Local News

Political and Economic Crisis Revives Al-Haraj Trade in Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

Many of us shy away from the fact that we cannot live without the basics: clothes, food, shelter, and some living with the bare minimum. For the poor, a simple sweater can help them withstand the cold winter that we experience in Sana’a, Yemen.

She only had one thousand Yemeni Riyals when she went to purchase a sweater to protect her from the cold shivers of the winter night. She entered a shop in Hail Street, where clothing is considered to be “affordable” but she was shocked with the prices; it was 4,000 YR for a sweater while she had only 1,000 YR to her name. Silently leaving the shop with no hope of finding what she wanted she heard someone calling “jackets and sweaters only for 200 YR each.” She could not believe her ears and rushed to see it for herself. Standing still in front of the salesman happiness was clear in her eyes; she now can buy five sweaters instead of one. There was a catch though, the clothing weren’t new, in fact they were used the salesman stated to her.  Not having that affect her, she simply replied with, “No problem I can wash them before wearing.”

Used clothing markets such as, Al-Haraj became a haven for low-income families to find what they want for the prices they need.

In the midst of the economic crisis experienced by third world countries, Yemen is of them, the purchasing ability of the low-income individuals became very weak, as a result, people started to take cheaper goods without paying attention to the quality of the product as an attempt to satisfy their needs and desire for material things. This class of people found their satisfaction in used clothes markets, which provided them with all the necessities of the most updated and modern models all with affordability.

In the past years the Haraj markets have spread widely in different places in Sana’a such as Hail Street, Jamal Street, al-Safia and Bab al-Yemen. Many people began directed to such stores, which were either in open markets or street vendors. Abdullah Ali, a worker, said that he disagrees with those who underestimate the importance of the Haraj markets because the visitors can find the consuming things that are non-existent in the shops and the prices are always at hand. “He, for example, was not able to furnish his house due to the high prices of furniture in the shops, so he went to the Haraj market and purchased all what he needed for a very affordable amount.”

Abdullah said that these markets are organized and the process of buying and selling are going quietly, regularity and without any problems. He added that there are people who are managing the Haraj markets and are able to solve any problems that may occur between the buyers and sellers.

One of the street vendors who sell pre-used clothes in Hail Street, Saleh, consider Haraj as a profitable business where they can gain a lot from, “It is true that we sell our products for a very low price, but we are selling large amounts of clothing and we are profiting at least 50 YR from each piece.”

Although there are laws that allow specific type of goods to enter the country, there are still some traders that bring in goods illegally. The ministry of trade issued a law to prevent the entry of pre-used clothing due to minor diseases that may carry on the fabrics but the clothes still extensively exist. Saleh said that most of the traders import used clothing coming from European and Gulf markets with a high quality and entering them into Yemen as new clothing.

Most goods come in to Yemen with health certificates proving that the goods are free from any disease. Dr. Hamoud Shamsan, Customs Authority, said that we could not prevent goods from entering if they are legitimate and attached with a health certificate. “The goods have only one entry which is from the maritime ports, unfortunately, some will allow them to enter overland without going through the standard checking” he added.

Dr. Hamoud Shamsan suggested that all the responsible authorities should cooperate with each other in making an effort to avoid such goods.

Skin Disease Specialist, Dr. Ebtisam al-Hajj said that people buy used clothes without realizing the health damage that may result from them. According to Dr. Al-Hajj, these used clothing are a tool to transferring skin infections such as; lice, scabies, and fungal diseases.

“Many of these clothes contain carcinogenic substances and are sprayed on with chemical materials. So the initial precaution when purchasing used clothing is to soak them in hot water for a few minutes and then expose them to the sun and not to wear them directly” al-Hajj advised.

Dr. al-Hajj stressed that concerned authorities should aware people of the danger when purchasing used clothes, in addition to the strict health control on these clothing’s, even though its hard to stay away from the markets attractive bargains!