The gold souk spanned four floors in the modern building. The main door was like that found in a bank vault. Nothing else was sold at this place. Nothing but gold.
Every shop displayed ornate necklaces, bracelets, pendants, earrings, rings, and decorative pieces in abundance yet somehow each store seemed to have unique items. The creative variety seemed endless.
Merchants offered tea to prospective customers. Young boys walked the hallways with tea trays always ready to stop and serve at the gesture of the shopkeeper.
Tim had visited this souk once before and spent four hours browsing, inspecting, choosing, and purchasing various items at several different shops. He had politely accepted too much tea then and experienced the luxurious opulence of one restroom.
He strode purposely this night to the escalators and ascended to the third floor. He moved to the specific shop intent upon a single purchase, his ring. On the previous shopping trip, he had found a beautifully patterned wedding ring the perfect size for his future bride. Today, he was seeking a matching one in his own size. The shop owner had said he could get one made to his specifications, in the proper size, in a short time. Tim was back to see it through.
The owner recognized him from the visit only a few days before and knew exactly what Tim wanted. After a greeting and short conversation to confirm Tim’s intentions to purchase the desired ring, the man called over a young boy. It was not one of the tea boys, this one appeared to be an errand boy. After a rapid string of instructions in their own language, the young boy ran down the hallway toward the escalators.
The owner turned to Tim and told him the boy was on his way to the goldsmith to pick up the ring. It would be less than one hour and then offered tea. Tim smiled and accepted. He sat at a nearby table and a tea boy served him a steaming cup. Tim and the owner sipped their tea and talked little. The owner hopped up to wait on another customer and Tim turned to watch the shopping activity.
The view in the souk was stunning. Floor after floor with every shop selling gold. There were millions of dollars worth on display in this one building alone. Tim had been told there were several more buildings like this in the city. The concept staggered him.
He watched as customers accepted offers of tea at various shops. The tea boys moved constantly. Tim could not determine their resupply location. There were too many running about to track accurately. Scattered outside shops were other tables where men played chess or backgammon to pass the time.
The patterns of people moving, tea boys running, shopkeepers smiling and chatting with customers played out over and over on all four floors. Like an intricate hive of people engaging in commerce.
People? Men was more accurate Tim realized. There was not a single woman in view in the entire building. None among the shopkeepers or customers at all. He did not understand why that was but felt it would be inappropriate to ask. He sipped his tea again and waited patiently for the runner’s return.
The errand boy darted through the crowd and up the escalator at just under one hour’s time. He reached the shop and handed over a folded pouch to the shop owner. The man unfolded the soft cloth and held the ring out to Tim. Tim took the ring and looked at it, comparing it to the smaller one he had already purchased for his bride. The patterns matched exactly. The only difference was the larger size of his ring which fit perfectly.
The shop owner smiled broadly and told Tim the goldsmith had just completed making it that afternoon. Was there anything else in the store he would like to buy this evening? Tim smiled back and expressed his thankfulness for the special attention and offer for more, but no. The ring was all he needed tonight.
The shop owner nodded, pulled out his calculator and held his hand out for the ring. Tim handed it back and watched it get placed on a small scale. The owner tapped out the price of gold as listed in London that day and multiplied it by the weight of the ring with a slight adjustment as this was not 24 karat gold, “only” 22 karat like the other ring. He showed Tim the numbers and they exchanged currency, smiles, handshakes and the ring.
Tim put the carefully wrapped rings into his pocket and turned to the escalators. He walked with a relaxed pace through the city to where he would lay his head that night. The bright city competed with the stars tonight but the moon outshone them all and his heart brimmed with the joy of his upcoming wedding.