Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Khartoum Market

The Souq Arabi is behind these corrugated walls. You can hire a young lad to wash your vehicle while you visit the market. We had ours beautifully washed and polished for SDG5/US$2

Last Friday Grant took me to the Souq Arabi as a birthday treat. He asked his technician, Marcell, who speaks Arabic, to accompany us.

In the Arab world, a souq is a market, which may be held in a designated commercial quarter, or in an open-air location. Souqs are an important part of life in Africa and the Middle East and their merchants carry a wide assortment of products from rugs to vegetables.

Located right in the centre of Khartoum city, this is your classical chaotic market teaming with people. The market is divided in to several sections, each focusing on a certain product. It is huge and spread over several squares in the center of Khartoum proper just south of the Great Mosque (Mesjid al-Kabir) and the minibus station. There is even one block devoted to gold but we didn't get to see it. If you are looking for handicrafts and fresh produce - which we weren't - it is better to visit Souq Omdurman. The latter is situated only two blocks away from our apartment and the largest open-air market in Africa. I never realised it was so close to us, until a kind-hearted neighbour took me there on Monday. More about this in a later post.

As we walked into the first hall, this gentleman asked me to take a photo of him and my husband in his shop. He sold mens' and boys' traditional Arabic clothing.

The shopowner (on my right)in the previous photo was sent by my husband to find me

While Marcell and Grant were looking at the goods in this shop, I wandered off to a few stalls down the passage when the owners there asked me to take photos of them. They also wanted me in the pictture so one of the friends took this photo. Meanwhile my husband had lost sight of me and sent the previous owner to look for me! When I rejoined him, he admonished me for going off on my own saying I could get lost. I said no problem, I had my cell phone and would've called him, but he argued that where would I say I was. Good point! I stayed behind him and Marcell from the remainder of our visit.
These men sold the most exquisite material for abaya's/traditional robes. They also had beautiful hijab's/headscarves on display

Marcell was looking for a pair of jeans without slogans or embroidery, so while the men were in a shop which sold Western-style clothing, I snapped the above photo. There is such an eclectic mix of textures and colours in the material on display. Hanging on racks at eye-level on the left were ready-made Western-style garments for women. Hanging above me on the right, were traditional jalabiya/Arabic mens' robes

There are many photos of my husband and Marcell
walking along ahead of me

These men had beautiful displays of hijabs and while Marcell and Grant were busy looking for denim jeans without slogans or embroidery, I clicked away...

Just outside the primarily textile display hall, we came across the above scene. I just loved the huge bowls of dried fruit and vegetables.

Inside the next covered hall, my olfactory senses were assailed with the most divine fragrance of spices and herbs. Once again, we weren't sure what they were, so my husband, who normally cooks our spicy dishes, wasn't interested in looking. I took photos though...

These looked like legumes of some sort: I recognised whole brown and green lentils as well as the fruit of cream-of-tartar

Just around the corner from the dried fruit, vegtables and spices displays, we entered an alley with more beautiful cloth
When we entered the section which displayed Chinese merchandise, the place was packed. You can see dozens of shoes hanging from displays on the right. There were hundreds of women in this area (why wasn't I surprised?) Merchants also carry their goods around the market and try to tempt you. It's also normal to see merchants pushing carts displaying their goods

This section had very reasonably priced skirts and blouses with children's clothes on the left. Up ahead are more jeans which is why Marcell is heading off in that direction (He didn't manage to find the jeans he wanted)

More ladies blouses, beautiful cloth and colourful hijabs on display

Marcell never gave up looking for his jeans...

Leaving the previous hall, we found a huge section which sells household goods: kitchenware, cookware, glassware, plastic products. The displays were enormous. In future I will be buying all I need at the souq instead of the upmarket Afra. The items are a quarter of the price of the reegular shops

The displays on the left had items like (you guessed it) sewing needles, cotton, straight pins...

You see hundreds of donkies in Khartoum. I always take photos of these beasts of burden. My husband assures me that the Sudanese are more caring of their donkies than the Maleans and Guineans of West Africa

Furniture is manifactured one site and you can place your order. Ornate gates and security doors were on display all along this alleyway

We passed through another dried fruit and vegetable section. My husband actually stopped to look!

There is a huge motorcycle shop outside

Grant bought himself a pair of flip-flops for SDG7 instead of the normal SDG10 we pay in the regular shops. He was pleased that he found a pair- made in China - promoting the World Cup Soccer to be held in South Africa in June and July this year
We bought a few hand towels and three new floor rugs as well as a pizza cutter. One of the gifts from Grant was the above outfit. The shop owner quoted me SDG48/US$19.20 for the skirt and blouse. I told him I only had SDG35/US$14 for it so he said SDG36/US$14.40. I paid him with a smile. I bought the pink hijab at another stall for SDG8/US$3.20

I had a wonderful time at the Souq Arabi and intend to visit it often. I'm also a day late with That's My world Tuesday, an interesting meme by Fishing Guy, Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia, so hope you will still click here.


  1. Oh Jo---what an incredible place. I'm so glad that Grant took you there for your birthday... Wow--I'd be wanting to buy EVERYTHING!!!!

    Love your new outfit... You look fabulous!!! Happy Belated Birthday!

  2. This is an awesome post, Jo! It makes me feel like I"m there in the market, I can almost smell the spices. I enjoyed the hairdressing post as well. What a fascinating place to live. I know you miss your garden but this is a great opportunity to be with your husband in a fascinating place.

  3. I love your new outfit and scarf.

    The market reminds me so much of Mexico. Love to see all the goods out to look at touch and smell. Plus they have hawkers out tempting the shopper as well.

  4. Wow what an amazing market. I can't believe all the different fabrics!
    Your new outfit looks lovely. Belated Happy Birthday wishes to you.
    Sunny :)

  5. a magic place: so many things to see, hear, taste and smell...

  6. I can see how easy it would be to get lost in that market.

    Such exquisite materials and lovely colourful bowls of beans and lentils.

  7. Wow Jo, that is some market! I love it and I can see one would have to spend an awful lot of time there to really investigate it well. I love your new outfit too. I see in the top photo of you, you aren't wearing a head covering. What are the rules for westerners there?

  8. What an amazing place! And your photography is so good! Very AWESOME post! And...happy birthday to you.

  9. How cool Jo.
    You look gorgeous!


  10. What an incredible market!
    Thank you for taking so many photos - and sharing them - of this fascinating place.

  11. It is Betsy;) You're so right. Grant had to keep pulling me up, because when I wasn't clicking away, I was oohing an aahing at the goods on display... Thanks for your very kind comments. It's good to have you back! (((Hugs)))

    Hi Loran;) you are absolutely right; even though I've had to give up the comfort zone I was in, staying here in Khartoum far outweighs that. Bless you my friend.

    Hi Gaelyn, thanks for your kind comments. Off to visit your blog and catch up on your preparations for South Africa.

    Uh-oh Sunny;) are you a seamstress? I love the fabrics as well, but couldn't do much with them except admire them!

    Absolutely fascinating place Lara. Thanks for visiting.

    You're so right, Ladyfi;) the colours, textures and smells were out of this world.

    Hi Penny;)Yes, I would need the whole morning (about three-four hours) to really scrummage around and bargain. The rule for Westerners is no shorts or spaghetti straps/tank tops, cut off/bare midriff blouses for women. When I'm out with my husband, Grant, I wear my Western clothes, knee pants or jeans or a long skirt. I wear a modest blouse or shirt. When I go out alone, I wear my abaya/robe and hijab/headscarf. Now that I have this outfit I can alternate and wear this outdoors on my own as well. Bless you my friend.

    Thanks Carolyn;) it's good to see you again.

    Hi Regina;) bless you for your beautiful words.

    Hi VioletSky;) I couldn't stop snapping... Glad you enjoyed it.

  12. Happy Birhday for last week. What an amazing place. I love that word too...souq. So many things to see. The bowls of fruits and colourful fabrics are terrific. Typical male your Grant, mine does that too. Love your outfit but I noticed you didn't have on a scarf in the first that OK with the locals?

  13. Jo, this post was wonderful. I so enjoyed seeing and reading all about the terrific markets and the great variety of things they carry.
    Well, except the jeans that Grant wanted and you look stunning in your new outfit.
    be well, be happy and thanks for sharing a world I can only view through your eyes.

  14. What a wonderful market!!! Much larger than Zinders, I could have spent hours there!

  15. Hi diane; the whole market is a delight. I could go there again this Friday but of course, Grant would say: "What for?"

    Hi Pam:) Welcome to my blog. It is such a vibrant place - great fun and inexpensive too. Thanks for your kind compliment.

    HALLO Esther:) Good to see you again. The Souq Omdurman, which I mentioned is two blocks from our apartment and much bigger than the one I posted here. In fact the biggest in Africa. Bless you my friend.

  16. Belated Happy Birthday Jo! I enjoyed looking at your photos and reading everything about your souq experience. You had a fabuluos outfit. Love the color of your shela/hijab.

    Have a great day my friend.

  17. your world is truly different from my world but both have mother nature's gift that we can treasure. thanks for sharing.

    belated happy birthday :)

  18. Hi Misalyn;) thanks for the kind wishes. I've realised there are so many different Arabic words for one item. That's why I am always talk to anyone local and get the words used here in Khartoum. Many are the same all over, though and you are teaching me SO much. Thank you my precious friend. Rest up in between those exhausting night shifts. (((Hugs)))

  19. I love this market! Thanks for taking us along.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo