Alo! Alo! Alo!
We were lucky to miss most of the rain, and the crowds were relatively thin, which made it more pleasant for me anyway. I get a bit claustrophobic in huge crowds, and in the summer on a Friday morning the shuk can be really packed.
Westbankpapa has shopping there down to a science. He first does a quick walk through the whole market, noting the prices and relative quality of the produce in each stall. He also has a few "favorites" that he tries to get to each time. There is one vendor that always seems to have pink grapefruit even when everyone else just has the white (for some reason our kids won't touch the white ones, while they eat the pink ones like crazy). There are also a few religious vendors that he likes to buy from.
The experience is one for all of the senses. As soon as I step into the place and smell the fresh dill and other greens I feel like I am entering a different world. The awnings overhead protect the produce from the rain (and the direct sun in the summer) but it also shades the place somewhat, so that you feel like you are leaving the city behind. The fresh fruits and vegetables are piled up in pyramids, and except for blue, every other color is represented.
In addition to the smell of dill, there is always a slightly salty and tangy fragrance coming from the fresh fish vendors. I always pass these places with the combined fascination and horror of a small child. There are huge pans of water, with the live fish swimming around, with the fishmonger in an apron wielding a metal club to send the unlucky chosen one to the next world. Westbankpapa always likes to tease me, and says that we should buy one ourselves, but I can never bring myself to be the angel of death for that one particular fish. The sound of the heavy "thwack" has me scurrying on to more pleasant parts of the shuk.
Speaking of sounds, the shuk wouldn't be the shuk without the loud and insistent calls of some of the vendors. This week we were treated to the exhortations to shop quickly before the rain returned, and to the pronouncement that the cherry tomatoes in one particular stall were as sweet as candy. The first time I shopped in the shuk I found these sounds somewhat disconcerting, but now I take it for granted, and probably would be disappointed if the murmur of the crowd was the only "music" I heard there.
In addition to some small changes (the fresh egg man has his own enclosed stall now, instead of having to "park" his wagon in the middle of the main aisle) there was one major one. There is a double stall in the middle of the shuk just for treats. Complete with some refrigerator cases containing yogurts and puddings, there are huge displays of chocolates and candies. I was torn between the need to get home quickly to finish my cooking (Shabbat starts at 4:30 in the afternoon, after all) and my desire to buy some sweet stuff. This week the clock won out.
There is always next week, though...