By Tamjid al-Kohali
The Yemeni public markets are still alive as museums that resist the winds of change. They are still keeping the flavor of ancient history that comes from the depths of Yemeni civilization and old features which are loved by the Yemeni people.
While some of the traditional means of shopping and trade faded in these markets, they are still filled with different types of goods and products. Usually these markets flourish in certain seasons.
Yemeni markets attract the interest of various foreign tourists who visit Yemen. The visitors find them to be a living embodiment of Ancient Arab heritage with features from many Arab countries such as Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other Eastern countries. However, Yemeni markets distinguish themselves from other Arab markets by their character and history.
One of the historians who is interested in Yemeni public markets described them as museums throughout the ages, where they are filled with ancient and traditional handmade goods, as well as modern goods, and different local artifacts and jewelry such as handmade silver and copper.
There are a lot of famous Yemeni popular markets, but al-Malh Market in old Sana’a is the most famous one for its strategic location in the heart of the historic old Sana’a city, and because it is characterized by branching markets off of it. Each market specializes with a particular commodity. There is the al-Janabi Market, the leather market, the chords market, al-Mttarh market, the grain market, the blacksmithing market, the metal market, the copper market, the silver market, the clothing market, and other markets.
Saleh al-Frasy, a fabrics seller at al-Malh Market, said that “al-Malh Market and other popular markets in Yemen are still keeping their originality and historic character, despite the invasion of imported goods and products from around the world, especially from china, Egypt, Syria,Turkey and other countries.
“The diversity of local and imported goods at al-Malh Market, whether modern or old, the handicrafts, the traditional style of presentation the products, and its proximity to al-kabar Mosque: all these things make this market the best one for all people and tourists in Yemen”, added al-Frasy.
In every city in Yemen there is a famous market, such as the Taiz market in the old city center, al-Taiwalh Market in Mahaweet Province, Seiyun market in Hadramout province, Ibb market in Ibb Province, and other markets which are characterized by their location in the city center.
In Saada province in northern Yemen, there is the al-Talh market, the most famous market in Yemen with handicraft and traditional industries as well as military and economic supplies. There is a sizable availability of minerals and raw material for these industries in the governorate.
One of the citizens of the province of Saada said that Saada is known for making swords in Arab countries since ancient times. Al-Talh market doesn’t sell just swords but also guns, silver ornaments, leather tanning like cow leather for making slippers, and cooking utensils that are made of stones taken from the Razih mountains in Saada.
Beside the popular markets, Yemen is known for the presence of other kinds of popular markets known as weekly markets. These markets begin buying and selling from the morning until sunset. These markets were found a lot in the past especially in rural areas because of the lack of transportation, so people went shopping once a week. But today these markets are only found in some villages because of the presence the transportation and small shops everywhere.
The most famous market of these weekly markets is Beit al-Faqih Market in the Tihama plain, Hudaydah Governorate. This market has appeared since the seventh century AH. It takes place every Friday, and it was famous for the coffee trade, the most famous industry in Tihama at that time. The market was near of the most famous coffee cultivation places in Yemen such as, Haraz, Mnakh, Bani Matar and Alehimp. The customers of this market came from all round the world.
Ibrahim, one of the sellers in Beit al-Faqih market said that the Beit al-Faqih market was famous in the past for coffee trading in all over the world, but today its known for different kind of goods.
He added that no one knows when and how the place and the time of Beit al-Faqih market was chosen. It has remained for hundreds of years. Some of the sellers and customers come from places hundred of meters away because the market isn’t only for buying and selling, but also for meeting friends, relatives, and for completing transactions and agreements. Sometimes it is for resolving disputes by a governor who has the the right to intervene in the dispute resolutions.
Ibrahim emphasized that the prices today in the market are unsatisfactory compared to the past, even the prices of local products.
In Sana’a there are many weekly popular markets. The most important are the Sunday market in Rawdah in the north of the city, Beit Zaher Market in Rahba, and al-Hatarsh in Bani Hashish. These markets take place once every week.
Popular markets either weekly or daily are characterized by large numbers of customers from different areas as well as foreign tourists. They provide all needs, even the expected and unexpected for the customers. Therefore, the popular markets constitute very beautiful old Museums in Yemen by their buyers, sellers, and goods