x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Dubai's first farmers’ market forced to find new location

The landlord has refused to allow organisers to hold the market at Souq Al Bahar where it's been held since 2009.

Visitors at a market organised by Baker and Spice at the gardens of Emirates Towers. Jaime Puebla / The National
Visitors at a market organised by Baker and Spice at the gardens of Emirates Towers. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // Dubai’s first farmers’ market has been opened to the public again after being closed for almost a year.

The popular Baker and Spice market had operated from the Souq Al Bahar, near Dubai Mall, on Fridays from November to April each year since 2009.

However, 10 days ago it reopened at a location in Emirates Towers’ Ballroom car park, with six stalls.

“It’s a really nice area, shaded with palm trees,” said Yael Meija, the founder of Baker and Spice.

And residents were thrilled to see it back in business. “It’s so good to have it back,” said Patricia Jacobsen, a German Dubai resident.

“We are a vegetarian family and buy all the vegetables for the whole week at the market, even the salads last for a week. The smell alone in the car when you drive home is incredible.”

Up to eight farmers from Al Khawaneej, Sharjah, Liwa in the Western Region and Al Ain had stalls at the Souq Al Bahar market, selling fresh local produce including tomatoes, aubergines, rocket, peppers, cucumbers and herbs.

Last year, a second market opened between February and April on the Dubai Marina Promenade, operating on Saturdays.

The organisers wanted both markets to open again with even more stalls in November 2012, but the landlord, Emaar, refused.

Emaar would not give permission for the market to be held at Souq Al Bahar anymore,” said Ms Meija. “We had the same problem with our location in Dubai Marina because Marina Promenade is also under Emaar.”

No reason was given for the refusal to allow them to reopen.

But an Emaar Malls Group spokesman said last month: “The Farmers’ Market has received a strong response from the community and we are working towards hosting it shortly. We will announce details once they are finalised.”

However, since then, the company has refused to issue any other statement concerning the relocation of the market.

“It took a four-month delay,” said Ms Meija. “But now the market is relocated, we are expecting an additional five farmers to participate.”

Organic local fruit and vegetable markets have been growing across the UAE. Ripe was launched in Dubai in September 2011 and in Abu Dhabi a month later.

The following March, Greenheart Organic Farms was inaugurated, including four farmers from Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai.

Maria Kerry, a British resident in Dubai, said: “We’ve been waiting for the market to open for so long and not many people were answering our questions.

“I was informed by people who work in the market about the delay and I really don’t understand why Emaar made such a big fuss about not allowing the market to reopen in the same locations.

“Now, we’ve already lost three to four months of good local organic produce and it’s a shame because the quality of food you get here is hard to find elsewhere.”

The market will be open every Friday from 9am to 2pm.

cmalek@thenational.ae