Shopping the ‘shuk’ of identities

If a full-bodied whiff of Jerusalem’s true character is what you’re after, the city’s Mahane Yehuda market is the way to go

By ELIE LESHEM, ITRAVEL JERUSALEM
January 13, 2011 13:48
2 minute read.
Shuk

Shuk. (photo credit: itravel Jerusalem)

For more videos about tourism and attractions in Jerusalem visit: www.itraveljerusalem.com

Although the golden path to Jerusalem’s must-see attractions winds straight through the heart the Old City, passing by dozens of sites of profound historical, cultural and architectural significance, the truth is that the dynamic of present-day Jerusalem is just as potent, even divorced of its dense context of bygone epochs.

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Cultural institutions such as the Israel Museum and architectural gems like the Supreme Court building are certainly emblematic of this earthly New Jerusalem, offering visitors unique and fulfilling cultural experiences. However, as any seasoned traveler will tell you, the only place where one can get a full-bodied whiff of a city’s true character is its marketplace.



Often referred to as “the shuk” – its Hebrew moniker – Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market certainly lives up to the expectations. Despite sporting a vast assortment of stores and stalls, the shuk derives its color as much from the motley array of vendors and shoppers as from the bright displays of produce. Customers come from all over Jerusalem and beyond, representing a comprehensive swath of Israeli society in all its dappled glory; Jewish, Arab, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, religious, secular, rich, and impoverished – all can be spotted in the press of people thronging the narrow alleys of the market, united in their search for cilantro, curtain rods, freshly squeezed khat juice and halva. The comforting sound of coins changing hands is unceasing, interrupted only by the din of vendors announcing their rock-bottom prices for a kilo of tomatoes at the top of their lungs.


Although we recommend the full-immersion approach to sightseeing, if you’re coming to the shuk to browse the market of identities on an empty stomach, you don’t necessarily have to hand-pick the ingredients for your lunch or settle for traditional falafel-stand fare. In recent years, a variety of dining establishments has cropped up in and around the market, tapping into the shuk’s vitality and cornucopian variety to create zesty takes on Jerusalem’s distinct flavor set. We also recommend seeking out some of the boutique clothing stores and designer shops that have been making the shuk their home, further refining the eclectic old-meets-new shopping aesthetic of this quintessentially Israeli market.

For more videos about tourism and attractions in Jerusalem visit: www.itraveljerusalem.com


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