TRADERS OF THE LOST ART HONESTY STILL REIGNS AT SURPRISES

It's never too young to learn a thing or two about handling money and the right way to trade, and as seeing is believing, little ones visiting Dubai's exquisite Mercato Mall in Jumeirah are learning the tricks of the trade in the best possible way -

By Anupama V Chand

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Published: Wed 11 Aug 2004, 2:46 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:32 AM

experiencing how honest traders triumph over their more crooked counterparts!

Money makes the world go round, right? Wrong, according to the wise trader in the story of "The Little Trader" which is being enacted everyday during the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) Knowledge Surprises Week at Mercato's wide atrium on the ground floor, in both English and Arabic. City Times decided to check out the latest in trading practices being advocated at the mall through a story-telling session and a Young Trader Workshop, which is being held on the first floor of the mall, behind the Costa Coffee outlet.

Hosted by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), the organisers of the Knowledge Surprises Week, the story of the little trader, is brought to Dubai this DSS by an Egypt's "Vibration Company", and has six stage artists, who cleverly enact the story a grandfather teaching his little grandson Mohammed, the principles of trading honestly. The grandson, who starts off with the notion that the best way to trade is by being dishonest and cheating people, gradually comes around to realising after seeing dishonest traders paying for their mistakes by losing credibility and falling out of favour with their customers, that it is not enough to be clever, and "buy cheap and sell high," but rather to be honest with your customers and establish a reputation through fairness.

Located in a traditional Arabian 'souk' (marketplace), recreated through some imaginative props made by the Egypt-based theatre company, and large banners from the DCCI, and bottles of spices and condiments, as well as garments hanging on either side, the story starts and ends with a catchy song which sets the tone and mood, helping to gather up little audiences. All six characters are dressed in typical Arabic trader outfits, complete with turbans, pointed shoes and cummerbunds.

"Spices, spices for the cheapest prices..." the story starts off, as two traders demonstrate bad trade practice by trying to sell goods that are either flawed or less than the amount paid for, which makes the old trader's honest ways all the more refreshing. Throughout the musical narration, verses from the Holy Quran and Hadiz are employed to give children a simultaneous lesson in business, religion and humanity. The wise trader finally wins the admiration of his grandson and the regard of his customers by selling his garments fairly and taking only the appropriate price for it.

Amr Mansour, who plays the grandfather said he was having a great time at the event, his second DSS sojourn, following the company's performance in last year's festival, interacting with children of different nationalities and ages. "They have been wonderful, they are given so many prizes - up to 40 a day - for answering the questions that we have after our little one-act play, which lasts for 30 minutes, so they are all anxious to come up on stage and give the right answers and bag one of our little gifts - either styrofoam scales, or Modhesh mugs or little give-aways from the DCCI, they are so innocent and eager to do well, we rarely disappoint anyone," he chuckles. Never more like it, because even when the kids didn't seem to know the answers they finally came off stage with their tender hands clutching a little souvenir from the Knowledge Surprises!

And the questions? Ranging from something as simple as "What is the colour of the trader's dress", they get a tad complicated for the little ones with "Who are the organisers of this show", depending on the ages of the tiny participants.

Mansour said his company has been responsible for some of the acts during the opening ceremony of the Knowledge Surprises Week at the Deira City Centre, and will also participate in the closing ceremony on Thursday. In Egypt, they are responsible for hosting several communication-based events on Egyptian television, including shows for singers like Amr Diab and Kasem Saher.

Ali Mohammed, the smallest member of the group, who is just ten-years-old has come to Dubai with the rest of the company for the first time, plays Mohammed the grandson and budding trader in the story. Already a showbiz professional in Egypt, little Ali said he "loved Dubai better than even Egypt". He grinned cheekily at us, and said that he enjoyed the malls, the audiences who all look at him like a friend, and the atmosphere!

"We don't see anything like this (the DSS) in Egypt, I wish we also had one there," he said. The play takes place three times each evening - at 5 p.m. in Arabic, at 6 p.m. in English and again at 7.30 p.m. in Arabic. Ask little Salma Hashem from Kuwait what she thinks about the play and its moral and she repeats cherubically one of the proverbs from the Holy Quran quoted by the Wise Trader: "He who cheats is not one of us!" Registering the message? Yes, definitely!

Kamlesh Sanghvi, a father of two visiting the Mall commented: "This quaint story is really a good experience for the little ones to learn a lesson and enjoy an act, also its a bit like the Arabian nights of our imagination, set in an Arab Souk, a great lesson that being fair still pays in this day when being crooked is more the norm! I think my kids are learning something - small but significant!"

One flight up, the Little Trader Workshop is busy trying to teach children good money management and a healthy attitude towards money, two essential things for survival in today's world!

Commenting on the importance of a lesson in commerce and economics, Nuha Safar head of the Knowledge Surprises Organising Committee said: "Today increasing levels of personal debt around the world testify to the fact that not enough people know how to manage their money well, and the workshop is our attempt to make a difference."

The workshop in the Little Trader's Activity Area has a quiz, money-themed art and craft events and games, suited to both the 4-7 and 8-12 years age groups.

Anees Jibreen, the presenter of the quiz show said that younger kids started with a 'Shop Round', where they were given flash cards of different items and different prices. Each team was given a shopping list and needed to figure out how much they were spending, and tally the change they had to get back from the cashier. Next they had a Dh100 jigsaw puzzle, which they had to piece together, and a Puzzle Game round, where they had to add, subtract, carry-over, multiply and divide simple numbers. There were also questions on the monitor, with multiple choice answers, and children actually got to see the major currencies of the world and identify them, in addition to learning saving, budgeting and the history of money. And the prizes?

"Oh, we have some keepsakes from the DCCI, and the kids always leave with some mugs, scales, toys, so they serve as bait to get them to take part," Anees chuckled. The quiz interspersed with an interesting painting and craft activity where they made their own cash boxes and personalised cash journals, kept several of the little participants engrossed. The quiz went on for 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute money lesson from HSBC Bank, and a 45-minute art and craft session, with three such segments running daily.

"This is such a novel idea, when we came from Saudi Arabia this week for the Knowledge Surprises, we had no idea things could be so much fun for the children, this particular event is teaching them about money and managing it, which is important for adults and children alike, I am learning also," said Ziyad Khuzayim, a father of three children, who with his family has come to Dubai for the week to sample the different attractions of the Knowledge Surprises in the city's malls and Modhesh Fun City.

"I think this is a great idea, the Modhesh Fun City has been the greatest experience so far, and my kids had a really good time, though the Back-to-School section seemed smaller than it did in advertisements on TV! Congrats Dubai, for thinking of such imaginative ways of keeping the kids entertained through the long summer months," said Amal Khuzayim, adding that they would be here till the end of the week.

"I have learnt about coins, how to save money and how to buy things and count the change, I actually do this in real shops now! I also love the Kraft Korner where we make little camel barns and cash boxes, I have come here two times already," said 10-year-old Reshma Gulvadi, who said she had made so many new friends during the visits. "We stay in Satwa and I bring my daughter when I can, because she gets bored at home and this is a great place to do things with other children during holidays, not to mention learn some worthwhile lessons," said her mother Kiran Gulvadi.


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