Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 20, 2012

At Souk Waqif

Doha, Qatar

I love markets — those places where people gather to buy and sell the stuff of daily life. My fascination with markets was sparked when my parents took me across the Texas-Mexico border for the first time to visit a partially open-air market in Reynosa, Mexico. It’s a wonder I did not get separated from my parents as I wandered wide-eyed through the narrow and crowded aisles under the hypnotic spell of sights, sounds, and smells I had never before experienced. Every segment of the market was a new world begging to be explored. I still have vivid memories of the places where flies orbited around chunks of meat suspended on hooks, of the smell of freshly ground corn being slapped and shaped into tortillas, and of colorful displays of candies in assorted and unusual shapes. I returned home with the feeling of an intrepid explorer who had discovered something fascinating, something that beckoned me to return.

I still love the markets of the world — those places that vibrate with activity and where you can feel the pulse of the hoi-polloi. From ancient times to today, marketplaces have endured and will continue to do so. They meet more than our need to resupply provisions, they also scratch our itch for social interaction, for conversation, and for connection with other human beings. After speaking three times this morning to a local gathering of Christ-followers, my host took me to Souk Waqif, an open-air market that dates back to when Doha was a tiny village and the Bedouin would bring their animals to trade for essentials. The cobblestone alleyways lead to shops that sell everything from falcons to furniture as well as places where you can sit and sip strong coffee as you watch humanity slowly stream by. Souk Waqif is the kind of place that draws locals out of their homes and beckons tourists out of their hotel rooms to become a part of the warp and woof of the tapestry that makes market places interesting.

As my host and I wandered through the labyrinth of shops at Souk Waqif, I reflected on the significance of markets and why Christ-followers must have a presence in these very public places. I think that the Scottish clergyman George MacLeod may have put it best when he wrote:

I simply argue that the cross be raised again
at the center of the market place
as well as on the steeple of the church,
I am recovering the claim that
Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral
between two candles:
But on a cross between two thieves;
on a town garbage heap;
At a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
that they had to write His title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek…
At the kind of place where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.
Because that is where He died,
and that is what He died about.
And that is where Christ’s men ought to be,
and what church people ought to shout.


  1. Well said…by both you and George MacLeod! Be blessed as you lead others there in the name and spirit of Christ Himself.

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