Jeffrey Black | Middle East Diaries


Trouble in the Silver Souq: Sanaa Old City, 5th March 2008
March 5, 2008, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Yemen

Rattle bang wallop. A ringing, rounding crash, and a glittering alleyway disgorges a running score of the wild-eyed and delighted. Clash and hullabaloo. Bright and shining objects go flying in the night. A fight! In the silver souq. The crowd attracts and contracts to the epicentre of the action – and now I can hear the recriminations. Plaintive, harmed, wronged. The threats. Ugly tones of impending violence. Shock. Glee.

And a small, bustling sheikh makes his way down the hill. How did he know? Was he just passing? Full of intent. Quran under the arm snug as a gun. What’s this about? Still the push-sounds, the shoves, the shouts, the stumbling over tea-trays and big brass kettles. The thrill of almost danger. The crowd moves to the thump and beat of a right old ding-dong. They love it. Talk of guns. The flash of a knife? Hot fun and adrenalin in the lean-to streets.

Move away now. Danger here. But I want to see! As does our sheikh, now burrowing through to the core of trouble. Where’s the noise gone? A vacancy. Stragglers become bored, and turn to other things. No noise. Here he is, the law-bearer, at the dead centre, judicious now with the culprits in an emptying scene. Nothing to see here. Nothing had ever happened. No problem. It’s only money.

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