Those absolutely classic lyrics from Bedknobs & Broomsticks.

Portobello road, Portobello road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed.
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.
You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out the song in its entirety here. Aah, nostalgia.

Early Saturday morning, I drove my groaning way to the Zabeel park, where the erstwhile forces for good, @Flea4Charity and @Voice4Charity were setting up flea market stalls. They’d found donations from all over the emirates, had vetted them, sorted them, and were prepping to sell them. Proceeds would go to charitable causes – in particular the Somalian famine.

Zabeel park is huge. One doesn’t really quite understand how large it is until one parks at the wrong gate and proceeds to walk it. Two gates in the same area seem a good half kilometre apart. On my way to the Stargate area, I came across these lovely people doing early morning calisthenics. Quite enthusiastically, I might add.

Stargate is an atrium like enclosure catering to the gaming and entertainment needs of little and not so little tykes and tykettes. But today was Flea Market day, which meant that much of the space available (and believe you me, there’s a lot of space available) was allocated to stands selling anything and everything.

Flea for Charity, under the watchful eye of the industrious Sajid Ismail, and a girl named Jihad (cue Ride of the Valkyries here), had bagged the first couple of tables from the entrance. Voice for Charity was a few metres down, run by an ex-PR type girl called Dina, aided  by the volunteer Diya Khaleel.

 

That’s Jihad!

 

When i first showed up, it all seemed a bit empty-echoey and sombre. People were registering and trickling in. But soon enough, the halls were alive with the sound of music – or at least the percussion of heavy boxes being lifted, rolled and dropped.

Roll out!
Piling em high

Working with Voice4Charity, regular charity hound Diya Khalil (@DiyaKhalil) had found himself in the enviable situation of being the only male volunteer in a stall full of women. The self-satisfaction lasted to the exact point he saw a large truck full of supplies pitch up…

Unloading and lugging

 

Nevertheless, we all pitched in and stuff got done. Come 10 am, and the floodgates were thrown wide.

Throngs of people…thronging. There was hustling, there was bustling, there was elbowing and limbs in all directions. Leopard print bras rubbed shoulders with excellent books; half filled bottles of expensive perfumes nestled up to sandwich makers. Wall art was obscured behind piles of clothing. There were shades, lamps, pens – anything conceivably possible, in the oddest juxtaposition. And there were bargains to be had.

One of the advantages of being a volunteer was that I managed a round of the market before the gates were thrown open to the masses. Picked up a decent hall of paintings, books and the odd toy. Then, as the clock hit opening time, age and nationality was no bar to the avalanche that descended down the Stargate atrium to partake.

I was nonchalantly elbowed out of the way by a large Egyptian woman trumpeting her way through the stalls yelling “Go Tahrir” and “Down with Mubarak,” little realizing she was in the wrong throng of people. I sympathized despite bruised ribcage – after all, used china is just as important a cause as deposing a depot. Eh eh?

There were stalls towards the end in full cry, with vendors yelling out their wares. Not everything at the flea market was used, mind you. At least a couple of stands had purchased wares specifically for the purposes of selling them on.

 

The Flea Market at Star Gate deserves to be a Dubai institution. There are very few places where you’ll see such a rampaging crowd where abayas mix in with crotch-hugging shorts and kanduras with tank tops, all purchasing wares ranging from dish rags to used golf clubs.

The rather busy Flea4Charity stall, ft. Sajid Ismail and Hamna (somewhere). 

Yeah, the Zabeel Park turns into Dubai’s very own Portobello Road some Saturdays.  All together now:

 

Tokens and treasures, yesterday’s pleasures
Cheap imitations of heirlooms of old
Dented and tarnished, scarred and unvarnished
In old Portobello they’re bought and they’re sold

Portobello Road, Portobello Road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed
Artifacts to glorify our regal abode
Are hidden in the flotsam in Portobello road.
You’ll find what you want in the Portobello Road

The next Flea Market is on the 17th of September 2011. Gate 4, Zabeel Park Area A. I’ll see you there – once I’ve bagged the good stuff.