Mahane Yehuda is also known as The Shuk, because it’s the largest shuk in Jerusalem. It takes up a whole small neighbourhood, between Yafo and Aggripas, and is at the heart of a much large shopping complex which stretches up Yafo towards the Old City or up Aggripas, over King George and into the Ben Yehuda triangle. Mahane Yehuda (pronounced Machne) is as much a place to be as a place to shop. While the prices are about as reasonable as you can find in Jerusalem, it depends on the time of day and week, not to mention the season for produce. Prices are marked with chalk on blackboards stuck in amongst the produce, and what sells for 6 IS (Israeli Shekels) a kilo on Monday morning may be down to 2 IS before the trumpet sounds Friday afternoon for Shabbat. The traditional merchants in Mahane Yehuda yell out their prices and other enticements, like “You can’t believe it” or “Only a friar (sucker) wouldn’t buy.” The frenetic atmosphere probably leads to a lot of tourists buying stuff they don’t have a clue how or where to cook, just for the fun of it.
The shuk has become a gathering place of locals from all walks of life . From home cooks to gourmet chefs one can find them, amongst the aisles, seeking the finest, fresh ingredients.
The Shuk reflects the multi-cultural Israeli table , one can find the necessary items for many ethnic cuisines including Yemenite, Tunisian, Moroccan , Iraqi, Iranian, Kurd and many more…. in recent times the organic kitchen is emerging too…did you hear about the grannies culinary competition, chefs from the best restaurants in town paired up with grandmothers of different ethnic backgrounds and had a competition for the best recipe learnt from their mothers ?… a delicious and fun event.
Enjoy tastings of imported cheeses from France and Italy ( hard to believe they are kosher).
Meet the fishmonger who makes his own smoked salmon.
Try the best organic humus freshly made daily by the “Dean” of the Shuk, Eli Mizrahi.
Enjoy the crunchy sourdough baguettes.
Have a break from shopping and enjoy a great coffee and brioche at one of the hip cafes.
In the last few years there has been a rejuvenation of the shuk.
One can find cafes and chic clothing boutiques interspersed amongst the stalls. The children and grandchildren of some of the original vendors have studied cookery abroad and opened up their own special places. This interesting mix of hip and traditional gives the market its unique character.
Learn about the secrets of the shuk that only the locals know, the best eateries, “slow cookery” food cooked for hours on kerosene cookers, jazz played on Sunday nights with dancing outside (in the aisles which during the day were filled with shoppers),with a special tapas menu prepared by guest chefs.
Situated on the edge of the Yemenite Quarter is the Carmel Market. This packed daily market extends along the long, narrow HaCarmel Street (and neighboring lanes), which branches off Allenby Street at Magen David Circle. Despite the lack of traffic, it is noisy with stall-holders’ cries and busy with the extraordinary crush of people. Huge piles of fresh fruits, vegetables, olives, herbs, spices and meats are on sale for the lowest prices in the city. Stalls often specialize in just one item, offering only crates of nectarines, for example, or olives or oranges. The market is a perfect location to observe the bringing together of East European shtetls (Jewish villages), the Jewish quarters of north Africa, the sophistication of Tel Aviv and the raucous energy of the sabras (Jews born in Israel), all of whom are pressed shoulder to shoulder here. The market is especially hectic and colorful on Fridays, as people shop for Shabbat.
You can meander and explore your way through the Carmel Shuk Sunday through Thursday from 8am until the sun sets, and on Fridays from 8am to 2pm, Enter from the backside, off Hayarkon near Jaffa, or the more common entrance which can be found at the junction of Allenby Street and King George, Sheinkin. To the south of the Carmel Shuk entrance is Nahalat Binyamin, A more sedate artists and craft market featuring the local artistry of Tel Aviv.
Where to eat? Make sure you don’t miss out on the places hiding in the alleys behind. “The best Borekas place in town”, many people would call this small Turkish Borekas booth, just in the entrance to the market, on your right. Borekas actually is originated in Bulgarian and Turkish cuisine, but Israel has claimed it to be its own. It is a salty pastry, usually puff pastry, filled with cheese, potato or spinach. Delicious when you eat it still warm from the heat of the oven. Here you will get it sliced up with a hardboiled egg, homemade pickles, tomatoes and a delicious spicy tomato paste.
A little after the Turkish borekas, there are two excellent stalls offering griddle fried meats and sausages, Stuffed into a pita or baguette paired with Middle Eastern salads and sauce. The aromas coming from that grill are delicious.
If you want sustenance that will last you all day try the delicious and authentic hummus at Hummus HaCarmel, in the centre of Shuk HaCarmel. A plate of freshly made chick pea paste with tahini and smothered in olive oil. Accompanied by pickles, chopped salad, a hardboiled egg and soft and fluffy pita bread, washed down by n ice cold bottle of black beer (non-alcoholic) is a must.