Manama: Optimism filled the air of Souq Al Magasees in central Bahrain as thousands of people flocked the flea market last week looking for bargains.
Six months ago, the future of the weekly open-air market was in doubt after a massive fire in July razed it to the ground, causing huge financial losses and the collapse of a magic box for thousands of regular visitors.
Live animals, mainly birds, old books, antique tables, used and new garments, seeds and old household items, from fridges to nuts and bolts, were sold in the traditional market that invariably attracted bargain hunters from all over the country.
But when tragedy struck in early summer, many people thought that it would be the inevitable death of a market that started off on a small scale in the capital Manama with small bundles of items on the ground before it impressively flourished into a multi-stand market where the latest equipment for smart phones much appreciated by young people co-existed with Betamax video cassettes that reminded the older generations of the early days of video watching.
“I have followed Souq Al Magasees since its first days in downtown Manama,” Baqer, a retired school administrative supervisor, said. “It changed locations twice in Manama before it was moved to its current location in Eisa Town and we are really pleased with the way it has evolved. It has survived many challenges and I am sure that as it is being rebuilt, it will become better and more attractive,” he said.
Yasser, a university student, said that he too was optimistic that the Souq would have a brighter future.
“There are some issues right now as some people want to cut in and obtain licences for shops or stands in the new market when it opens,” he said. “Right now, all those who had stands in the pre-fire market want to have at least the same space they had before the tragedy. However, once the issues are resolved, we will grow bigger as people have clearly shown their deep love for the market,” he said, standing next to the books and magazines he was selling.
Talking about clients, Yasser who was substituting for his father who was busy with other matters on Saturday, said that most people now wanted to read fashion and food magazines.
“People are so keen on such magazines and, even though less intensely on those dealing with home interiors and decors that we make sure we have them in stock so that we keep our customers,” he said. “On the other hand, there is much less enthusiasm for sports and music magazines. Books on politics are no longer popular and customers are more interested in ways to enhance their work chances or in tips on how to climb the social ladder,” he said.