Friday, May 10, 2013


I think I addressed this topic briefly in a previous post, but shopping is different here from what we know Stateside. The exception is the wealthy in this country. The west side of the city has a large amount of malls and stores that are identical to the States. But, for the majority of the people in this city we still rely on the local stores for our daily and weekly fare.

There are certain stores that you will see every few blocks in all neighborhoods because they're vital to the everyday existence of the people

One note: As you read the description of the various stores, remember that all of the stores are the size of a spacious living room, though sometimes smaller.

Dukkan: These are similar in style to convenience stores ( think 7-11) in the States. Each one is individually owned, often by a man who lives in the neighborhood. My local dukkan is two block from my house and is owned by two older gentlemen (we designated it the "Old Man Dukkan"). They carry a variety of staple dried goods, candies, toiletries, some fridge/freezer foods and fresh bread two to three times a day. Unless you have a car or time to head to the large grocery store, this is the place you pop into a couple times a week. Prices are usually very close to the price of goods at the large grocery store, plus you aren't charged an extra small tax that the larger stores charge.

Bread store: These are further apart in neighborhoods. They're busy most often before work as people pick up bread for breakfast and work. They churn out large amounts of white and wheat pita bread which is the staple of every home in the city. They also carry dry biscuits, long pretzels and fresh French loaves of bread. I'd love to visit the bread store more often, but the closest one is 5 blocks from our house.

Coffee Stand: These are truly everywhere and they stand out starkly in the rows of shops. They usually have a distinctive black and red checkered design painted on their exteriors. They hold shiny carafes of strong black tea and the smells of cardamom laced Turkish coffee waft from their open store fronts. In the summer they add a slushy machine to the offerings. There is often an attendant standing in front of the store waiting for a driver to stop and order. Taxi drivers will occasionally stop mid-trip for a caffeine boost, but often offer to buy for their passengers as well.

Snack shop: These are the kids' favorite shops. They're often open after the kids are out of school because they cater to them. Racks of chips, tables of sweets and fridges of pop at very cheap prices make them a very popular place.

Fruit and Vegetable Shop: I have a guy I frequent a block from my house. He has boxes of fruits and veggies on raised wooden tables against the walls. I choose what I want and then take it to his low table that has a money drawer, calculator and scale. He weighs each bag, adds them up on the calculator and takes my proffered coins. While these stores are fairly reasonably priced, there is an even cheaper, easier way to get fruit and veggies.

Farm Trucks: Nearly every day of the week you can hear a voice hollering through a PA system on top of a truck. As it drives closer you can make out the call of, "Come get cucumbers, come get tomatoes, come get potatoes, onions, cabbage, oranges....". These trucks drive in from farms outside the city to sell boxes of goods to the people. If you flag down a truck you are required to buy by the box. The prices are 2 to 5 times cheaper than buying at your local stand. BUT without a freezer you'd better use or give away quickly the 6 pounds of cucumbers you've bought!

While they aren't stores, we have some other very useful kinds of products move through our streets.

Push carts: I'm sure there are varieties I have yet to spot, but our street vendors tend to come in two kinds. Most mornings I wake to the yell of the breakfast sandwich vendor. He will slap together egg, falafel, spices, cheese, yogurt, cucumber, or hummus on a small french loaf for needy breakfasters. The other cart is the trinkets and cotton candy man. I know it's him by the slide whistle he blows.

Propane carts/trucks: Since propane is the way we cook and heat our homes, this man is in high demand. You can hear the tapping of a wrench on a propane bottle if the cart is walking by or an annoying song (think ice cream truck annoying) playing if the propane truck is passing.

Water bottle trucks: These trucks are actually delivery trucks. The city water is not the best, so many people buy coupon books from local water bottle services. We have two bottles which last us about a week. So, once a week I call for the water delivery to come and switch out bottles.

Not sure how well I described these, does this post raise any related questions for you?

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