Time check is 4pm. It’s a Sunday. The mission is simple; to shop at the largest market in Jerusalem.
This is rare in Ghana. Back home, while going through my visiting itinerary as a guest of the State of Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I kept wondering what exactly will make me enjoy a marketplace on a typical Sunday.
Unlike Ghana’s popular Makola Market in the capital – Accra, the Mahane Yehuda Market buzzes with brisk business on Sundays because the weekend in Israel is observed from Friday to Saturday. So Sunday, unlike Ghana, is the beginning of the working week.
The major train station adjacent the market
We finally arrived at the marketplace. My doubts were crashed and were replaced with expectations. My excitement peaked. I was enthralled at a point.
The entire market square containing over 250 vendors was paved. It is well segmented. Despite the hundreds of people moving about to shop, there was nothing like a push and shove showdown. Everyone is restricted to sell at a demarcated area and nobody was selling on the pavements by the streets. What belted me harder was the absence of heaps of rubbish in the entire market. The place was hygienic. In case you are wondering, I’m not talking about the Accra Mall-like shopping. The ‘Shuk’ as the Mahane Yehuda market is also known, is your typical Makola, Kaneshie, Mallam Atta and Agbogbloshie markets.
There are several tourists at the Yehuda Market
They sell any to everything at the Mahane Yehuda Market. I mean ‘koobi and momoni’ (maybe) and meat. It also has local produce that is in season. Just make sure your nose is working – properly – and it will serve as your (Ghanapost) GPS to the right coordinates. The fruits are in abundance and in different forms and shapes adding to the beauty of the alleyways. Spice lovers will not regret visiting this market because it has all the fresh and dried ones.
The Mahane Yehuda Market and Ghana’s Makola have a few things in common; bargaining is allowed. And you need to really master your bargaining dexterity as a foreigner else you will leave with ‘Harmattan’ (It is a season when dry and dusty northeast trade winds blows in West Africa) pocket. Although the noise level is appreciable, it is very common to hear vendors calling out their prices to passersby.
Beyond the fact that I’m able to taste most of the edible stuff before buying, what fascinated me was the fact that I can make payments with credit card even at the smallest fruit or cloth shop at the Yehuda Market.
Generally, things are expensive in Israel comparing to prices back home. There were loads of mementos I would have loved to buy at the Yehuda Market back to Ghana, but currency conversion-syndrome exposed the weak fundamentals of my wallet.
These boys are stationed at the centre of the alley and entertain shoppers for money
I am still wondering why almost all the vendors are men and not women as commonly seen in Ghana. I’ll ask our guide and maybe, just maybe, tell you in my next chronicle. By the way, I just didn’t like the intermittent sight of armed security personnel brandishing their sophisticated guns at the market. I hate guns. Period!
Let me warn you. In case you’re planning to visit the Yehuda Market, just be mindful of scooters and electronic cycle riders. They just pop up and meander their way through the crowd without any announcement.
Just before I wrap up, in case you’re a lover of beer or liquor and an all-night long persona like my colleague Kojo Akoto Boateng of Citi FM (mouth covered), just don’t rush to leave the Mahane Yehuda Market at sundown. After six in the evening, the entire market is turned upside down and transformed into nightlife hotspot with many bars and restaurants laced with live music.
Night is nigh. The market is getting ready to party all-night
Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait to experience the night life of Mahane Yehuda Market. I was exhausted having arrived in Jerusalem that Sunday dawn.
By Kent Mensah, Online Editor, EIB Network