When we began planning our trip to Jerusalem, our list of points of interest included the usual suspects: Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Mt. of Olives, al-Aqsa Mosque; essentially the Old City (plus nearby places where we could find the world’s best hummus). What wasn’t on our list? Mahane Yehuda Market. Not because I didn’t want to visit, simply because I knew nothing about it.
Local markets – farmer’s market and craft markets – are arguably my favorite experiences when we travel. In Turkey, I remember the awe that I felt walking into the Grand Bazaar, staring at stall after stall of jewerly, mosaic arts, locally crafted hookahs and rugs, and Turkish souvenirs. Down the way, at the Spice Bazaar, I was captivated by the vibrant colors: bright yellows, reds, and oranges, side-by-side in neat heaping piles. The image was indelible.
In Jerusalem, there’s Mahane Yehuda Market. It’s much more of a farmer’s market than it is a bazaar, but it’s a very cool place to check out while you’re in the city. According to Jerusalemites, it’s morphed substantially over the last few years, becoming a young, hip area to frequent. We had lunch there one day, grabbed kanafeh (a local dessert) at a baked goods stall on another occassion, and then went back during the evenings to experience Mahane Yehuda by night, which is an entirely different experience. After dark (9:30PM or later), you’ll hear music coming from the market, find tiny dinner spots overflowing with twenty-somethings, and hookah bars on the corner. By day, you’ll see stalls of crisp fresh vegetables, fresh squeezed juices, sugar-glazed desserts, fresh cheeses, and fragrant spices and teas. The market spans a few streets, and while each street essentially has the same fare, you can’t help but idle in front of each one, looking longingly at the oversized pomegranates and extra plump dates. I’m not sure what they put in the soil, but their produce is otherworldly.
Have you been to Mahane Yehuda? Do you prefer it by day or by night?
xo from Jerusalem,