TRADERS in Bahrain’s only weekend flea market will be evicted to make way for a new investment project.
The Southern Municipality has already invited tenders from interested developers.
It follows a request by the Southern Municipal Council to bulldoze the popular market and offer the site to the private sector.
Councillors believe the large plot of government land in Isa Town, on which the market is located, is wasted in its current form.
Traders currently pay just BD5 each weekend to rent a plot, but the council says it has potential to generate higher revenues by allowing commercial investment.
The market, open only on Fridays and Saturdays, is located inside a steel structure at the Isa Town Traditional Market and was initially established to help low-income traders.
Over the years it has been at the centre of a number of controversies, earning a reputation as a place to buy stolen goods, exotic animals, pornography and unhygienic food.
Southern Municipality director general Assem Abdullatif told the GDN that the market was consuming much-needed resources.
“We have to provide municipal officials, inspectors, security guards and cleaners for two days – and those two days fall on the weekend, which is more difficult to arrange and pay for,” he said.
“The market is hard to control and we have faced problems with those leasing from us, such as subletting stalls and being suspected of selling illegal merchandise.
“We are regularly leading raids on traders at the market after things got out of hand.”
He added that on the five days the market was closed, it was a waste of
“It is a matter of time before the traders will be moved out to an alternative location,” said Mr Abdullatif.
However, council chairman Ahmed Al Ansari told the GDN a new location must be provided for the flea market traders.
“The market is part of our culture and it has to continue, not in Isa Town, but somewhere else that is visible to customers and easily accessible,” he said.
“Flea markets exist in the US, Spain, Belgium and many other countries, selling antiques, used items and traditional handicrafts and goods.”
However, he agreed tighter controls would be needed at the new location – saying the situation at the Isa Town flea market had gotten out of hand.
“In this market everything from wild animals, porno movies, new stock and many other items are sold,” he explained.
“It is OK to an extent and in particular cases, but things have gotten out of hand.
“I am the only councillor in favour of the market and hopefully it can continue in an alternative location.”
Area councillor Mohammed Al Khal said the flea market had no place in Isa Town, and questioned whether it should be allowed to continue at all.
“The government is not obliged to provide an alternative location for the market, which adheres to an old, bygone concept,” he said.
“Everything sold there can be bought in shops.
“This market is a headache and it has few benefits, especially with the crime committed there even under municipal supervision.
“It is time the last nail was hammered into its coffin.”
Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf last year banned street vendors from operating at the site.
However, a revamp of the Isa Town Traditional Market is underway to attract more customers and tackle traffic congestion.
It includes installing air-conditioning throughout, quadrupling the number of toilets, providing better services for the loading area and increased car parking.