Dubai: Sitting under a parasol, sipping on an iced tea, and admiring a new macramé wall-hanging she just bought from an artist – it is a perfect Dubai winter weekend at The Ripe Market in Dubai for British resident Rachel Baker.
Her husband Oliver and children are busy looking at the animals in the small petting zoo.
“It’s such a cosy market, especially during this time, when the weather is perfect. It has become our regular weekend family spot during winter,” the 40-year-old mum-of-two told Gulf News.
Like many families, the Bakers pack a straw mat and drive to the Dubai Police Academy Park off Umm Suqeim Street, every Saturday.
“We walk around the market looking at different handicrafts, and interesting things like artisanal bread, or dips made by women running small kitchens. Every kiosk has something interesting,” she added.
After they are done shopping, they pick a spot for a picnic and spread out the mat and cushions. “Everything we need for a picnic is available at the market – food, beverages, snacks, a playground,” Baker said.
The weekend-only bazaar hosts individuals and small businesses from across the UAE. You come across farmers selling organic produce, artisanal kiosks selling clothes, home décor, jewellery, art, freshly baked bread and more, all in an al-fresco setting.
“It’s my first time here,” said Lebanese student, Yousuf Abdulrahman, as he looked up from the wooden speaker he was curiously inspecting at a kiosk.
The speaker, made from mango wood and engineered to amplify music from a smartphone without the need for an electrical outlet, had drawn his attention while he was waiting for a Lebanese snack he had just ordered.
“I’m waiting for my food from Emm Daniel,” he added pointing towards a busy kiosk where a woman stood explaining to customers that the name of her stall meant “Mother of Daniel”, in Arabic.
Emm Daniel, a Lebanese entrepreneur, makes and sells sweet and savoury dips and nut butters. While she invites people to try samples at her kiosk, her helpers make wraps and a Lebanese bread with toppings called Saj fresh on the skillet at the stall.
“The dips are made without any preservatives,” she explained.
A few kiosks away is a stall called Men Bayti La Baytak run by a Lebanese couple, Walid Singer and his wife Lama.
“My wife started this kitchen… we created a traditional Arabic food concept and our specialty is the small makdous,” said Singer holding up a jar of tiny pickled and cured eggplants.
“It’s marinated in red bell peppers, walnut, garlic, and some oil. Usually, in Arabic cuisine, eggplants are very big and messy. We were able to work with farmers to make them tiny and small,” added the Dubai resident who has been living in the UAE for 15 years. The eggplants are sourced from various farms in Lebanon and prepared and packaged at their kitchen in the UAE.
This is the second time Singer and his wife are at the Ripe Market. The first time was in 2023, when they had a temporary popup, which was very successful, he said.
“We decided to come this year as a permanent kiosk, and I don’t think we are ever going to leave,” he added.
The Ripe Market is known for supporting many local small and medium enterprises and individuals like Singer.
Meanwhile, Pantelis Nikas, a Greek resident in Dubai for nine years, stands behind a kombucha kiosk at the market. What started as homemade recipes of the fermented, lightly effervescent, black tea drink for friends, is now a small business for Nikas and his Australian business partner.
He along with his friend Glynda Simbajon, invite visitors to try the fermented tea drink in different flavours. Many of his customers have never tried kombucha before, Nikas said.
“Our kombucha is mostly green tea with a little bit of black that’s been naturally fermented, and the fermentation adds millions of probiotics to it. And we all know what probiotics are good for – your gut health, your energy levels, your immune system,” explained Nikas, adding that it was their first year at The Ripe Market.
A close-knit community
The market has created a close-knit community of vendors, who help each other out.
“We share experiences with other vendors, if someone has payment issues, we find solutions, we help each other out, it’s a lovely community,” added Omar Maazizi, a vendor selling candles and natural incense.
Wolmar Velterop, a British resident based in the UAE, on his second visit to The Ripe Market said: “We arrived about 11am, we had some lunch, we bought some vegetables at the farmers’ market. I came once last year… my parents are in town, I brought them to the market. This is exactly the kind of stuff that my mum really likes.
“I really like the fact that it is all small businesses, so you don’t have any big chains here. [The vendors] usually make what they sell. Everyone is very involved in the business… it’s a bit like an artisanal feel, it feels more real,” he said, adding that the experience was different from going to malls, which usually have big brands.
Further down, you see a colourful burst of kiosks selling handmade jewellery, clothes, and artwork.
Dubai resident Samaneh Mojaveri, a regular visitor of the market said: “It feels so fresh here… the whole thing I love about the market is that it has things which are handmade and localised. You get to interact with the owner of the product itself, it’s so cosy. I come every other week, we put it in our weekend plan.”
“We’ve been coming for a long time, we used to go to the one in Al Barsha, and now we’re coming to this one [at Academy Park]. All the different food brings us back, and the kids love the shops. The space, the atmosphere, is very relaxing,” added Mark Ellis, another British resident in Dubai.
The Ripe Market is organised in cooperation with The Dubai Police. It is open every Saturday from 9am to 9pm, and every Sunday from 9am to 7pm, until the end of April.