The first year when I arrived in Qatar, I’ve been desperately looking for shops which offers something different then the ‘Highstreet’- and ‘mall’ shops as H&M, Zara, Mango, Topshoe, etc..
Here, you can’t google for something you want, because those little shops do not have websites. If they do have got a website they usualy don’t give information about what they sell or service they provide, because that may changes per customer and situation and availability. “Inshallah”
The way to find your ‘little’ or ‘big’ treasures are by mouth to mouth; connecting with other people and ask. As a very independent (and maybe a bit shy) western woman it took a while before I got that.
After 4 years I got it and I started to love it.
Besides the malls there are streets with shops. I say streets with shops and not shopping streets as these are not streets where you go for window shopping and see what kind of shop it is and what they offer. You go to the particular shop which might offer what you need and who’s owner is family or friend of your family or friend.
As these shops run because of the mouth to mouth advertisement and relations, they do not have the need to look welcoming or nice, they even look pretty ricket and dirty. The salesman doesn’t need to be particular friendly when he got his target of the day or you dirturb him in his in between midday sleep.
But then when you found them and got there in the right time, there are people inside who are craftsmen, people who know what they’re talking about; Taylors who know the human body; know how certain fabric will fold and what need to be done to fit. The gold and silver smiths who knows about the different gems, gold and silver and how it holds and can make every design you wish for. The carpenters and upholstery guys….. You can almost get whatever you want the way you want.
To purchase is an event on it’s own. Try not to be in a hurry, you’ll miss out of the event. As a lady you’ll have to sit before the counter and you get a water offered. You talk about mutural family, friends and the country you come from and if you visited their country. After a while, depending on how busy and the mood, you start talking business.
Then in the end the bargaining. Bargaining is NOT only about getting the best price (= cheapest) it’s also about how you value your purchase and what you are willing to grant the salesman. For the salesmen it’s not only about the money (although it’s very important and even more important when doing business with a white) but it’s also very important for the salesman how you value him and his business. That’s the most difficult part for me and I do prefer set prices. On the other hand now I’m used to it. It’s a good way to show someone if you feel not served appropriate (feedback) and when I pay more, I know it’s the most direct form of humanitarian aid.
As a westerner I’m used that when people say it’s ready -then an then- it will be ready. Most of the time it isn’t because there are always others, who are in a hurry and need priortiy. You’ll go wrong one or two times, then you start calling and then after 4 years you play the dramatic part, of how much in a hurry you are too, and sometimes it can be ready on the spot, instead of a week!
The whole experience is more a way of purchasing something you want then the quick buying and spending money to big brands. Now I know I have to take my time, I prefer this way of shopping better then go into the big stores where the ‘salespeople’ are the youngest and the cheapest, bored people who have no clue or interest in what they sell how they sell aslong as it’s in the procedures.