Thursday, 6 July 2017

Pinky, Lucky, Latta and Khan


They sound like a subcontinental Trumpton fire brigade, but they're not. They're the rocks of Sharjah's 'antique' trade, those four. Latta's has always been upstairs in the Blue Souk, but Pinky's has moved around a bit since we first came across it in Sharjah's unrestored old central souk area, now known as the 'Heart of Sharjah'.

Named after the owner's daughter Pinky, the shop was a treasure trove of Indian furniture and assorted knick-knacks, from battered water jugs through to carved wooden textile printing blocks.

Our first visit to Pinky Furniture had us stumbling wide-eyed around the stacked jumble. An Indian bench caught our eye. 'Is this old?' Sarah asked the proprietor as we made our way between piled cupboards and dressers.

'Oh, absolutely,' he replied. 'Made just last week.'

How could you not warm to that as a response? We got talking. Mr Mukri had a 'godown' where there was more furniture, Omani doors and the like. And there, baking slowly in the ambient heat, was a wonderful collection of dusty things, some new but many 'original' pieces nestled in the tottering piles of furniture.

There was some sort of family fall-out (to be honest I can't recall any details), resulting in Pinky's spawning a rival - Lucky's. We visited Lucky's once or twice, but it was always Pinky what had 'the good stuff'. The other game in town was Mr Khan, located at the back of the street the Post Office is on, who tended to stock the 'new style' of Indian furniture - the iron-banded browny stuff which made Marina Trading's fortune. We started to see this sort of thing popping up in London, in Lewis' and 'funky' furniture places. The basic rule of thumb on pricing seemed to be what cost a rupee in India cost a dirham in Sharjah and a quid in London.

We were furnishing our first villa, filling the vast yawning white spaces, so we bought benches and other stuff from Pinky, visiting regularly as his stock was topped up by containers coming in from India.

A while later, we'd fallen off the 'antique' furniture buying bandwagon and tended to look to Ikea rather than the furniture warehouses. We visited the brand new Souk Madinat Jumeirah, wandering around the alleyways of the fake new souk and realising that we were among old friends. Sure enough, all the traders were the boyos from upstairs at the Sharjah Blue Souk. After the third or fourth encounter it started to get surreal. 'Why are you here?' I asked one of the familiar faces.
He beamed back at me. 'Here it is fixed price! No haggle!'

It was indeed - the outrageous starting prices of Sharjah had become the fixed prices of Dubai and the tourists were, get this lads, paying them without so much a murmur, let alone a howl of 'Are you telling me that's not worth twenty shekels?'

And so, a while later, when I saw a shop close by Mall of the Emirates labelled 'Pinky Furniture & Novelties' I knew the exodus was complete. Pinky's, too, had clearly fallen for the bright lights and the allure of 'fixed prices'.

Only, as it turns out, they didn't. These days Pinky's is still to be found in Sharjah's industrial estate, run after his death by Mr Mukri's son and daughter, the eponymous Pinky. The Dubai adventure was brought to an end by outrageous rent increases (I mean, would you believe that? Really?) and the realisation that, actually, Pinky's customers are happy to make the journey and also that these days, Facebook is a vastly more powerful shop front.

We went for a visit and a wander down memory lane over Eid and walked away with two cupboards. It was just like old times - and I remembered (too late) how hard it always was to leave Pinky's without buying something.

Here's a pin. You're quite welcome.

4 comments:

Andrew Turner said...

Our 'Omani door converted to coffee table', 4 poster bed, bookcase, side tables, half-boat wine bar and on, and on, and on, are now resting safely in San Diego - Pinky's was our first furniture visit too (in the Al Barsha shop initially) and we will always remember them fondly.

Grumpy Goat said...

Pinky's sold me an aquarium stand made out of finest plywood. It was 'antiqued', which is a technical term that means 'flogged with a length of chain.' You can get anything in Sharjah.

The plywood cabinet was so much better than any of the MDF and cardboard offerings from the Swedish emporium of Icky? Yah! At least it was in the Department of Holding 350kg of Glass, Water, and Fish all Without Collapsing.

Rootless said...

Three lovely posts in a row; sparkling return to form! Thanks.

Alexander McNabb said...

Return? RETURN?

WHAT IS THIS 'RETURN' OF WHICH YOU SPEAK?

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