Emerging into the heat of the day, barely 9:00am, and the sun is already oppressive in the sky as we head across a sandy stretch of earth to the Fish Souk of Diera on a sweltering August morning. The web guidebook warns that the fish market will carry a certain aroma that may not be suitable for all ages, read constitutions. Ha, I laugh, coming from the mother of all fish markets in the United States, lovingly known as Pike Place. A fish lovers paradise in its own right where daily specials are shouted, flying through the air along with an occasional Salmon; sometimes to another fish trader, sometimes at the gathered audience there to gawk.
But here along the creek as we enter the souk, one can get whiff the promised aromas of the fine catches of the day, apparently my constitution is strong, as the smells are intoxicating not debilitating. Working our way through the stalls of what Italians refer to as Frutti di Mare my expectations are gratified.
There on tables laid out are heaps and mounds of Shrimp the size of boomerangs, small and large Calamari and fish from the tiniest Sardines of a few inches to one meter and larger Tuna, Barracuda, Sea Bass, and Scuttlefish. Further names are shouted out to me, names I have never heard of that the fish mongers claim are Hamor, Sharri, Kanaad, Zabedi famous in the gulf. Spotted on one table at the end of a row is a curious looking fish with a big round head that I am told is salmon. Further ignorance sets in, but so does delight, as that doesn’t look like any salmon I have ever witnessed.
The men see a camera and despite the throngs of customers, the sweltering heat, and the sweaty bodies, mine included; want it all documented. They proceed to smile holding up their wares, and posing for photographs with an array of Frutti di Mare that marvels in size and diversity. Fishermen smiling with pride of their bounty. We strike up conversations that only fellow fish lovers can, tales of predawn catches, proven fresh and fit for consumption as fish gills tell, stories of cooking techniques and maybe once an addition of not the one that got away but the one here perfect for me that didn’t. While talking and smiling they go about their business and proficiently with their knives and cleavers, take a tail off here, a head there.
Yes tales from the fish market…