Fishmonger Mr Ali is also known as Malik Al Hamour (The Hamour King)
TRADERS in a popular local market are appealing for an urgent upgrade that was allegedly promised 10 years ago.
Jidhafs Central Market has existed for around three decades, but a lack of air-conditioning and maintenance threatens to drive away shoppers.
Flies outnumber customers at the complex and veteran Bahraini fishmonger Sayed Hassan Ali said the problem was compounded by a lack of organisation and upkeep.
“There is a half-built area that was supposed to be a fish market,” he told the GDN.
“It was supposed to be organised and it would have been enough for more than 10 vendors.
“But we needed air-conditioning and waited two, three years.
“But they kept telling us there was no budget and eventually traders moved back outside.”
The stifling summer heat and pungent stench of the indoor section makes it impossible to operate inside.
Meanwhile, the lack of traffic management makes it difficult to find parking.
“There is a gold market nearby and 90 per cent of the customers come for that,” said Mr Ali, who has operated at the market for the past 31 years.
“They have nothing to do with the suq and there’s no parking, so it becomes a problem.”
“Some of the stalls are in the street and others were using land belonging to other people.”
Concerns about illegal traders at the market prompted action by authorities last week.
The GDN reported on Thursday that 45 illegal vendors, including eight Bahrainis, had been evicted from the site.
However, the Bahrainis were subsequently given special permission to continue trading on empty land adjacent to the market – on the condition that they received approval from landowners.
Vacant land and roads leading to the market had been occupied by stalls belonging to both Bahrainis and illegal expatriate traders, before a raid on Tuesday – when municipal officials dismantled illegal stalls and confiscated goods.
This followed a two-week advance notice by the Capital Trustees Authority.
Mr Ali said a lack of interest among young Bahrainis in taking up market jobs had contributed to an influx of expatriates to fill the vacuum.
“You only see the older Bahrainis selling fish because they know the fishermen,” he explained. “But a lot of times younger Bahrainis rent out their space to Indian or Bangladeshi workers, who run it for them.
“About 20 to 25 years ago this was a booming place.
“Now all those great people, the older generation, are all extinct except me.”
One Bahraini who is part of the younger generation, a 38-year-old who asked to be identified only as Abdulla, said the market had given him a lifeline.
He fears a lack of investment in the Jidhafs Central Market could result in it being closed down, which he said would be like taking out the area’s heart.
“I started working here about 10 years ago after I was let go from my previous employer,” said Abdulla, who cleans and prepares fish.
“I was fired from four other places, but I liked working here. I work from 6am to 7pm or 8pm, but I can leave at any time if there’s not a lot of work.
“I like the freedom that it offers me and I make enough money to sustain my family.
“If the suq was removed, then Jidhafs would be useless.
“It’s the heart of Jidhafs and, if it closes, many people like me will lose their jobs.”