GAZA CITY: There are many markets in Gaza City, the most ancient city in the Gaza Strip, but it is the historic Zawiya market where thousands of residents choose to shop.
It was established hundreds of years ago in the southern part of the Daraj district, which harbors the happy and sad history of the city.
The historic domes of the shops and the authentic smells of the past greet the visitor as they arrive at the western entrance to what is called the “Square” of Zawiya market.
The market remains conservative and historic. Although modern urbanism has occupied some of the market, traders keep shops lined up on both sides of the road, separated by an old passageway.
On the right are some of the candies, colored sweets, almonds and pistachio nuts for sale. Not far away, you will find the delicious pickles that are abundant in Ramadan.
The shops were built of ancient yellow stone, according to a researcher specializing in archaeological sites, Saleem Almubaid, who has devoted much space to the market in his book about buildings in Gaza City.
You will find earrings, gold-plated rings and pure silver in Qaysariya, “the gold market,” in one of the corners of Zawiya market.
Al-Mubaid said that this market dates to the 14th century. It is built parallel to the southern wall of Al-Omari Mosque, according to the Islamic commercial architecture of the time.
The shops are characterized by ceilings with thickened enclosures of more than two and a half meters to the east gate of the market, interspersed with white and red marble arches covered with cascade decorations.
The market of Zawiya is doubly important in Ramadan, becoming a main destination for people breaking their fast.
It is crowded but not everyone is buying — residents of Gaza City have come to enjoy the atmosphere of the market for generation after generation.
“My grandfather built this shop in the Ottoman era and inherited it from my father, who taught me perfumery and prepared herbs and medical mixtures,” Fayez Zainuddin, 82, said.
Zainuddin was interested in developing the profession of perfumery in his small shop through reading books and experimentation, where he succeeded in the manufacture of mixtures of herbs to cure diseases.
Abu Mahmoud Bulbul, 66, who inherited a shop selling herbs from his father, said that the market represents a cornerstone of his life, and he has had many offers to sell his shop but has refused them all.
“In every corner of this little shop I have an invaluable memory,” he said.
Abu Mahmoud said that his daily trip to and from the market gave him the ability to resist boredom.
While Abu Mahmoud was speaking, a shopper interrupted to ask him to weigh half a kilo of sage. The Palestinians have traditionally used the herb in tea for its flavor and to treat pain.
Ali Sbeih, 31, said that he and his friends used to go to the Zawiya market every day for an hour or two before iftar. He said that time passed quickly in the market alleys and at the archaeological sites there.
Despite the new markets that were built in the neighborhoods of Gaza City, many like Ali prefer the Zawiya market for its vitality.