After yesterday’s meeting with the executive team, we had clear marching orders on how to proceed today. Most of the day was spent working through our tasks, and trying to discuss strategy. In the afternoon, a few of us went to meet the CFO at a unique cafe in our neighborhood, Dubai Marina/JBR. The place was called Make Business Happen and essentially was a cafe designed for mobile workers. If you were interested in having access to plugs, you reserve a space for 3 hours, 4 hours, or all day. With each of those options, you get a different combination of coffee and food. I doubt I would use it if I were a mobile worker as it was slightly expensive, but for a day, I’d consider it. Anyway, the meeting went well and he walked us through his process to determine the financials for the UAE business.
As the work day came to a close, it was time to head back to the souq’s. This was something we had been hoping to do for the last couple days, and today we were able to make it happen. We jumped in a cab and drove up the textile souq area, but we had not figured out if it was a building we were looking for or if it were an area. The maps and websites were not absolutely clear for us. The cab, which cost only $20 for a 50 minute ride, dropped us off in a neighborhood near the souq, or maybe it was the souq, we didn’t know. We ventured around for a bit, and didn’t see anything that appeared to be the souq building we expected, so we grabbed dinner.
I had expected to eat shwarma here every day of the trip – before I got here and realized everything would be western – but I had yet to have a single one. Since the area the souq’s are located in are for locals, there are no western chains, and the food options match the region better. When we found a shwarma place, we immediately jumped on it. As looked at the menu, we were amazed that a shwarma was 5 dirham, or ~$1.25 and a fallafel was 3 dirham, or 75 cents. I started with a shwarma, which was amazing, and then moved on to a fallafel. Great decisions, and insanely cheap. As we left, we asked the manager where the souq’s were and he pointed us down the street.
We followed his directions, but still weren’t able to find it. But, we were now getting into an area where people on the street were coming up to us asking if we wanted to buy purses or watches. So we asked one of them how to get there. After continuing his sales pitch, he finally gave in and told us and then restarted the sales pitch. When he realized we weren’t going to buy anything, he said “Have a great night my brother” and winked. Why does everyone here call me their brother? I have no idea, but I really enjoy it.
Well, with his directions, we found the textile souq area. It runs along the streets and in little, Venice type streets between the main streets. They have street signs on them, but are not wide enough for cars. Every store front was a textile store. Rugs, native dresses, dress shirts, suits, etc. The number of these stores was truly unbelievable. Matt and I were interested in buying custom dress shirts, so we walked into one of the stores and the two employees looked abnormally confused by us. I was confused by this as I figured they would like to have customers walking in the door. However, since it was 99.9% locals in this area, I thought, well, maybe they are surprised to see foreigners. When their faces changed to seem to indicate, “how can I help you?”, I said, we were just hoping to see what you had. He responded that they were wholesalers not retailers.
After that, I realized that every store had multiple desks that took up almost the whole store and they had phones on them. They seemed to be like stock brokers receiving calls and placing orders. Needless to say, we didn’t try to buy anything else in that area as a result.
As we continued to walk through the neighborhood and navigate the narrow streets with different shops every 5 feet on both sides of us, every vendor stood up as we passed by and tried to get us to come into their store. It created a tunnel effect of sorts and made us feel like kings and queens.
Next, we planned to head across the river to the spice souq. To do this, they have a water taxi, which cost 1 dirham (or 27 cents). We hopped on and the old wood boat and 5 minutes later we were at the spice souq. Unfortunately, many of the shops were closing as we walked by, but we still got the gist of it. The salespeople here are masters of their craft, but they haven’t broken us yet.
And we’re still in search of a place to make custom shirts.