The labyrinthine Souq Waqif preserving Qatar’s history, culture

by | Sep 7, 2022 | World

Doha, Qatar – With Doha’s dramatic skyline in the background, Souq Waqif, located in the heart of the capital’s old downtown, is a vibrant, labyrinthine market which allows visitors to step back in time to a traditional Arab marketplace.Hamalis (porters) roam through the narrow, winding alleys with their wheelbarrows, some carrying shoppers’ purchases, others looking for customers.
The elderly enjoy a game of dama (backgammon) in the Majlis al Dama. For the younger generation, there are the toy shops, bird market and the sight of pigeons picking up the grains spread casually across the outer grounds.
There are the exotic smells of saffron, cloves and cardamom in the air, the sight of sparkling gold and precious metals fashioned into the most stunning pieces of jewellery.
A hamali waits for customers in the souq’s alleyways [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Founded more than a century ago, Souq Waqif was once a weekend trading hub on the banks of the Msheirib wadi (river) to facilitate trade between nomadic Bedouin and the locals.
Waqif, “standing” in Arabic, relates to merchants and residents who would do their dealings standing up due to the overflow of seawater on both sides of the Wadi, which had poured into the market.
“Not a single shop was built during the pioneering period, and Doha’s corniche was only a short distance from the souq, until developers began turning the water’s edge more into land,” Shams al-Qassabi, the first Qatari woman to o …

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