Instant City: Ethnic Markets, Microcosms of the urban condition.

Instant City: Ethnic Markets, Microcosms of the urban condition.
Image 1, Traditional Naif Market

Dubai has a number of renovated historical markets that cater to the tourism industry, however there are a number of semi-formal markets that are created by people of similar ethnicity that offer an interesting counterpoint to the splendor of the malls and commercial shopping districts of the city. One such market that we took a closer look at was the Naif Souq in the Sabka district. It is traditionally a market of the low income population, and packs a high density of footfall. It is well within the city and is known for its various commercial outlets (Image 1).

Image 1, Traditional Naif Market
Image 1, Traditional Naif Market

Image Courtesy, Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle. London: Routledge, 2010, Pg 198. Last Accessed 15 December 2015.

 

There is another market within this district know ans the shed market, where the shops are all made of metal and aluminum with asbestos sheets for the roofs, similar to what we see in Mongkok in Hong Kong, giving it a temporary dynamic. Recent renovation efforts have replaced these rundown markets, with more traditional looking ones selling specialized clothes and fabric (Image 2).

Image 2, Renovated specialized markets
Image 2, Renovated specialized markets

Image Courtesy, Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle, Pg 197. London: Routledge, 2010, Last Accessed 15 December 2015.

 

Within this district, there is a market that specializes in selling gold and gold jewelry. The gold prices fluctuate within this market depending on the daily sale of gold. All these markets have in some sense been formalized under the a fore mentioned renovation efforts and represent a traditional outlook of the city, in grand opposition to the skyscrapers and malls. Another interesting aspect of these markets, is their surrounding contexts. As mentioned in previous posts, the people frequenting these markets, have a very ‘birds of a feather flock together’ sort of mentality, for the lack of a better metaphor. In the sense that, the urban condition begins to organically grow around these markets. One can find a series of shops, stalls, vendors, hawkers, etc. around which people begin to gather or organize themselves (Image 3).

Image 3, Urban Microcosm
Image 3, Urban Microcosm

Image Courtesy, Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle, Pg 198. London: Routledge, 2010, Last Accessed 15 December 2015.

 

These then become small microcosms of communities that would’ve existed in their home countries of say India or Africa, to mention a couple. These markets thus serve an important communal purpose, as they begin to become the places of gathering for people after work or on the weekend. Members of the community also begin to take a stake in the upkeep of the vicinity. For example, in the summer of 2008, a fire broke out in the traditional Naif market, and the government , as is usual here decided to do nothing about it. Thousands of people lost their jobs and sources of livelihood. It was the Dubai Kerala Muslim Cultural Center, a charitable organization of the South Asian community, that came to their aid. These markets, are in some sense ‘micro-communities’ that organically grow and foster a unique urban condition within this larger spectacle of a city. They are within the city, but in some sense disconnected from it, like a shell or a bubble. One can feel the big city outside it, when one is on the inside, yet it doesn’t feel like a part of Dubai. It is a manifestation of the people and their traditions and roots. This is an interesting urban paradox that is unique to the city of Dubai.

 

Reference

  1. Gupte, Pranay. Dubai: The Making of a Megapolis. New Delhi: The Penguin Group, 2011.
  2. Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle. London: Routledge, 2010.

2 Comments on “Instant City: Ethnic Markets, Microcosms of the urban condition.

  1. The build-up of the narratives pointing to the “instant city” theme seems fairly consistent. Perhaps it is just as important to see instant processes in relation to planning processes. Are they contradictory or are they in fact the same process. The description of these markets as ethnic and possibly instantaneous, may suggest that they are more self-regulated and self-made. This can be better appreciated in the context of other planned or mainstream markets that operate differently? Please cite the sources and dates of these photographs. The redrawn maps and diagrams from other entries are absolutely wonderful, but it is important to indicate the source of the other maps you have based yours on. If there are multiple combined sources, be sure to note them.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words sir! I agree, that a comparison with mainstream markets or malls, which are the major culture in Dubai will make the argument stronger. Moreover, we could approach it from more of a micro-community vs macro-community perspective, which may lead to an interesting comparison. I will make sure to rework the citations for the photographs as well.

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