Gold sellers sift through the ashes of the Qaysari Bazaar

11-05-2024 11:16
Zana Tayeb's jewelry shop burned down in the fire in Erbil, on May 5, 2024. Photo: Peregraf


Fire spreads through the Qaysari Bazaar. Many of the shopkeepers attempt to rescue their merchandise. Zana Tayeb stands near his shop waiting for the flames to be extinguished totake the ashes away. Later, he will separate out the melted gold from what was once his jewelry shop, one of 227 that went up in flames during a major fire at the famous marketplace on May 5.

Three other jewelry shops burned and twelve were damaged.The remainder of the stores that burned belonged to other kinds of retailers. While they scrambled to salvage their goods, the gold sellers merely had to wait until the fire was out before collecting their inflammable merchandise.

At 9:30 on the night of the fire, Tayeb called the security manager of the bazaar. He told him not to worry because the fire was a fair distance from his shop and closer to the Mahmoud Sebirani market.

“After the phone call, I wanted to look inside my shop using my phone because I have a camera and internet inside the shop, but the camera was not working. I realized that the fire had reached my shop,” Tayeb said.

All of the burned jewelry shops were located next to clothes stores on Sirwan Street. Hemn Marwari’s jewelry shop was totally destroyed, while Bakhtiar Nuradin’s was heavily damaged. The latter lost a kilogram of gold as a result of the fire.

Speaking to Peregraf in front of his shop, Nuradin said that he and three others broke through the door of his shop and used fire extinguishers to control the blaze. His neighbor’s store was totally destroyed.

“When I entered my shop, the gold was all mixed with sand, wood, and stones, except for a few pieces that came out intact,” said Nuradin. There was approximately 15 kilograms of gold in his shop at the time.

Bakhtiar's shop in Qaysari Bazaar. Photo: Peregraf

The current price of gold is more than $74,000 per kilogram.Tayeb’s shop had around 20 kilograms of gold, which is worth almost $1.5 million. He estimates that he has located only about 20% of the gold so far by sifting through the ashes he collected.

“My shop is located in the clothes market. My neighbors are all clothes sellers. My shop burned down because their shops,” Tayeb said. His premises is protected by metal plating for security, but it melted because of the intense heat of the fire.

A day after the market burned, King Dome, a gold company in Erbil, issued an appeal to the jewelers’ union, saying it was ready to help the affected shop owners and exchange the burnedgold for an equivalent amount of sellable merchandise.

Hemn Haji Rauf, owner of another jewelry shop in the QaysariBazaar, said he regretted breaking into his shop to try and save 30 kilograms of gold. During the extraction, one and a half kilograms of gold, including rings and necklaces were lost.

“I wish I hadn't broken my shop. If the gold had just melted, I would have suffered less than what I have lost now,” Rauf told Peregraf.

No jewelry was reported stolen during the fire, according to the jewelers' union.

Erbil Qaysari after burning. Photo: Peregraf

Abdullah Akram Mustafa, deputy of the Erbil branch of the union, explained that the jewelers were relatively lucky. While they lost some money as a result of the fire, their product was relatively intact. Others lost everything, like the clothes sellers.

“The loss is $2,000 to $4,000 per kilogram of gold compared to the price of $74,000 per kilogram of gold, which is not much of a loss,” Mustafa said.

The Qaysari Bazaar is now being thoroughly cleaned by municipal officials. At least 132 people were injured in the fire.The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though several explanations have been suggested

Whatever the cause, Nuradin believes that the officials responsible for managing the bazaar bear responsibility.

“Whoever is in charge of the market, they were negligent,” he said.