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The Central Souq in Sharjah, which opened in 1978, continues to be one of the hottest shopping destinations for gold jewellery in Sharjah. Image Credit: Supplied

SHARJAH: Emirati grandmum Umm Abdullah is on a focused shopping spree with her daughter at the Central Souq in Sharjah. She is looking for some heritage jewellery, and says Emirati women like her prefer to acquire traditional pieces rather than the newer designs.

A salesman in one of the shops says the demand for AlMurtaza and AlMaria necklaces is particularly high, even though they are among the oldest forms of Emirati jewellery. That’s because they symbolise wealth, he says, adding the Al Kawashi head covers, which are prominently displayed, have many takers too.

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As you walk past other shops, you see tourists at their buying best: Irish woman Elaine Cair, who has come to buy gold jewellery for her mother; Umm Ali, who is visiting from Oman; French tourist Nicolas Blandel and his family who cannot get enough of the souq; Egyptian Doaa Ahmed who finds it the ultimate shopping destination; there are any number of them.

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Traditional gold jewellery pieces are a huge draw among Emiratis. Image Credit: Supplied

The visitors’ admiration is as much for the architecture as it is for the rich and diverse offerings of the souq, whose history in retailing gold dates back many decades.

As Joman Shahmadar, store manager of GG & Sons Jewellery, boasts, it remains a witness to the beginnings of gold trade in Sharjah when its founder came from India in 1965 to open the first gold shop in one of the alleys of the area, 13 years before the opening of the Central Souq.

Now with four outlets within the complex, besides two others elsewhere, the chain shines with its own success story, he claims.

Yemeni trader Ahmed Salah says that the Central Souq has been a fine example of adaptation and innovation in the face of economic challenges, underscoring its position as a leading destination for shopping and excellence in the world of jewellery.

The Central Souq is divided into wings that house around 600 shops. Image Credit: Gulf News

He says visitors come to the Central Souq from all over the world and it has regular customers from Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in addition to shoppers and tourists from all over the Emirates.

Trader Wael Al-Yafei points out that gold remains a sought-after commodity despite its high prices, as it is considered a safe investment.

Indeed, gold does brisk business at the Central Souq. According to the Department of Economic Development in Sharjah, the total number of commercial licenses issued to traders in gold, precious stones and pearls stood at 727, while the growth rate of registered memberships in the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry grew 138 per cent during the last 10 years.

Retaining its relevance while celebrating its past, the Central Souq is one of the most popular tourist and commercial destinations dedicated to gold jewellery in Sharjah.

Significantly, its image is printed on the Dh5 currency note of the UAE.

A unique landmark that opened in 1978, it embodies an architectural masterpiece with a geometric design in the form of a steam train decorated with Islamic inscriptions and coloured in picturesque blue. Its strategic location next to the serene waters of the Khaled Lagoon enhances its beauty.

The complex has around 600 shops spread across two main wings with eight balconies and connected by two bridges. While one wing celebrates the yellow metal, the other is dedicated to trading in carpets, antiques, fabrics and more. But no matter which part of the Souq you are in, you are sure to be on a journey through time and cultures. Every corner tells the story of the emirate and its rich heritage.