The small village of Masafi sits near the Fujairah/ Ras Al Khaimah border, 2 of the 7 emirates of the UAE. Its close proximity to the Hajar Mountains and convenient position on Wadi Ham ensures good rainfall and access to a falaj or underground water canal.
Farming is prevalent here and legend has it, 3 farmers began selling their produce on the side of the road after Friday prayers at the nearby mosque. This road, being the only transport route from Dubai to Fujairah at the time, meant that the farmers had a captive audience and Masafi Friday Market was born.
It wasn’t long before other farmers joined them and the market gradually spread. Fresh produce was joined by hand loomed carpets, silverware, pottery and bed linen. Trading days increased and today the market is open all day every day and stretches more than 500 metres on both sides of the road.
It’s not unusual to see sellers sleeping inside their open doorways ready to be woken by the next available customer day or night.
In the heat of the day, do as the locals do and “drive-thru”. Drive onto the footpath and peruse the displays. Should something catch your eye, slide down your window and place your order. Haggling is necessary. Begin by halving their first price and to and fro from there. Pay what you’re comfortable with, take your purchase and off you go, not once stepping out of air-conditioned comfort.
Of course, you can always follow the tried and true method of browsing and get out of your car. Although it’s really not expected, it is the best way to select your own mangoes and bananas or choose the design of your hall carpet or wander through the alleys created by 3-metre tall palms and frangipanis in the nurseries.
This abundance of fresh produce along with the rest of the retail mix is unexpected when fanging along a UAE desert highway. So if you find yourself on the E88 (Al Dhaid – Masafi Road) about an hour out of Dubai, slow down and indulge in some retail therapy.
Masafi Friday Roadside Market is a desert surprise, and it’s a place we love….