealthy families, war medals, antique pocket watches, rings with precision stones and many more things,” he said.
The collection of swords dates back to 3-4 centuries and is made in Damascus, Syria. Each sword is priced between Dhs3,000 and Dhs7,000 depending on the quality.
Ahmed, an expatriate from Pakistan, has been selling items in his antique shop in the market for the last 15 years.
“The market with a large number of shops dealing in different kinds of antique items is thriving because of the large number of tourists. Like many dealers in the same market, I am dealing in exclusively every kind of currency notes and coins, including commemorative, and a collection of antiques like copper coins dating back to different Abbasid rulers,” he said. A set of 36 UAE commemorative coins is selling at Dhs260 which is widely popular among foreign and local coin collectors. However, many dealers are selling antique guns, pistols ranging between Dhs500 and Dhs1,000 per piece, depending on the year they are made.
Visitors, including expatriates and foreign tourists, have been also showing great interest in ethnic jewellery, women’s dresses, shawls, traditional decorative pieces, antique radio and old analogue cameras, telephone sets. Even many dealers are keeping decades-old GSM and 2G mobile phones (once the most popular status symbol) besides analogue phones, gramophones, music records, cassettes and cassette recorders, etc. Score of shopkeepers have been dealing exclusively in antique currencies, antique pocket and table watches and Islamic paintings like calligraphic pieces, different kinds of Misbah (Tasbih) made of precious stones, wood and adorned with beautiful designs while many have religious products from deities, wall hangings and such other things to cater for visitors belonging to different faiths.
However, the souk also has a traditional hotel where locals and tourists enjoy the traditional Arabic coffee and food.
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