95-year-old Souq waqif trader talks about his golden days

 18 Mar 2017 - 12:23

95-year-old Souq waqif trader talks about his golden days
Pic: Salim Matramkot / The Peninsula

By Fazeena Saleem | The Peninsula 

Meet the 95-year-old Ahmed Abdullah, most likely the oldest trader at the Souq Waqif. Any visitor to the Souq Waqif would hardly miss Ahmed’s shop selling fishing tools, situated near the bird market. 

The Peninsula met Ahmed on a cold evening at his shop and he shared his story while sipping a cup of cardamom tea. His shop named Ahmed Abdullah Al Ghazal was established by his father in 1940, then they sold handmade fishing nets and other tools. 

“Fishing and the Souq Waqif are so much closer to our hearts. During the old days my whole family was involved in this activities. Me, my father and mother made fishing nets by hand,” says Ahmed, who speaks a mix of Arabic, English and Hindi in soft low voice. 

Recalling the past he says, “I also used to go for fishing with my father for long hours, some days we go to Al Khor area and bring fish. Those days the Doha Chorniche was not far from the souq, traders come here in small boats.” 

“Sometimes we went for pearl diving as well. We were in the sea for four or five days when going for pearl diving,” he added. 

But at present Ahmed has limited his activities to the shop due to his age. However he comes to his shop twice a day - in the morning and evening. Ahmed has employed two employees to serve customers, yet he over sees and manages the business. 

Between our conversation, many regular visitors to the Souq Waqif stopped to greet Ahmed. Also his friends and colleagues working at the Souq Waqif for many long years came to see him and had brief conversations. 

“All these people know me for many years, some of them are customers and others are well wishes. For us the Souq Waqif is not just a place for trading, it’s also a place where we meet people,” he said. 

Being a man close to 100,  Ahmed has been witnessing the transformation of the Souq Waqif, located at the heart of the old downtown of Doha. 

He got the real feel of Souq Waqif in the past and present and  he smiles whenever he recollects the changes the most significant and vital heritage site of Qatar has attained over the years.  

He was trading at the Souq Waqif which was founded at least a century ago at the proximity of the dry river bed known as Wadi Musheireb. 

In 2006, when the government launched a restoration programme with the purpose of preserving its architectural and historical identity of the Souq, buildings constructed after the 1950s were demolished whereas older structures such as Ahmed’s shops were refurbished.

“Have you seen old photos of the Souq Waqif ? It was full of shops and people, it’s the same busy souq today as well, only the structure has changed a bit and some new shops have opened.

But it still upholds the traditional look with mud walls, palm leaf roofs,” says Ahmed. 

“There is a little difference in the tools we sell, in the past it was all handmade tools but now most we import from different countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and India. However, the demand for tools remains unchanged,” he said. 

Ahmed has no idea if his only son a Qatar University graduate would take over his business, but he wishes the traditions and culture of the Souq Waqif as well as the country to uphold forever.