Published on Tuesday, March 13, 2012
A visit to the Friday Market, Kuwait
John V Tauro
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Souk al Jumma, termed in Arabic and most commonly known as Friday Market is one of the oldest and popular market in Kuwait in today’s times. Located ideally near the Shuwaikh industrial area and near an exclusive elite shopping mall, this open air market is open to customers for three days in a week, i.e. Thursday to Saturday from 8:30am to 10pm. This market attracts customers of varied nationalities throughout the year, the largest being Europeans, Americans, Indians, Filipinos, Egyptians and others. Day time crowd is not as much as is during the evening and night rush hours. Entrance to the area does not cost a dime; parking is ample, with easy access to entrance/exit routes which are located at four different corners. The shopping area is 1km in radius and another 1 km long in parking. Restroom facilities are available and decent but be sure to bring your own toiletries as this seems to be lacking in Friday market. Restaurant is available for the hungry, whilst small time grocers are located at different corners of the area. Special care is taken to the devotees who can pray at the mosque located in the large complex. The market also houses a police station and for emergencies ambulance is available. ATM machines are available at designated locations.

We met with the manager of the Friday market MR.Sayed Tamer who informed us that the commonly known Friday market, is actually a large company known as FRIDAY MARKETING MANAGEMENT COMMERCIAL COMPANY. He was kind to give an insight on the history and details of the market. He made us aware that any seller can buy an open vacant slot which is of different sizes that range from 4mts X 4 mts to 8mts X 8mts. The minimum charge for a 4X4mts is KD 20 (or INR 3,500 approx) for one week. The seller may choose to use the same space every week or month and is open to all nationalities. The market has two large sections, one for old and used items and the other for new items.

One’s every need is met at this exclusive open air shopping area, starting from a needle, cycles, furniture, crockery, clothes, toiletry, perfumes, antiques, toys, to industrial tools. Household items from sofa set, diwaniya (Kuwaiti style sofas), curtains, televisions, refrigerator, air condition, gymnasium machines, ladies bag, suitcases and mattresses, the list is endless.

We came across an Afghani vendor who informed us that most of the items he sells are imported from Afghanistan like carpets, hookas, and antiques. He paid a rent of KD 20 for one week.

As we proceeded towards the curtain section we met with a Bangladeshi salesman working for his Kuwaiti national business man. Upon questioning of his weekly operations, he said his owner rents the area for a week, and brings the materials on Wednesday and arranges it for display, while they make business on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. His customers are expats and local nationals. Indians, Bangladeshi’s, Filipino’s are maximum customers. The expats buy this readymade curtain and take it to their home town.

Next we proceeded to an Egyptian business man named Nasser who got the floor area from a Kuwaiti sponsor having a similar business of bedroom decors, such as bed, cupboards and wardrobes. He has a larger space of 8mts X 8 mts of four open spaces. He explained that most of the foreign customers come on Friday, and the busiest period is during national holidays, Eid and Winter season. According to him, a Kuwaiti owner sub contracts his space to him for a 5mts X 4 mts space for which he pays Kd 100 for an week. We asked if he was had enough customers to make a decent profit, and he said yes, it satisfied him. On the other non-operational days they store their merchandise in a nearby rented warehouse for Kd 300 a month. His customers were Indian, Filipinos, Kuwaiti and other Arab nationals. His staff (daily wage earner) work part time on holidays and are well paid with happy working conditions.
The antique shops are most frequented by American and European nationals, where items are nearly as 100 years old. For antique lovers, it is an interesting area and can occupy one’s maximum time.

During the 1960’s to 1980’s, people were hesitant to visit the place for its untraditional auctioning ways, unattractive display of materials and location. However, in recent times after the Gulf war, with renovations to the area, and a management company providing shelters to workers and various facilities to customers, this market has grown to be the most popular and frequented places on the weekend. One can find this place cheaper than other malls and market areas, to fit one’s decent budget.
Those who have the opportunity to visit Kuwait do not miss the chance of visiting this open market shopping area, Friday Market.
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