An underground shopping mall themed after the legendary Khan Murjan souq in Baghdad of the 1300s was officially opened by the Queen of Syria – actually an actress playing her role in Wafi City.
Though the Dubai version of the original Khan Murjan is dimly lit â€“ it is two floors underneath Wafi Mall â€“ and air conditioned, it follows the traditional styles of Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Syria.
The modern Khan Murjan features hand-made decoration like marble floors and walls studded with colorful tiles and stone carvings.
Arabic perfume fills the cool corridors, while shopkeepers gesture to visitors to have a look inside.
Using only their bare hands and a few tools, craftsmen in many Arab countries worked for months on the souqâ€™s interiors and architecture, especially the stained-glass ceiling. The mainly blue mosaic throws down a soft light on tourists below.
The stylish interior was built piecemeal, with individual parts flown in and assembled here.
Like the finishing, many of the goods at Khan Murjan are handmade â€“ furniture made in Yemen, natural soap from Lebanon or gowns from Saudi Arabia, for example.
At least 70 stores have opened up already, with 80 others in the pipeline. All alleys lead to a central courtyard. A white canvas roof lets in natural light after filtering out the Sunâ€™s heat. It is folded up later in the day â€“ when its cooler â€“ turning the courtyard into an open-air food and coffee feast.
The original Khan Murjan was an inn for visiting merchants in Baghdad. It had a 45-feet-high central hall and gardens. Though damaged, it survived wars and floods for centuries.
The old souq was turned into a restaurant for a short while during the 1980s.
The Khan Murjan at Wafi is open daily 10am-10pm, and until midnight on Thursday and Friday.
For more info, call 04 324 4426, or visit www.wafi.com.