Doha ‘city centre’ part of history
DOHA THE high sales pitch of the shop-owners and the flurry of activity among shoppers, trying to drive a smart bargain at Musheireb (popularly called National), Souq Ahmed bin Abdullah and the markets in the lanes and bylanes of the area seen over the last one week or so are like the flicker of a lamp’s flame before it dies out in a storm.
The traders are resorting to distress clearance of their stocks as the deadline for cessation of all commercial activities in the once bustling market has already expired.
According to a notification issued by the authority, June 30 was the last date for the business to run in the area.
The buildings and shops in the open market are to be demolished to make way for ‘Heart of Doha’ project, as part of Doha beautification plan estimated to cost $2.5 billion.
Over 100 shops were demolished in the first phase of the project in February 2011.
In second phase of the project, which is likely to begin in a few months’ time, around 75 shoppers have to be evicted.
In the run-up to eviction drive, electric supply to the area was disconnected on July 2. Demolition of buildings in Doha for reconstruction is nothing new for the people in the capital.
But the demolition of Souq Ahmed bin Abdullah, the old quarter of Doha, will rankle the old-timers among the expatriates from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Souq Ahmed bin Abdullah has been the busiest market in Doha city ever humming with activity for the last 25 years or so.
According to the present city map, it is the ‘city centre’.
If somebody follows the traffic sign boards to be guided to the city centre even today, it will lead them straight to Musheireb area, once a vibrant market for textiles, electronic goods, and abounding in ethnic eateries and jewellery shops mostly frequented by shoppers of modest means and lowincome workers.
The beautiful open yard in the centre of this market was a popular rendezvous on weekends for expatriates, especially people from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Abdul Gafoor who has been running an electronic shop in the area for the last 12 years said, “Musheireb was once Doha, and Doha was Musheireb.
Come week-end, and this ‘heart’ of Doha would turn into a place in the midst of a carnival.
Low-income people living far from Doha would come here every Friday to meet their friends, relatives or to do their weekly shopping.
It also attracted high-income expatriates from South Asian countries looking for homemade items.” With the emergence of shopping malls in mid-90s, however, the area started losing prominence as a one-stop market.
First to turn their backs on the market were families who developed a fancy for swanky malls.
Realising the new situation and cognizant of the future plans of the government, leading traders had started shifting right since 2005 to other business- friendly areas such as Al Sadd, Maither, Mataar Qadeem, Abu Hamour, Al Wakra, Salwa Road and Barwa Village.
However, shifting shops has not been that easy for small-time traders.
Abdul Razaq, who runs a cloth shop, said, “High rents at new shopping malls are beyond my capacity.
So, I have no option other than to sell out the remaining stock at throwaway prices.” The garment trader offered a T- shirt for QR5 which, in normal times, would have fetched between QR45 and QR70.
With word going around about the distress sale, people are making a beeline for the soon-to-bedemolished market to get an emergency light for QR10, a rechargeable torch for QR12, a saree for QR10 or QR20.
Some readymade garment traders are offering one piece free on purchase of two clothes.
Most of the shopkeepers cleared their stocks last weekend.
Hameed Nazar, who runs an electronic shop, sold out his stock offering branded electronic watches for QR40 to QR60 at the dirt-cheap price of QR10.
However, with the coming weekend’s sales, the Musheireb market, which once throbbed as the heart of this city, would disappear forever from the map of Doha to become a part of its history.
But what may not disappear easily from the minds of the old-timers among the expatriates would be the unforgettable images of a once vibrant world in the heart of Doha.