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“Pashmina, pashmina?”

In a post a while back I mentioned the ubiquitous cry of merchants in the souqs of the Middle East: “Pashmina, pashmina?” I heard it wherever I went.

In actuality, although I already owned several that I had bought years ago, I was not hostile to the notion of purchasing a new one. I simply objected to having them foisted upon me as though I should be expected to buy one simply because I was a Western tourist.

I left it til late in my trip to take the plunge. Whilst trawling the upper floor of the fascinating Blue Souq in Sharjah, a striped red and white shawl hanging on a display in a doorway caught my eye. Accustomed to looking and walking on, I had already breezed past it before my steps slowed and I went back.

I was shown a large number of other striped pashminas, but none were as striking…

Entering the shop, I looked around, pretending to browse while the Indian merchants eagerly showed me their goods. They proffered a multitude of pashminas, before I finally admitted I was only interested in the red and white striped shawl that was folded over the ladder by the door. I was shown a large number of other striped pashminas, but none were as striking as the red and white cashmere shawl. I didn’t care about the fact it wasn’t pashmina, it was the graphic stripes that appealed to me.

I asked the price; I bargained him down; we struck hands. I can’t recall the exact price now, but it wasn’t inexpensive by any means. However, months later I absolutely adore it still and it goes many places with me, rolling up easily to fit in my handbag. So soft and warm, it is easily one of my most loved and used souvenirs.

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