Reliving Baghdad’s 14th Century Souq in Dubai

DUBAI - If one walks through the alleys of Khan Murjan, the latest extension to Wafi Mall, the rich aroma of oud, amber and rose petals, and the sound of traditional Arabic music are sure to take the person on a trip back in time to 14th century Baghdad.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Fri 23 Jan 2009, 12:46 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:24 AM

The legendary 14th century souq in Baghdad was built as an inn for weary travellers and traders. The modern air-conditioned Khan Murjan here is a dimly lit souq underneath Wafi that offers a similar solace to its visitors in Dubai.

Shaikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, officially inaugurated Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) events in Khan Murjan on Thursday.

Khan Murjan in Wafi has 50,000 square feet of space over two subterranean levels and it features more than 150 shops with vendors from across the Arab world.

The souq will give the shoppers a taste of ancient Arabia with demonstrations from a variety of craftsmen such as a carpet weaver from Iran, a wood engraver from Morocco and a glass blower from Egypt.

Maher Abdein, an Egyptian wood engraver, draws intricate designs into ‘Abanose’ wood and ivory.

Engraving metals like gold, silver and aluminum into wooden walking sticks and making tiny statues shaped like beetles out of ivory have been a craft that his family has been involved with for generations.

“It takes me five-six days to complete an entire wooden walking stick,” said Maher.

Using simple tools like a nail cutter and an ancient woodcutter, Maher drills tiny holes into a wooden stick and inserts strands of silver into it after which it is polished.

“The stick will last for years,” said Maher.

Maher is just one of the noteworthy craftsmen who have set up their stalls at Khan Murjan.

As far as shopping is concerned, more than 150 stalls and kiosks have been set up with traders from as far as Andalusia and Afghanistan selling their wares.

Handicrafts and hand-woven clothes are the biggest attraction, along with the occasional store that sells Arabic scents, spices and shisha.

Khan-Al-Saboun, a Lebanese handmade soap and exotic oil store, is one outlet.

Not to be missed. The company has been making soaps, exotic oils, medicinal massage oils and creams with pure ingredients since 1480.

Khalid Mareei, general manager of Khan-Al-Saboun, said, “The soaps we manufacture are free of chemicals. The herbs like lavender and other traditional ones that we use for the soaps are completely natural.”

Throughout the DSF, there is a free competition for anyone who visits Khan Murjan to discover the location of the ‘Khan Murjan Door’.

It will be hidden in the many alleys and passageways of the souq to allow shoppers to find the door while appreciating the architectural detail of the souq and enter a draw to win prizes worth Dh5,000.

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