I’ve lived in Doha for three years and I hadn’t followed my mother’s advice… until recently, that is.

She’s always told me that the best times to buy fish were in the early mornings. I’ve rewound in my head a million times those journeys, where I accompanied my mother to that market near my house, to buy fresh fish, never later than 5am on each occasion.

As to why I never did the same in Doha in the first place, it was because I’d given up on cooking (The best I could do was coffee anyway).And then ‘Big Chief Eagle Eye’, my newly christened Canon EOS 400D, came into my life and changed everything. I arrived at the market at 3am and didn’t leave until about four hours later.

At 3am, the market was still asleep. People lay curled wherever they could, catching on a few last moments of shut-eye, before the hectic day that would unfurl before them.

At 3.30am, the first few people began to stir and the market slowly began coming to life. Different vehicles reversed softly to a stop next to the common market ground. Fishes of all sizes and shapes were carefully unloaded while a radio somewhere belted out an old Hindi
track. A stooped man, holding many cups of steaming black tea, went around waking his mates to the glorious new fish-ey day!

At 4am, groans of wakefulness gave way to alert eyes everywhere. Wheelbarrows were readied, huge blocks of ice to spread atop fresh fishes were shattered, knives and pencils were sharpened, tiny little notebooks were brought out and brooms arrived to swiftly clean the marketplace…

At 4.30am, more trucks started rolling in and innumerable people suddenly materialised out of nowhere. The faint murmur of the crowd gradually rose a notch higher as bidding parties took their designated places. The prayer call from a nearby mosque stilled the crowd for a moment. They respectfully waited for it to end and…

By 5am, all hell broke loose. People were everywhere, screaming at the top of their voices. One man – the bid organiser – cupped his hands to his ears and shouted in rapid Arabic while others agreed, argued or walked away from him. People strolled atop fish boxes, just like they would in a park, ever so careful to never tread on the fish itself.

By 5.30am, the crowd began moving inward, towards the centre of the wide hall, as each batch of fresh fish was auctioned off. Different trawlers spent multiple days on the open seas to take this catch off nature’s lap. When auctions came to a close, there weren’t a single
sad face in the crowd;everyone had made a bargain or the other that day.

By 6am, the outer auction area went back to being deserted. A faint hubbub, of excited voices of the fish resellers, floated through from deep within the bowels of the huge concrete market building. Their day had just begun…

 

 

 

 

Images: Taita S

-Taita S

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