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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Aleppo: no practicalities

I want to share with you the things I find cool when I travel. The things I can't share with you in the guidebooks I write. Take this scene from the Aleppo souq. It's two in the afternoon and this man's asleep at his shop. It's a cane shop. And they certainly look like nice canes. But that's not the point. I can't write about a cane shop in a guidebook. Who wants to buy canes? Canes don't make great souvenirs. And regardless, including this man's little cane shop would be a headache. It doesn't have a name. There's no phone number. I can't even remember which alley it was on, so how do I answer the editor's query about the practicalities (you know, that practical information in fine print). But what I want to tell you is to make sure you wander the Aleppo souq during siesta when the shopkeepers are taking their naps. You won't be hassled. You won't have to fight your way past boys on donkeys. And you'll witness these moments. A slice of souq life. Of humanity. They're touching. These are the moments that make travel cool for me. Tell me about your cool travel moments.


Anonymous said...

We love souk shopping as well. Some of our best travel memories are related to hanging out with the store owners and getting to know them a little bit.

And I agree, that's easier during the lower traffic times of day.

Lara Dunston said...

I think souqs are some of my most favourite places in the world - not only the shopping, but as you said the ability to meet and get to know the stall-holders in a way you couldn't in a mall, the food, the overall feel and flavour, it's such a microcosm of a society... I think I feel a post coming on!

Anonymous said...

I haven't shopped in souqs yet (though I'll make a point of it now that I've read your blog on it), but I do sympathize with what you say about the limitations of guidebooks. Not from a writer's viewpoint, but from a readers. I'd love it if guidebooks covered these kinds of details. That's why I travel -- to see things like cane shops! And that's why I'll probably go to your blog before going to a travel guide. Keep it up.