It was my first trip to Dubai, as I had only moved to Abu Dhabi three weeks before. It was going to be a boys weekend as my three other housemates were joining me. We had everything planned out, hotels booked, desert safaris arranged and places to visit on our list. It would be our first visit to the Emirates’ centre of extravagant opulence so we were quite excited to see the place.
We did the typical sightseeing route and headed down to the Gold Souk (Gold market). There we wandered around for a while until we started to find things we actually were interested in buying. I wanted to get a backgammon board while another of my housemates wanted a shisha to take back to Brazil. I walked into one shop and tried to negotiate a good price for a backgammon board but the man behind the counter was a stubborn one and just wouldn’t come down to a price I wanted to pay. So I simply walked out in order to find another place.
As soon as I walked out, a little man in a shalwarqameez (typical clothing worn by Pakistani migrants in the UAE) approached me and said “You want cheep one?”. I immediately assumed he meant the board and said yes. He lights up and say “Okay. Come me!”. In my infinite wisdom I followed the little man. We were in the main area of the souk when he found me, so I wasn’t worried. “Mafi muskila*! Shop near!” he says after we were walking for more than 100m and noticed the I’m-not-so-sure look in my face, but still I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.
However, soon we were darting off into the very shady looking side streets which didn’t really look like the typical tourist trail. Then some more side streets (I wasn’t even sure where I was anymore). Finally he says “Here!”. Fine, so I follow him into what looks like a store selling fabrics. Now I was lost and confused. This confusion was followed by a bit of fear when the little man tried force me up the stairs in the store. At that point I knew things weren’t quite right and said “No!”. He then attempted to explain what I wanted was upstairs. I stood my ground and told him bring what I wanted down to the store. He protested a little but when he noticed I wasn’t budging, he ran out the store.
Thirty seconds later he came back with a shisha… But he kept pointing upstairs. So I said no again and simply walked out the store and made my way back to my housemates. I later found out that this is a ploy to get lone men to prostitutes. I found it quite funny that I could have almost bought sex inadvertently. So, boys and girls, never follow a man in a souk in Dubai if you don’t know where he is taking you.
*Mafi Muskila = No problem in Arabic