10 February, 2007

Lively Mukalla Market

Before Windows Vista was officially released, one could get its pirated copies in Mukalla. And very cheap. Just as one can easily get pirated copies of other computer programs; and audio and video CDs. Fake pharmaceutical products, are also in plenty; mainly from India. Cheap too, and risky to use; but then - many people depend on them for treatment; as most people can't afford the very expensive Western made medicines. Thinking of this: Western pharmaceutical companies, and technology companies - for that matter, are the most greedy; at times one is grateful for the pirated products and cheap medicines available. And then there are the fake popular perfumes, cosmetics and designer clothes; all very cheap. Many times, it's hard or even impossible to differentiate the fake from the original. The fakes too, can be as good as the original; thanks to China and India. And Dubai. As a transit point.

Yemen produces most of its vegetable and fruit needs and even exports some. The best Yemeni produced fruits and vegetables, according to me, are: melons, cantaloupes, dates, oranges (sweeter than the imported ones), tomatoes, onions and garlic. Still, Yemen imports plenty of fruits and some vegetables. Visiting any fruit or vegetable market or stall here, one would be surprised at the variety; even the kiwi fruit is available, and plums; and a variety of pears and apples. I used to be surprised at the freshness of all these fruits, till I found out that almost all were hauled in by chiller trucks from Sana'a (for local) and Dubai (for the imported ones). This serves us well here; but then, on the other hand - truck loads and truckloads of our precious fish is being hauled out too; to the neighboring countries and further.

I have never seen any where else, the kind of the many variety of fish as I have seen here; and much cheaper than any place I ever been to. All fresh. Having a choice of all this fresh, cheap fish, has always been one of the best sides of living in Mukalla. But now, with all these truck loads of fish going out and all the fishing ships out there in the sea - I don't see this lasting much longer. So far, fresh fish has had the fastest price rise of all foods here; and there's no stopping it. Worse, the way the fishing is being done, with very little control as it is - it won't be long, before there won't be much fish to catch; or sell and buy. Which brings in to mind: Yemen's oil production won't last much longer; Fifteen, twenty years more? May be. And then, without oil and the fish - what then?

Some how, Mukalla will survive. And Mukalla's market will continue being as colorful, vibrant and robust.