This morning I wandered through the winding alleyways of Dubai’s spice souk. It has been here for years, but now that the city has become a tourist magnet, some things have changed for the better, others not.
The spices used to be displayed in rough hessian sacks or dusty plastic bags. Today, they are cleverly displayed to be at their most attractive, or should I say ‘tempting’? I was tempted. Who could blame me? The bright orange of the sunflower petals you can see above, flanked by pink hibiscus and rather unnatural blue lavender is, frankly, startling. Perfect sacks stood to attention, shoulder to shoulder. There was yellow turmeric root, tiny red peppercorns, baby bonnet capsicums and pale slivers of dried garlic glistening like mother of pearl. I guess I must have lingered for about half a second before the shopkeeper leapt out of his doorway, silver scoop in one hand, plastic bag in another, ready to help me.
“How much?” I asked, pointing to the dried limes I had fancied experimenting with for a while but did not know where to buy in the Hague.
He rolled his eyes and tutted slightly. “No problem,” he answered. Of course. “How much you want?”
Every time I asked the cost of one mystery item his response was the same: “How much you want?”
“Little,” I said. “Only a little.”
Within a few minutes I had five almost weightless bags, neatly stapled closed to protect the colourful contents and prevent me from changing my mind.
“How much?” I asked again, opening my purse.
He pressed a few buttons on a desktop calculator and turned it to face me.
“75 dirhams!” I exclaimed. “Too much!” I had lived in Dubai for almost ten years a decade or so ago. I know when I am being ripped off.
He pressed a few more buttons, flipped the calculator in my direction and showed me a reduced figure.
Now it was my turn to tut.
And so we continued, the price dropping a few cents at a time until it reached a level at which I was prepared to settle. There was a queue of customers behind me, all carrying their own brightly coloured weightless packets. All grinned at me, glad that I had paved the way for similar haggling.
I walked out of the shop with my head high, delighted with my conquest. Stepping out into the sun, I crossed the road towards the creek where I would catch a water taxi to the other side. The cost one solitary dirham – about 20 cents. This was one aspect of the city I loved that had remained a bargain.
My experience this morning is typical of the kind of thing that inspires me to write. My story demonstrates my belief that life story writing benefits from a dash of what I call SPICE and what I teach at length in my Write Your Life Stories program.
SPICE stands for the following:
See if you can spot how I used each of the ingredients of SPICE in the piece above.
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