Saturday, September 16, 2006

Market Treasures

Tunisian Old Souk. Photo by Equalizer

The worst thing about shopping today is the "commercial" experience. You lose the human element and interaction and end up with a semi-robotic customer service experience, if there is any. Yes it is sometimes stressfull to bargain, but it has been like that for thousands of years and is part of the market shopping experience. Everything about shopping in traditional markets evokes the senses. The sounds of craftsman working on everything from wood and brass to beautifuly decorated tea glasses. Antique furniture, handicrafts, perfumes, jewlery, hand made items in one alley. Daily baked breads, sweets, spices, honeys and other concoctions and fine foods in another alley. You could easily get lost, but you would be more than glad to take your time to get out, unlike supermarkets. What is better than to walk around, pick your fresh farm vegetables, favorite cut of meat from the butcher, the perfect heap of mixed spices and while you are at it a nice set of dinnerware.

Jamee' El Fna. Photo by Equalizer

So you are in the market, surrounded by various goods, spices and foods, what would you bring back home?

Campo Di Fiori, Rome. Photo by Equalizer

Muhharag, Bahrain. Photo by Equalizer


Anonymous chikapappi said...

Traditional market and with various goods? Hmmm let’s see: First of all, a traditional dress + “head gear” = ga6a ras if available. I like to wear traditional stuff. Accessories akeid! Silver walla faux bijoux cuz I totally dig this stuff… Law fe rugs or paintings or quilts (ur regular light handcrafts as travel gifts) and things that symbolize the country (like pyramids or Sphinx cat from Egypt or a mini sheesha from Syria) … As for spices o food, if it was something truly unique and not here, I’d definitely get it bas.. nah, that’s it…

9/16/2006 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger FilmGirl said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/16/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Intlxpatr said...

The Tunis Souk - hareesa, look desperately for old indigo tejara and bechnookh, seek out old silver Berber pieces, and can't resist a few pieces of their gorgeous pottery.

Metz open market - it's the season for potiron (pumpkin), heritage ones, fabulous shapes and tastes, oh my yes - a Vietnamese salad roll with peanut sauce and I have to eat it right now.

The Kuwaiti Heritage souk is very nice, too . . . not much historical stuff, but some very nice and interesting public art on the tile walls . ..

Qatar Iranian Souk - long house gowns, belly dancing belts (make great presents), spices, candies, traditional goods

Zanzibar - prayer hats, two piece women's garb, cloves - wreaths, balls, in bath oil, and loose, woven baskets, carved masks, fresh pineapple . . ..

Thanks for the info on brown cardamon powder, and the recipe for (yes, gulf rice dish) Machboos. I love your blog.

9/16/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger FilmGirl said...

Tunis was amazing.
I loved it.
I went to it Spring Break 05.
It probably is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. Everything is just so colorful & quaint. Its so refreshing ! I think because of the Greek-Like atmosphere of it as a whole. I felt it was very manicured & clean, and the fact that it hasnt been bulldozed with Touristic attractions is part of its charm. Though its hard to understand & be understood there ! English is alien to them, & Arabic was difficult for them to absorb. Not to mention their French e5ari3. Between every two words, a tunisian word would be there to startle you. The place I loved most was Seedy BuS3eed, it was amazing. So well looked after.

Their Old Markets are so surprising, you never know what you can find there. Everything that you want and dont need is there !

9/16/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Equalizer said...

Chikapappi: Nice choice, although the tourist souvenir part i will totally skip hehe

intlxpatr: Don't forget to try the local Reguta (Ricotta) cheese which is sublime when eaten with their Mechoui salad (Minced grilled onions, bell pepper, tomato, chili and garlic with lemon and olive oil) and tuna in Tunis. In the Kuwaiti souk, you can try this Rgag place (Rgag is local crispy crepe) It has many fillings, but go for the egg with sugar. Also a place called Dalag S-hail that has small Kuwaiti tapas with fresh baked bread. Also tell me what you think of the recipe after cooking it.

FilmGirl: Yeah Sidi Bou Said is truly an amazing place, but I wouldn't compare it to Greece. That would downplay its importance dont yo think?
As for their market, it is not as good as I expected. Its filled with touristic objects. Marrakech on the other hand has not dilluted their market with such ridiculous objects.

9/17/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Tinkerbell said...

i luv old markets! there's just so much character in them u get to really experience the culture o appreciate the differences between us..luvd the pics

9/17/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger iDip said...

While I was reading the 1st paragraph of your post, I was thinking of Jam3 El-Fina.. and to my surprise (not) the picture just below the paragraph...!!!

I want to go there :(

It's either you know how my "Brain Patterns" work, or I know yours. Both maybe ;)

9/17/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Sedna said...

You need a photo of Soug Al-Mbarkya!

9/17/2006 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Erzulie said...

I love that door. First pic.

9/17/2006 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger Fuzzy said...

great photos bro, loved the spice market, i can smell the aroma in the air !


9/18/2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Equalizer said...

tinkerbell: True, historically markets are places where even revolutions start. It is a very central theme in old civlizations that depending on its location is usually near somewhere important like a cathedral or mosque or temple. Traffic is segmented in such a way that areas of the market are divided into specialties. There was even a food court!!

iDip: I don't think anyone that has visited Marrakech doesn't get spellbound!! Thank god its still isolated from indifferent tourists.

Sedna: Yeah I know, I should :)

Erzulie: Those doors are scattered all over the place. I think I can go at night someday and steal a couple :p

Fuzzy: Aromas, scenery and music. What else do you want? :)

9/18/2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger let them eat cake! said...

Market treasures.. clignancourt,france flea market.. u get off the metro walk about 20 minutes in the most ultimate of ghettos. and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by art dealers and people with bodyguards holding on to thousands of euros cash, for that impulse buy.
another great market is spittalfields, england. not just antiques but great food as well, they had this wonderful puffpastry, mille feuille-salty item that was stuffed with whatever you wanted, very buttery, very delicious(i had spinach and ricotta, they cut them into giant squares.. you can find anything from vintage peices to items made by up and coming designers, students from saint martins in england usually sell their items there. my favourite item was toffee..butter toffee.simply divine.
markets are wonderful, but they are rare, nowadays even the famous ones are filled with silly mass produced items.
my most recent purchase (this sunday) was a chocolate tempering machine, about 40 years old, and still in great condition.

9/18/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger da Angel wears Escada said...

I should love to make a trip to Tunis someday.
Had been to Marrakesh and Muscat for their Souks alone( they did not have 'The Chedi' back then).
Majed ( you know who) will keep ohhing and aahing all the way to the bank, if he has to; whenever you mention to him the Souk in Damascus. Is it that different from the souks in the rest of Arabia and Persia??
Call me hopelessly old fashioned if you must, but I sorely miss all the old souks of Kuwait City before the invasion took place.

9/18/2006 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Shurouq said...

I sit here envying bloggers who get to travel around and post about it.

Another wonderful post, Equalizer.

9/19/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Equalizer said...

LTEC: How about you take me on a tour to all these places ? :p

The Upstairs Blogger: The Damascus market is probably the oldest market of them all, and does have that character. It has less of the touristic junk, because mmmm there are few tourists?
As for the pre-invasion souks, yeah I agree, I hate the new sigma-all-over the-place fininish. I like it raw.

Shurouq: You are still young, so you have plenty of time to explore I am sure ;)

9/19/2006 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger let them eat cake! said...

equalizer.. travel in exchange for food?

9/19/2006 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Equalizer said...

LTEC: Sure ;)

9/21/2006 01:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Intlxpatr said...

Damascus souk - the ultimate souk. Damascus 7 colored silk brocades, the finest mother of pearl and wood inlay items you've seen, ever, copper pots and pans with fabulous hand-friendly handles, Damascus embroidered tablecloths, intricate and simple gold jewelery, antique weapons and armor, and the sense that you are just another ghostly presence in this souk, one of the very oldest in the world, where traders, buyers and sellers, have passed through for centuries.

9/22/2006 01:43:00 PM  

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