On the first day of a three-day spree of photo assignments in various UAE markets, the interns were dropped off at the main souk in Sharjah just as the market reopened after its midday “it’s-way-too-hot-to-stay-open” break. The assignment was to photograph the modern Islamic elements in the building, which, at this point, was boring me.
Most of the shopkeepers were still setting up for the nightly rush of shoppers and ignored the girl trying to take artful photos of cornerstones and railings. Except Omar, who insisted I look around his shop, even after I told him I had no money and would only take pictures.
I guess he wasn’t convinced, because he still wrapped me up in several scarves, demonstrating their age-reversing qualities. “See, now you look 20.” What a compliment for an aging 23-year-old.
My obsession with my camera was a novelty for him, and he grabbed it from me a couple times to see what all the fuss was about.
He didn’t always get it, but he was accommodating as I fussed around his store taking pictures.
I knew that he was only trying to sell me a scarf, but I was happy for the opportunity to speak to someone with fluent English skills who didn’t act like they were reluctantly following an order to interact with me. These are the sort of little interactions traveling is all about, the characters I will remember long after I’ve decided to delete the photos of cornerstones and railings to free up space for evidence of future interactions.