Discovering an ancient market in Jerusalem

 

Yusef shows a customer various ways she can wear a scarf. (The Land/Yvonne Juris)

Yusef shows a customer various ways she can wear a scarf. (The Land/Yvonne Juris)

JERUSALEM — Trying to find my way to the Western Wall through the winding streets of the Arab Souk in the Old City of Jerusalem, I was distracted by the sultry scarves, Middle Eastern-style bracelets and the unending solicitations from merchants who wanted to show me their items. But when I went inside a market on David Street to inquire about directions, I stumbled upon a tourist’s gold mine.

Yusef Sinjlawi is a co-owner of the family run Sinjlawi market. Located on 93 David Street in the Arab Quarter of the Old City, the Sinjlawi market is a family business that the co-owner claims was established 384 years ago.  Sinjlawi grew up watching his father and grandfather make jewelry and is a ninth-generation jeweler. He transforms stones from Eilat and Beersheba into masterful necklaces and some of his materials, he said, come from broken Roman glass that is found in artifacts recovered from the Israel Museum. In addition to his talents as a craftsman, he has a sense of fashion and often shows his customers how to braid or fold their scarves in ways that are either more stylish or in line with Arabic fashions. Beaded bracelets and necklaces of every tint and hue hang from hooks and a plethora of cashmere scarves adorn the store. Jugs and magnificent silver and gold jewelry that look hundreds of years old are placed throughout and sounds of the oud, a stringed instrument, are continually played through a boombox.

Goods at the Sinjwali market. (The Land/Yvonne Juris)

Goods at the Sinjwali market. (The Land/Yvonne Juris)

While ancient and exotic jewelry, pottery and other wares are not uncommon in the Arab Souk, there is a certain comfort and ease that is present in the Sinjlawi mart, almost as if it is a haven designed for the expressed purpose of creating a space where one can escape the chaos of the Souk, which is replete with cluttered markets and persistent merchants. It is rather large as compared with some of the other cramped marts and customers can leisurely sit and admire the store with a complimentary cup of tea.

Through his experiences as a merchant he has developed a more humanistic outlook on the Israeli-Palestinian tensions and has expressed his desire for peace. This is my interview with him.

 

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