Machane Yehuda - Jerusalem's famous Souk or market, is one of my favourite places to shop - particularly on a Friday morning. In the days when I lived in Rechavia, my flat mate and I would set out with empty backpacks and fill them with the freshest, cheapest fruit and vegetables that the place had to offer.
I started off my visit with a ritual which stems from those days; purchasing a bag of ten, still warm, freshly baked pittot from the stall about 2/3 of the way towards Rechov Yaffa for the princely sum of NIS 4. As always, I succumbed to temptation, opening the bag and munching my prize as I wandered from stall to stall, sampling olives and melon, buying a mediterranean mix of tomatos on the vine, onions, peppers and eggplant, alien looking kolrabi, cabbage, avocado and lemons. The sensual experiences of the souk are those that make me love the place; the touching and smelling of the produce, choosing each individual piece, the noise of the vendors as they assure you of the quality of their goods, the incredibly vibrant feel of the place.
A bustling covered Souk
I wandered down to David Dagim (covered souk, 1st left from the Agrippas end) - the best place to buy fish for sushi that I know of in Jerusalem. As I bought fresh salmon I assured an American yeshiva bocher that this place had a deserved reputation. I departed with my fish, which will be combined with the fresh vegetables, rice and seaweed tomorrow!
Jerusalemites have been buying their Humus from Tzidkiyahu for decades; his counter is filled with olives and stuffed grape leafs, pickled fish, kuba and any matter of salads - Humus, eggplant, techina and the like. His store is typical of the souk - a family run business which is as much a part of the fabric of Jerusalem as the Kottel. In the age of soulless supermarkets, the souk is a throw back to times when you knew your shopkeeper by name and went back to him week in week out.
The atmosphere of the souk will continue to draw people in - and it doesn't hurt that it's still the cheapest place to shop.