x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Naif Souq reopens with a cool new vibe

Naif Souq has reopened in Dubai more than two years after its original premises were gutted by fire.

While its predecessor attracted praise for its traditional feel, the new building is gaining plaudits for its modern facilities – in particular, its air conditioning.
While its predecessor attracted praise for its traditional feel, the new building is gaining plaudits for its modern facilities – in particular, its air conditioning.

DUBAI // Oblivious to the stifling midday heat outside, shoppers and tourists milled about the air-conditioned Naif Souq yesterday as it officially re-opened after two years of rebuilding.

A group of women bargained with a trader over the price of a headscarf as another couple bought ice cream from a nearby kiosk. A plaque at the entrance informed visitors the new souq was under the patronage of Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid, the chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Foundation.

Its predecessor was widely recognised as one of the oldest and busiest traditional markets in Dubai, attracting shoppers from across the Gulf region. The modern, spacious two-storey complex that has replaced it is a far cry from the original building that was gutted by fire in April 2008.

"The old souq was popular but it had disadvantages - it was not air-conditioned and space was a problem," said Salem Zayed, who heads the Dubai Municipality markets unit. "We tried to capture the old souq's essence with a design that matches our heritage. Summer is a time when people like visiting souqs, so the air-conditioned premises will be a welcome change."

Shoppers did not seem to be in a rush as they browsed leisurely through shops looking for bargains. Some, such as Amara Javaid from Pakistan, said the new souq had definite advantages over the old.

"Growing up here, I would visit the old souq frequently and it certainly had its own charm," she said. "I felt terrible for the shopkeepers, though, because it used to be hot and stuffy. This is comfortable for traders and visitors."

Despite the traditional hanging lanterns, the souq has evolved with the times. Visitors were quick to note the improved amenities, which include underground parking, lifts, rest rooms and coffee shops. The souq has 218 stores, 111 on the ground floor and 107 on the first floor.

"There is a big difference now because it is organised, clean and air-conditioned," said Ruqaya al Shezawi, an Omani teacher. "Naif is popular among Omani visitors and many would visit this area specifically for its cultural vibe. However, I know some people who are now choosing to go to Al Ain and Fujairah in search of the old souq experience."

Shopkeepers such as Ghulam Mohammad, an Afghan trader, said they were relieved to be working indoors.

"It was too hot before and this is a nice building," he said. "I am sure more people will come and buy from us."

 

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