Synopsis of Sam’s Silks
Sam’s Silks is the story of the adventure a young Irish girl experiences when visiting the Old Textile Souk in Dubai. She has not travelled to a place like this before and is slightly overwhelmed, not to mention dressed improperly for the Arabic market. In college Susan made clothes for her friends as a hobby. Having worked in a Bank for the last few years she now wants to peruse her passion and go back to designing and making children’s clothes. This brings her to Dubai is search of Sam and his silk fabrics. She struggles to find her way in the heat and strange smells, but comes across a kind old trader, Sam’s Brother, they are all brothers! He brings her to Sam but not before he sold her some of his spices along with his mother’s special recipe. Her journey is successful and she buys amazing colourful fabric and is excited to return home to start a new chapter in her career.
The automatic doors of the hotel slid open with a schuh. She stepped out, looked up at the Burj Khalifa and bang a wall of heat hit her. It was blistering. The sun was high in the sky as it was just noon. Susan was an apprehensive young Irish girl in Dubai for the first time. She walked around the corner and headed to the creak edge to catch an Abra water taxi for the short ride to the opposite bank beside the Bur Dubai, in the direction of the Old Textile Souk. Almost overwhelmed with the noise and smell that is so alien to her background. Having never been outside Europe before she is overcharged, shaking inside but trying to look calm outside. Susan did not know the man she was scheduled to meet; their arrangement was made over the phone a month ago. Susan got dressed for the heat in her usual summer gear, shorts, and a sleeveless T-shirt. Perhaps, while perfect in Alicante this was not the best choice of outfit to wear in what she now sees is such a male dominated environment. Everyone else was in long white robes and not looking like they were affected by the searing heat in any way, she was dripping at this stage. She considered going back to the hotel to change, but the heat was stifling, and she did not want to be late.
Turning on Google maps, continuing towards the Souk, she walked for 10 mins following the map. Passing shops and bars that are open to the street ‘The joy of a hot climate’ she thought. She entered the covered alleyways of the Textile Souk and was overwhelmed by the smell of the spices and the noise, the deafening noise. She lives a quiet life, and this was an assault on her ears. Traders were shouting at each other, bartering, it sounded aggressive, but they were shaking hands, not fists, which by the level of shouting and raised tones is not what she expected.
Deep breath. She walked down the first aisle. The hairs on her arms stood up, little beads of perspiration started to form on her arms and trickly down her back. Searching through the throngs of people she still could not get a glimpse of Sam’s Silks or even Sam himself. She could feel her heartbeat boom, boom, boom as her fear level rose. Without noticing it her pace quickened. She turned left, more of the same hustle and bustle, walked for 1 minute but it felt like 5, boom, boom, then she tried turning left again, the beads now running down her back. Boom, boom, she kept walking but quicker now, fear escalating. Turned left, all looked unfamiliar, spice smells tickling … boom, boom, the inside of her nose. ‘When will I find something familiar’ she asked herself ….. instinctively turning left again … and suddenly she was at a familiar spot, the same stall where she had noticed the terracotta pottery with the unusual blue color. Boom …. Boom her heart started to slow a little, the perspiration flow eased, ‘Stop this nonsense’ she said to herself. ‘You are fine, just look for Sam’s unit. Com’n you can do this Girl!’ Taking a deep breath, she set off again going down the colorful isles, slowing her steps, breathing, boom……. Boom……. Boom her heartbeat.
Susan asked a friendly looking old man dressed in the white robes they all were wearing “Where would I find Sam’s Silk stand?” he nodded, smiled but did not answer “Sam’s Silks?” she asked again, but he just smiled and nodded faster, clearly not understanding English. She smiled and nodded back to him and moved further down the narrow row of colorful stalls. She really had no idea which way to turn. The noise was distracting her thoughts. Despite her brave front she was starting to get a little intimidated by the traders trying to get her attention. “Loooky, loooky” “You come in here” “Psst, you try here” “Miss here, here” they shouted. She was also uncomfortable at the way they were looking at her – perhaps, this outfit was unsuitable to wear in an Arabic bazaar. She considered going back to the hotel again, but no, keep going, afraid she would chicken out completely. Everyone else was in long robes and not looking like they were affected by the searing heat in any way, she was beyond oozing at this stage.
Searching through the throngs of people she still could not spot a sign of Sam’s Silks. “Where would I find Sam’s Silk stand?” she asked but the man just looked blankly at her. Now hot, thirsty, and slightly panicking, she did not know what to do.
Should I stay or should I go now
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
It kept ringing in her ears! God, she hated that song! Taking deep breaths, she decided to try going down the stalls on the left working in a grid pattern as she had learnt when volunteering in a search for a lost child last summer. She walked on turning down the side isle and kept checking each silk stall. She was afraid to ask again, presuming they would not understand her. Curiosity got her, she stopped to smell the spices on a stand that had an amazing range of colors and smells. All the aromatic spices were piled high into cone shapes, they smelt so exotic. Bright yellow, vivid orange, many shades of brown all in wicker baskets. She was unfamiliar with most of the name cards sitting on the top of the spices. “You try Miss” the stall holder said with an inviting gesture. She stepped forward hesitantly, accepting the small container he held out. The brown spice smelt like nothing she has experienced before, she could make out cloves and nutmeg – it smelt a little like Christmas Pudding but with a smell of heat, chili heat, it made her tongue tingle at the thought of it. “You like Miss?” he asked, “What is it?” she replied. “Garam masala, my grandmother’s recipe, contains cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, mace, and nutmeg” he said proudly. Susan decided to take a chance and buy a pack of it. He gave her is Grandmother’s secret recipe for a lamb dish and she promised she would try to make it. She turned back into the crowed aisle to go on searching for Sam but decided to ask him if he knew Sam’s Silks, explaining that she was trying to find that shop but has searched and got quite lost, finding it overwhelming here. Explaining that the smells and heat are so strange to her coming from Ireland. “Of course,” he replied,” I know many customers from Ireland. Your country is so cold and wet. Not like here. I can see you are hot even in that little t-shirt.” giving her a strange shake of his head, not a yes, not a no, but a nod all the same. “Sam, He is my cousin” They walk away from his stall, “Come on, just down here on the left.” “Everything is so full of color; I have never seen such bright fabrics. I love it.” “Yes, yes, we love the bright colors, especially the yellow, red and orange they come from the sand and the sunset.” While doubting that they were real cousins Susan was delighted that he brought her just two aisles over to Sam’s stall where she was greeted like a long-lost sister.
“Now here is my cousin Sam ……. Sam, I found this girl wandering, lost looking for you” with that he bowed to her and gestured to Sam. “Ah so that is where you were … I was wondering, I have been waiting for you for the last hour. Come into the shade, it is far too hot for you to be out in the full noon sun with your pale skin. Here, my fresh orange juice is cold“ Sam turns to the trader, “Thank you, my brother, for bringing Susan to me.” Susan bows back to him and says “Yes, thank you so much. I will look forward to using your amazing Garam Masala. You were so good to bring me here, I am not sure I would ever have found it.”
The Trader leaves and Sam and Susan sit down at the back on low stools in the shade. Susan starts to relax as she fans herself with a delicate fan Sam gives her. Trying hard to contain her excitement, perhaps, just perhaps, adding Arabian flair to her entire collection will save her business and she could start trading again. Her gaze wandered around the stall. She was particularly taken with a bright blue and green silk that provoked images of a roaring sea in her mind’s eye. This one alone made the protracted journey to United Arab Emirates worthwhile. “So, tell me why you have come all the way to Dubai” Sam asks “I am looking to start making children’s clothes, I used to make them for friends when I was in college but stopped when I got what my mother described as a good pensionable job in a Bank. I have decided over Covid that designing children's clothes is what I really like doing and I want to take it up again. I am looking for fabric that is different and will stand out on Instagram.” Sam had such an amazing range of silk on his stall, even better than he described in their previous conversation. “Well, you have come to the right place. I have a unique range of silk that is easy to wash and hard wearing so the children can play in the clothes and the mothers need not worry. Look there is a lovely yellow silk taffeta with flowers of purple that makes up so well” With each bail of silk he pulled out, she could just see the item she could make, a dress, a pinafore, even little snuggle suits. “I love it, it is so vibrant, and the feel is so smooth. I can see it will make up well.” taking in not only the fabric but the plethora of buttons, sequins, stones, lace as well “Do you like this orange one? Feel it, it is a raw silk that is incredibly special.” The quality of the silk was exceedingly high, the colors, red, orange, aquamarine, and bright yellow all popped out. “Yes, the little flower embroidered into it is gorgeous, and I see you have the trim ribbon to match, that would make such a great tie waistband” Susan’s imagination just ran away with her, she could see all the dresses and blouses she could make with the cloth he was pulling out from the back of stand. They spend the next hour perusing fabric, drinking orange juice, chatting, and generally getting on well.
With a final glance at the big pile of fabric she has selected Sam begins to gather up the rejected ones “So, I have shown you all the best of my fabric, how are you going to decide which ones to take back to Ireland?” He pulls out two more bails “I have no idea … I want them all!! I will take all the ones on this pile …. So, what is the price?” As he strokes his guotie beard and smiles a big broad smile showing his brown stained teeth. “Oh, let us see, 14 bails at 200 Dirham …. That’s 2800 Dirham, but I will give you a special price as my favorite customer.” He makes a big sigh “2500 to you my special Irish friend” “Oh gosh” taking out her phone taps in the numbers to the currency convertor “that’s 615 euro … more than I had planned on spending, and coming all this way was so expensive, can you do better?” flashing him a quizzical look “Oh, my friend, you look so innocent but you drive a hard bargain, ok, ok, for you a special price – 2350 Dirham, but that’s my final offer, you nearly have me in tears here” Smiling she puts out her hand, wipes in on her top, “My friend lets shake hands” he laughs “We have a deal;” She grins “I am so happy with your fabulous silks and with your price. We have a deal!” Chuckling aloud, Sam packs up the fabric, Susan gives him the tatty notes she had in the envelope and heads back out the way she came with the package under her arm, arriving at the old man’s spice stall.
“Marhaba, ah my Irish Lady, you came back” he said with a toothless grin “Well, your spice is still fragrant in my nose, I would love to get some of this one here also.” pointing to the Saffron “Here is a 5-gram bag for you, just 30 Dirham.” He hands her a hessian bag with the spices in it putting a sheet of paper into the bag “I will give you a copy of my mother’s recipe for Yellow Rice too, now don’t share it or she give out to me!!” laughing Susan replied “Don’t worry your secret is safe with me. I will bring this home and make your mother’s recipe for my mother. Thank you” They shook hands “And for luck I will add some Turmeric for your good health. You know it has many scientifically proven health benefits, such as the potential to improve heart health and prevent Alzheimer's and cancer. It's a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It may also help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis…. So good for your Irish mother.” “Ah you are so good. Thank you … especially for bringing me over to Sam, I was almost going to give up” She walks away getting lost in the busy market so happy she was brave enough to travel.