Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Souk Wandering Wonderings!? Be thankful...

The other night we went on a trip to the souk. I had a few items in mind that I wanted and of course ended up with completely the opposite. I didn't even get to my usual silver shop.

We have a friend right at one of the front shops who runs a Kashmiri shop for his family. They have a factory back home in Kashmir where they make the majority of items he sells in the shop. We usually don't stop there for long but we know how lonely he gets (he works every day mornings and evenings), so last night we made extra effort to stop and chat with him. He has been really kind to us and always gives us "best price"!

Of course he had new items in and usually it's our friends or family that buy from him - but this time he had a rare find wall hanging made with a lot of silk thread and we couldn't resist. It is beautiful and the thread has a special name in Arabic (zari).
"Zari is a type of thread made of fine gold or silver wire used in traditional Indian and Pakistani garments. This thread is woven into fabrics, primarily made of silk to create intricate patterns. It is believed this tradition started during the Mughal era."

Then we headed off to the Silversmith Supply shop! It's not at all organised like you would think of a shop in Australia or many other places. Finding things is by pure luck or chance or sometimes surprise that they even have it! I can ask for an item but there is no guarantee that they will know what I am talking about. Last time I took pictures of items I wanted with me and that was the best way. Nothing is really displayed in the shop - just crammed into every spare space and odd boxes, although they seem to know where everything is. I got an assortment of items including pure silver granules and a small amount of sheet silver as well. What he did bring out this time was a great find - not cheap but worth it and exaclty what i had been looking for. Steel blocks with designs in them - to put designs onto the silver. Some really nice omani looking designs and i got an elephant! I also got some copper wire and sheeting to play around with - far cheaper than practicing with silver! A few other supplies were found also. But all set me back a fair bit again. Oh well it's worth it when you see the end product!

My most interesting part of the night, other than my jewelry making finds, was my little insight into the way these men live! My baby became quite upset and I needed to feed him! As it is not appropriate to breastfeed in public here the owner of the shop offered me a room to go feed my baby! One of his indian workers who was in the shop lives next door in a small room with his wife. No one was there at the time and I was able to sit on the small bed and feed him. To me this was not a shock (the room I mean) - but to many it would be. A room about half the size of my bedroom contained a small bed for the 2, a table with a gas burner (the hose ran out through old louvers in a window), a broken cupboard and a small fridge. There were a few other possessions around but otherwise fairly bare. No sink, no bathroom - I suppose they share a toilet with others and wash up in a tub in the room. The air-con was switched on for me and the thump thump started over the hum of the old "wall banger" as they are known locally.

By standards this would be considered a good place to live by many! For me the stench of the cat pee wafting in from outside, the musty dampness of the room and the overpowering frankinscence wafting in from the souk was all a little too much. Another reminder of how lucky we are to have such high living standards. Even if we do get the odd rat outside our house - I think the threat of rodents in those conditions would be even worse!

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