Exploring a local market can reveal more about a destination than any guidebook – it’s where people come to barter, banter, natter and nibble. We’ve picked 10 historic and spectacular bazaars on the Kenya Airways’ global network where window-shopping gives the biggest buzz.
Exploring a local market can reveal more about a destination than any guidebook – it’s where people come to barter, banter, natter and nibble. We’ve picked 10 historic and spectacular bazaars on the Kenya Airways’ global network where window-shopping gives the biggest buzz.II
The merchants in this spaghetti junction of bazaars are pretty good at bartering. And so they should be: they’ve had plenty of time to hone their skills – this market district, named for Amir Jarkas Al-Khalil, the Mameluke Master of Horse who founded a caravanserai here in 1382, has been abuzz with commerce for well over six centuries. Today, the souks are less rigidly defined than in the past, but you can still find courtyards lined with gold- and silversmiths, tent-makers, rug-sellers, coppersmiths, clothes, perfumes and, most memorably, aromatic spices in the bazaar around the southern end of Sharia Al-Muizz. Be prepared to get lost, haggle hard, buy something you didn’t know you wanted, and stop off at ahwa (cafe) Fishawi’s for a breather and a mint tea – it’s been serving the locals for two centuries.
• Need to know Most shops close on Sunday, and many are also shut on Friday morning.
• Also try Muski glass from the makers near Islamic Cairo’s Northern Gates, or traditional musical instruments from shops on Sharia Qalaa.
• Fly KQ to Cairo five times weekly.
If all you wanted was a bunch of bananas, you probably wouldn’t travel 100km southwest of Bangkok to buy one. But if you want to drift along a bustling khlong (canal), surrounded by throngs of wooden craft laden with fruit, vegetables and other dainties, bartering with the boat owners for your purchases… well, you’ve come to the right place. The daily floating market at Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi Province has reputedly been trading for over 100 years, but it’s certainly become more famous over the past ten or so – witness the increasing numbers of souvenir stalls. But head away from the main market (Talaat Ton Khem) and the heavily touristed Talaat Hia Kui, and you can find peaceful backwaters along which to float.
• Need to know Arrive early – ideally around 8am – for the best produce and smallest crowds.
• Also try The floating market in Amphawa, south of Damnoen Saduak, or Bangkok’s immense Chatuchak Weekend Market where pretty much anything you can think of is for sale in the 15,000-odd stalls.
• Fly KQ to Bangkok daily.
Running west from the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk – ‘Silver Street’ or ‘Moonlight Street’ – was reputedly established by the daughter of Shah Jahan, the 17th-century founder of Old Delhi. It’s a long, straight, broad road, something that couldn’t be said for any of the surrounding alleys: the bazaars on and around Chandni Chowk comprise a labyrinth of hectic, bustling shops and stalls, where traders hawk seemingly all of Asia’s bounty. Stock up on jewellery at Dariba Kalan, bridal wear at Kinari Bazaar, and paper and cards at Chowri Bazaar. The Khari Baoli (Spice Market) will set the head spinning with its colours and scents.
• Need to know Best to explore the Bazaars late in the morning before the crowds build.
• Also try For a huge array of art and handicrafts visit the Central Cottage Industries Emporium on Janpath in New Delhi.
• Fly KQ to Delhi four times weekly.
Wandering through the maze of stalls hawking clothes, electronics, cheap jewellery and watches, noodles and knick-knacks is like walking through a scene from Blade Runner. There’s neon above, a hubbub of Cantonese chatter around and a hypnotic, slightly chaotic energy about the whole ensemble. Wander the bustling streets after the sun sets to watch men slapping down mah jong tablets or pushing chess pieces, hear fortune tellers, Chinese opera singers and squawking cage birds, and sniff the aroma from dozens of steaming street food stalls.
• Need to know Though vendors set up earlier, it’s only after dark that the market really buzzes.
• lined with stalls selling antiques and trinkets – perfect for souvenir shopping.
• Fly KQ to Hong Kong
One market, 12 hectares, 11,000 stalls, limitless shopping possibilities. Kejetia is sometimes claimed to be the largest market in West Africa, or even the whole continent; what’s certain is that a morning spent wandering its stalls, bartering for beads, checking out curios and meeting the thousands of traders and shoppers, is an immersive experience. Get pleasantly lost in the warren of shanty stalls, or visit with a guide who can steer you towards items of interest – clothes in the western section, pottery in the north, traditional kente woven cloth and food in various spots.
• Need to know Kumasi is about four hours’ drive north of Accra. Kejetia Market is open daily.
• Also try Pick up quality handicrafts at fixed prices at the AACD African Market on Aberesem Street in Osu, Accra.
• Fly KQ to Accra at least daily.
Europe’s (perhaps the world’s) biggest flea market is a veritable city of commerce with some 15 distinct ‘districts’ peddling different wares. Don’t be put off by the idea of ‘fleas’. This venerable bazaar, founded in the northern Paris suburb by merchants fleeing the strife that engulfed the city in 1870, now comprises around 3000 shops and stalls selling high-quality antiques and crafts as well as general second-hand bric-a-brac, kitsch chic and objets d’art. Take a stroll along the main thoroughfare, the rue des Rosiers, and branch off into whichever market takes your fancy – Serpette for quality antiques, Art Deco and Art Nouveau gems, perhaps; Malik for vintage clothes and uniforms; or Vernaison, the original section, with jewellery, rugs, porcelain and glassware.
• Need to know Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10am to at least 5pm; most shops close for an hour at 1pm. Monday is the quietest day – possibly best for first-time visitors.
• Also try The covered food market Marché Beauvau, operating since 1779, and its neighbouring street market on rue d’Aligre, for fine cheeses, oils and fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Fly KQ to Paris six times weekly.
In the 1940s, entrepreneurs from India and Iran pitched their stalls in the Deira district, and the gold souk was born. Today, some 300 shops glitter like a particularly bling Aladdin’s cave – think of a style and type of jewellery and it’s here, along with countless more that you couldn’t imagine: bangles, bracelets and anklets, necklaces, bridal headdresses, earrings, nose rings, finger rings and toe rings. Some estimates suggest the souk holds 25 tonnes of gold at any given time, in an array of colours. Artisans are on hand to craft items to your specification – it’s the ideal spot to pick up a personalised piece. Just to the west, Deira Spice Souk is small but, if anything, even more atmospheric, with the scents of frankincense, cumin, cardamom, sumac and countless other aromatic seeds and powders wafting through the alleys.
• Need to know Both souks are open 10am to 10pm daily, except Friday when they open at 4pm. Many stalls close between 1pm and 4pm.
• Also try Bur Dubai Souk is awash with textiles, clothes, footwear, jewellery and more. Need a sari? Look no further.
• Fly KQ to Dubai daily.
There’s reputedly been a market in this area for a thousand years, and certainly one has abutted London Bridge since the 14th century, though the present buildings date from 1851. In the small hours it’s still an important wholesale centre, where traders buy and sell fruit and vegetables from 2am till about 8am. But today, Borough Market is more famed for its weekend persona: a gourmet cornucopia, with dozens of stalls selling artisan breads, fine charcuterie and meats, cheese and sausages, continental specialities, coffee, chocolates and confectionary, fish and fruit – basically, if it tastes delicious, you’ll find it here. Spend a happy morning grazing on samples before stocking up for a riverside picnic, or settling in at one of the nearby pubs and cafes.
• Need to know The full market is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10am (8am Saturday) to 5pm (6pm Friday). www.boroughmarket.org.uk
• Also try Columbia Road Flower Market in the East End is a sea of colour every Sunday morning, when it’s transformed into a temporary plant nursery with bargain flowers. Camden Lock is now almost more fascinating for people watching than shopping, attracting a host of stylish, shocking and plain strange characters to browse its fashion stalls.
• Fly KQ to London Heathrow daily.
Rotating locations between half a dozen regular sites, Nairobi’s Maasai markets draw crowds of locals and visitors browsing colourful fabrics (kikoys and kangas), clothes, bead jewellery, paintings, woven baskets, curios and carvings. With more than 100 traders, they’re great places to pick up souvenirs of a visit to Kenya, but also to look at unusual takes on fashions and furnishings – sandals, handbags, cushions – and to practise your haggling: prepare to barter hard for the best prices.
• Need to know The markets run from around 8am till 6pm Tuesday to Saturday. For first-timers, the Village Market (Friday) iteration is probably easiest to navigate.
• Also try The City Market, open Monday to Saturday, is a bustling mass of stalls selling fresh produce and curios – for the tough bargainer, it’s a good place to pick up handicrafts such as carvings, drums, shields and soapstone.
• Fly KQ from the airline’s international hub, Nairobi.
From sea to stall to soup in just hours – the hundreds of stalls in this megamarket stock everything edible in the ocean, as well as many you didn’t imagine would appear on your plate. You’ll see octopus and lobster, blue crab, sea cucumber and flapping-fresh fish of all varieties. The market is a spectacle in itself, but get stuck in – once you’ve bought the ingredients, head up to the second floor where a handful of traditional restaurants will slice up your purchases and serve them dished up as local specialties. Try hwae, similar to sashimi – sliced raw fish, usually served on flat noodles or salad with garlic – or maeuntang, a spicy fish stew.
• Need to know The market is open every day, with many stalls open pretty much 24 hours, though some close briefly after 10pm.
• Also try The herbs, flowers, mushrooms and roots at Gyeongdong Market, stocking traditional Asian medicines.
• Fly KQ to Seoul three times weekly with codeshare partner Korean Air.