Let’s Meet: The folks at the ‘Kilo’ and wholesale markets
Away from air-conditioned supermarkets and local bakalas, the wholesale markets located on Salwa Road has its fair share of loyal customers. It’s cheaper for one, and secondly, it evokes a sense of nostalgia and that feeling of “old Doha” that modern stores fail to give.
JustHere captures the action at these markets on a busy afternoon, and while the Wholesale market was on our agenda, we accidentally stumble upon the lesser-known “Kilo Market”.
The first market that you come across is the “Kilo Market”, which we mistook as the Wholesale Market. One of the vendors explains that unlike the Wholesale market that is operated by the Baladiya, the Kilo Market is a rented market where stall owners have to rent a space for QR100 per month.
Naseer V.P, a vendor from India, has been in the market for two years. “Fresh stock of fruits and vegetables are brought daily. We don’t keep the leftovers for the next day, we throw them or take them home. The Wholesale market keeps stocks for up to three days.
“Leafy vegetables that you find come from Doha, while other items come from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan or India, on a daily basis.”
“Since fruits and vegetables spoil easily during summer, we have to continuously spray water on them to keep them fresh.
“In a day, I get about 75-100 customers; on weekends, more. The rates are cheaper than supermarkets, in winter it’s even cheaper. Also, you can bargain here, in supermarkets you are forced to pay fixed rate.”
While a major portion of the market is covered by a shed, there is a small section that is exposed. “We have requested Baladiya to put up a shed as the stock spoils if kept out in the sun for long, but they haven’t agreed. We don’t know why,” says another vendor who has been in the market for about 15 years.
Just a few steps away from this market, is the larger “Wholesale market”. The market is divided into two sections, one that sells produce cultivated locally such as tomatoes, cabbage and capsicum, while the other section sells produce imported from other countries.
Since the market is operated by Baladiya, there is no rent required unlike the ‘Kilo Market’. The only rent that shopkeepers pay is for the private trucks, where they store the unsold stock overnight. These trucks have the air conditioner running all night to keep the fruits and vegetables fresh for the next day. The rent is QR30 per night.
Mohammed (on the right), a regular customer, has been coming to the market for the past 30 years. “It’s a lot cheaper here compared to supermarkets. My office is on the Salwa Road, so it’s easier to purchase from here. But you need to be careful with the quality. Sometimes, fruits at the bottom of the crate can be spoilt.”
A common sight at both these markets are men in green uniforms, pushing wheelbarrows filled with crates of fruits and vegetables towards the vehicles of customers. These men are porters or hamali, and are constantly on their feet, in search of customers.
Abdullah A., at 70 years, is one of the oldest porters at the market. Hailing from Iran, he has been in Qatar for the past 45 years. “When I first came to Qatar, I used to work as a nanny, look after kids at a Qatari home. At that time there were no female nannies.” I joined as a porter 30 years ago. My work timings are from 5am to 10pm. We don’t get a holiday. After every 12 months, I fly to Iran for four months. I like Qatar because I have work here. In Iran there’s nothing to do. I have eight children, two boys and six girls. The eldest, is my 40-year old son and the youngest is a 20-year old daughter. All of them have studied up to the twelfth grade, and are now married.”
“I make QR400 every month, that equals to three lakh* Iranian rials. Some customers give me tips – anything from QR2 to QR10. Sometimes even QR15. These customers are mainly the richer Qataris. The job of a porter is tiring, but I need to work to support my wife back home. Now that my kids are married, it’s difficult for them to help us financially, so the responsibility is entirely mine.”
[Photography: Raoud Altoun]