If you happen to be strolling through Taiz looking for artifacts and traditional products, local spices or dried beans and other miscellaneous items, everyone will direct you to one place: Souk al-Shenini. This wonderful, old market has existed for centuries.
In its early period, the market was the main supply source for the inhabitants of the old city of Taiz. It is said that four centuries ago, it was a twice-weekly market, open every Monday and Thursday. Later, during the reign of Imam Ahmad Hamid al-Din, it grew to become a daily market, making it the main market of the old city, since others were limited to specific days of the week. Every area has a market held on a specific day of the week, except for Souk al-Shenini, which remains open every day.
The market is said to have been named after Sheikh Muhammad Ali al-Shenini. Al-Shenini was a pious man who lived in what is now the market area and worked as the imam of the neighborhood mosque. During the reign of Imam Ahmad, the mosque was demolished and shops were built in its place. Since then, the market has carried al-Shenini’s name.
The market is located between Bab Mousa, al-Bab al-Kabir and Bab al-Makhloula in downtown Taiz.
Recently, as I walked through the market, I realized that many of the city’s residents did not give the historic place and its unique old character much thought. During that walk, it occurred to me that a photographic journey through the market may revive people’s memory and their sense of the market’s history. Many people, including villagers, continue to visit this market to shop for traditional products and utensils, and it continues to
preserve its old character, with hardly any modern commodities to be seen. You can find unique handcrafted traditional products and experience the simplicity and flow of conversation when dealing with the vendors. For a moment it feels as though you have traveled back to the old era of Taiz. Here, if you are a researcher, you will find a treasure trove of historical stories and information that market visitors and vendors alike inherit and pass on from their forefathers and the generations before them.
Photo essay of the market today by Al Baraa Mansoor:
Al Bara Mansoor, is a photographer and filmmaker living and working in Taiz. He is studying Media and Communication Science at al-Atta University for Science and Technology, and Administrative Sciences from Taiz University as well as a Diploma in the English Language.
Special thanks to Fahd Al Dhurafi, who shared with us some of his historical photography collections for Taiz and the market.
A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)