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Farmer’s market at Souk al Bahar

April 24, 2010
Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa - backdrop to the market

Inside Souk al Bahar

Inside Souk al Bahar

Flag outside Old Town Dubai

Flag outside Old Town, Dubai

I was intrigued about a farmer’s market being held in Dubai, especially one with an organic claim.  It was only a few weeks ago that the lovely Nazwa Farm Shop opened, revolutionising the way I shop.  It seems incredible that there might be all these little organic farms out in the desert that we haven’t heard about.

Souk al Bahar is a shopping centre that looks old but is actually very new.  It takes many features from traditional Arabic architecture – windtowers, wooden screens, fortresses – to recreate an old-fashioned souk experience.  It’s located in the heart of the new business area of Dubai, U.A.E., which has the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa – at its centre.  The contrasts couldn’t be more extreme.  Baker & Spice, a restaurant which sources its ingredients locally, organised the farmer’s market, but as I drove up to the souk there were banners and flags galore announcing it with a strong EMAAR feel about it.

View of the Souk al Bahar farmers market

Arriving at the farmer's market

The market was on the water’s edge on the terrace outside Baker & Spice and Dean & Deluca and despite several fans dotted about  it was too hot to linger for very long (about 36 C which is normal for April in Dubai).  The stalls contained mainly fruit and vegetables plus there was a stand for locally roasted coffee and one selling honey.  There were also some cages containing some rather sad-looking hens, ducks, Guinea fowl and rabbits.  The produce looked fresh and vibrant although the salads were rapidly wilting under the beating sun.  It did have a great atmosphere and people were bustling in and out.  Quite often people try really hard to do something in Dubai but don’t get it quite right and although I’m really pleased that someone has had the vision to get this together I think that it had missed one of the points of a farmer’s market; that of being able to talk to the people who have produced the food i.e. the farmers.  Most of the stands were more like market stalls with the friendly servers having little idea about the produce. It was all fairly local (food sourced as far as Saudi Arabia) not all was organic.  On one stall there was an abundance of plastic packaging too.

Salata was one exception, manned by staff from the farm.  This company is German-owned and uses hydroponics technology to grow their salads and vegetables.  Although the goods are not organic the process means that 80% of all water they use is recycled and they need a fraction of the land requirements compared to conventional farming methods.  I bought some crisp frisee lettuce and took a leaflet as they do home delivery.  This looks like a good source of fruit and vegetables which haven’t done the food miles of the stuff in our supermarkets from Holland, Australia and the US.

raw coffee company

Enthusiasts from the Raw Coffee Company

coffee beans

Coffee beans

The ladies from the Raw Coffee Company were really enthusiastic about their product.  They import organic, fair trade beans from small estates around the world and then roast them in their boutique roastery.  I had listened to the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme on my ipod that morning, while walking the dogs, about the ‘third wave’ of coffee.  This started in Australia, hit New York and has really taken off in London.  Foodies and coffee-specialists predict that we will all start to know a lot more about coffee and the types of beans and areas that they come from in a similar way that we know about grape varieties and regions in wine.  Roasting the beans is a fine art so Raw are doing their bit to bring this high quality and expertise to Dubai.  They deliver as well.  I’m inspired to get a coffee grinder and know not to store my coffee in the fridge anymore.

Baker & Spice Dubai

Baker & Spice, Dubai

Dean & Deluca, Dubai

Dean & Deluca, Dubai

I regret not talking to the honey producer but it just got too hot and busy and people were swarming around him (sorry!).  I left with the Salata lettuce and juicy peaches from Saudi Arabia, peering into Baker & Spice on my way out to look at the fabulous salads and making a note to return for lunch soon.   Bravo to the organisers of the farmer’s market.  It feels like there is a local produce revolution going on in the UAE and I’m so glad to be part of it.

Update January 2011 – Baker & Spice gave me this information:

The farmers market runs every Friday during the growing season in UAE which is between November and April, from 10am to 4pm. There are four different farmers at the moment and increasing… from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Lewa.

For details of future dates for the Farmer’s Market contact Baker & Spice

9 Comments
  1. April 24, 2010 6:53 pm

    Hi

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, it was a highly worthwhile event, and I do agree about having more of the actual producers there – I guess that will happen in time as people get more used to the concept.

    The organisers said there will be a couple more before the summer, but the main plan is to relaunch it as a regular event in September when temps are a bit kinder. Actually, I thought the weather was fine, but I got there early and missed the chickens!

    EoD

    • April 24, 2010 9:27 pm

      Great to hear there will be more. There were certainly enough people (like me) looking very enthusiastic about it all.

  2. Anna permalink
    April 24, 2010 7:29 pm

    That market looks gorgeous, no need to preach about 5 a day there!

    • April 24, 2010 9:28 pm

      Just had supper with combined produce from the farmer’s market and the organic farm shop – everything tastes so fresh and delicious.

  3. kilimanjarochallenge permalink
    May 1, 2010 10:37 am

    Kim and Japi at the RAW COFFEE COMPANY STAND :-).

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