In Najaf’s foremost market, situated proper outdoors the mausoleum, spiritual calendar controls the lifetime of gemstone merchants.
Each time Mohammed al-Ghoraifi visits Najaf he returns with one other valuable stone on his finger. Like for a lot of pilgrims visiting the Iraqi Shiite holy metropolis, shopping for a gemstone ring is a component and parcel of the expertise.
Ghoraifi, sporting two weighty rings on the appropriate hand and a 3rd on the left on his newest go to, stated they shaped solely a modest a part of his assortment.
The gathering might have value him a small fortune, however “the stones have monumental worth, no matter the fee”, stated the 60-yr-previous pilgrim from Bahrain, sporting a white gown and bedouin scarf.
Ghoraifi’s ardour for gemstone rings from Najaf, set with agate stones, rubies or turquoise, is shared by a lot of the pilgrims, primarily from Iran, who go to the town to wish at Imam Ali’s shrine.
Clients come from “Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Lebanon…” stated shopkeeper Fayez Abu Ghoneim, forty five.
In a metropolis the place a number of household companies are famend for the dimensions and minimize of their gems, pilgrims amble into Abu Ghoneim’s store proper after visiting the mausoleum of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) son-in-regulation.
“Lots of them purchase a hoop or a rosary as a memento of their pilgrimage for household or associates again residence,” stated Abu Ghoneim.
In Najaf’s most important market, strategically situated dealing with the golden gate of the mausoleum, the spiritual calendar controls the lifetime of gemstone merchants like Abu Ghoneim.
Main spiritual ceremonies for which hundreds of thousands pour into Najaf are growth occasions, particularly as costs shoot up with the rise in demand, sending probably the most prized rings into the hundreds of dollars worth bracket.
However not all pilgrims are able to fork out giant sums.
Issa Mussa, a dealer in his 70s, stated enterprise had declined as a result of the market was being flooded with low cost imports from Turkey, China, Thailand, and Iran.
“Now I’ve become a hoop salesman whereas I was a jeweller,” stated Mussa.
As for Ali Anwar, he’s proud to hold on the artisanal custom of Najaf, which comes at a worth.
“Turkish or Thai jewelry is bought by the gram, whereas a Najaf ring is bought individually, for between forty,000 and 50,000 dinars,” or about $35 to $forty, not together with the worth of the stone, he stated.
Some shoppers convey of their overseas-manufactured rings for the stones to be recut in Najaf’s workshops.
Imported rings are bought by the armful, at just a little over $10 apiece, throughout main spiritual holidays such because the holy month of Muharram or the annual commemoration of Arbaeen.
Clients and window consumers pack the alleyways of the market, a maze of outlets constructed within the yellow stone of the Karbala area and with the names printed in blue mosaic.
The market with its Islamic-impressed structure performs host within the low season principally to Najaf’s spiritual students and their college students, each native and non-Iraqi, who’re estimated to quantity 25,000.
Lots of them put on one or a number of rings, most frequently on the fitting hand — an indication of being a Shia Muslim imitating Imam Ali.
For pilgrims, the acquisition of a Najaf ring is seen by many as the ultimate ceremony.
As Sheikh Jassem al-Mandalawi, forty two, defined to AFP, sure rocks convey “pardon, akin to onyx from Yemen, whereas emerald is a portent of success”.
A hoop with a purple agate stone or a sapphire can promote for one hundred,000 dinars or extra, he stated.
The “should-have” merchandise is the Najaf quartz, a stone that appears like glass however is strong as rock, and which is discovered within the desert that encircles the town, defined Mohammed al-Shamarati, 30, a dealer in valuable stones.
Fadel Abu Abdullah, 50, stated the stones he sells even have therapeutic powers.
“Yellow sapphire, for instance, is sweet for the guts fee and may also deal with jaundice in newborns,” he stated, whereas different stones can maintain “dangerous fortune and evil spirits” at bay.
Shamarati stated younger single ladies purchased his rings to assist them discover a husband.
For Abu Abbas, a forty-yr-previous from a distant space outdoors Najaf, a hoop engraved with a verse from the Koran or one of many ninety nine names of Allah may also shield the wearer.
“I typically journey via desert areas and could possibly be attacked with weapons at any time,” he stated, as he scoured the outlets for the appropriate stone.
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