Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

Why buy from a UAE fish market

Does the slim price differential with the supermarket, though, make it worth a specific trip to a fish market?

A group of men watch as a fish worker skins and cleans a lemon fish at the Abu Dhabi Fish Market in Mina.  Delores Johnson
A group of men watch as a fish worker skins and cleans a lemon fish at the Abu Dhabi Fish Market in Mina. Delores Johnson

While there are two famous fresh fish markets in the UAE – Deira in Dubai and Mina in Abu Dhabi – each emirate has its counterpart and they’re scoured by people with both an eye for a bargain and an extensive kitchen repertoire.

Does the slim price differential with the supermarket make it worth a trip to a fish market? That depends on how much you want to buy, and the variety.

As with any commodity, supply and demand creates significant fluctuations for fish prices, and in the summer months costs always increase as catches become smaller. Fishermen are hesitant to head out to sea in blistering temperatures and the fish don’t like it much either. As we head towards the cooler winter months, those prices will fall.

If you’ve looked out onto the Arabian Gulf at night, when departing or approaching the country by air, you will no doubt have seen hundreds of lights bouncing around on the water. These are the fishing vessels that will be landing their catches on the harbour sides from about 2am onwards, as the fish are sorted and readied for auction.

From 4.30am onwards, traders bid on thousands of tonnes of fish, crabs and all manner of other marine creatures that have been caught during the preceding hours, in the process setting the day’s prices paid by their customers, whether they are buying for private consumption, or on behalf of restaurants. From 8am until nightfall, the UAE’s fish markets will be visited by thousands of people, from all walks of life, who browse and buy.

Some fish markets, like the one in Ajman, conduct evening auctions and buyers are still able to haggle over prices with traders, with precious little in the way of rules or regulations, but plenty in the way of traditional Middle East business. If you can put up with the aromas and sights of bona fide fish markets, pay them a visit for one of the last “real” experiences on offer.


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Updated: September 21, 2017 06:05 PM