Photography by Ndoema
I loooove to wander through traditional local markets. They tend to be one of my very first destinations as soon as I step foot on new territory (I recently broke my own rules in Cairo with the Giza pyramids… but who can blame me ;). True that being the voracious raw foodie that I am, when traveling I’m always on the hunt for fresh and juicy local produce to feed my body and ward off long-haul flight dehydration but really there is nothing better to me for diving right into the culture, meeting its people and catching a slice of life.
I’ve scoured a good many Southeast Asian colorful markets (they’re a personal favorite), from Yogyakarta’s lively Beringharjo market, to Bali’s magical Candi Kuning market and Bangkok’s bustling Khlong Toey market, but this was my very first time in a North African souk. And it was a totally novel experience!
Sharia el Souk is a seven-block long market that runs parallel to the Nile. Though this colorful bazaar is primarily aimed at tourists (it’s arguably the most touristic market I’ve ever visited… I always shy away from tourist crowds and typically prefer to shop like a local 😉 it’s actually bustling with locals and the atmosphere puts you right in the thick of it.
What I loved the most was the end-of-day smudging, so unique and delightful! I’m an avid “smudger” myself. cleansing smoke baths are a powerful purification practice I use almost daily at home but I’d never seen it practiced in open markets before. I stalked this wonderful fellow (pictured above) for several blocks as he was smoking up the souk’s shops and stalls with frankincense and leaving behind the most marvelously fragrant trail…