Greeted by the din of seagulls and a cacophony of voices calling out in broken English, Arabic, Pakistani and other languages, the Deira Fish Market is a wonderful place to visit - even if buying fish is not on your agenda. If you can dodge the 'rain' coming from the clouds of seagulls swirling overhead, and don't mind the pungent smell of fish being absorbed into your every pore, the organised chaos and friendliness of the vendors makes the Fish Market a must see.
Set in the heart of old Dubai, the Fish Market - and accompanying Meat and Fruit & Veg Markets - are a stray cat's dream. And stray cat's are lurking throughout the market, waiting to pounce on the merest hint of scrap dropped to the floor.
"Sheep heads boiling in a large barrel sit alongside flayed camel skulls"
The vendors, mostly from Pakistan, are keen to not only sell you their wares, but to have their photograph taken with you, or with them holding up a fish, or by themselves; basically most of them just seem to love being photographed! Almost all are willing to have a chat and ask you where you are from. "Australia" some answer, and the reply is invariably "Ah, Ricky Ponting". Not kangaroos. Not wombats. Not the Outback, or prawns on a a barbie. But a cricketer that retired a few years ago.
Circling the tables stacked with all kinds of sea life, both living and dead, dried and frozen, one can be forgiven for thinking time has stood still. Fish are weighed using old fashioned lead weights balanced on rusting sets of scales. Sections of tree trunks are used as chopping blocks, and there is not an EFTPOS machine in sight. Nokia 3320s can even be seen!
The Meat Market is not for the squeamish, the vegetarian or the hungry. Sheep heads boiling in a large barrel sit alongside flayed camel skulls. Hooks hang down along the rows, with ribs, legs, heads and other unidentifiable body parts dangling at head height, ready for the unwary tall traveller to bump into and come face to face with their dinner.
Men as big as lumberjacks brandish cleavers carelessly as you walk by. Is everything here from an animal?, you wonder, as it swishes through the air and thuds through flesh and bone right next to you.
"Carefully stacked tables abound with piles of colourful fruit, and you are less likely to be accosted by a vendor, as it appears they have had their stalls built around them."
The Fruit & Veg market provides a welcome relief from the carnage, odours and bustle. Carefully stacked tables abound with piles of colourful fruit, and you are less likely to be accosted by a vendor, as it appears they have had their stalls built around them. Every fruit and vegetable you can think of is available for purchase, as well as some whose names seem more fitting for an action movie character. (What is a Rambutan anyway - a red-headed Rambo?)
Leaving the markets, the fresh air is brings a burst of life back into your lungs - bringing much needed oxygen to a body tired from walking, talking, smelling, feeling, poking, prodding and feeling everything in sight. Better head back in and get something to eat.