Favourite markets around the world to meander through.

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Long before there were malls and online shopping, people browsed, bartered and bought at marketplaces for millennia. But markets have always been about more than the food. The social interaction they enabled was a key component in early civilisations’ development of language and social structure. Also, you could find some pretty sweet deals.

Hendrik du Preez, Vice President of Sales – Africa at Qatar Airways shares a few of his favourite markets of which I can vouch for three, leaving three more on my travel wish list.

Souk Waqif, Doha, Qatar

The winding corridors of this beguiling market lead you past shopkeepers outside their stalls (The name literally means standing market) selling traditional garments, handicrafts, brassware and much more. If you have even a vague interest in food or cooking, allow plenty of time to explore shops with sacks and baskets of spices, herbs, nuts and fruit. selling After a bout of shopping, unwind with ghawa, traditional coffee. X’s tip: the halva, made in massive pots and doled out, warm, fragrant and irresistible, into a tin for you to take home or devour at your hotel.

Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech, Morocco

The square has been the site of the market since the 11th Century and in that time the origins of its name – roughly “assembly of the dead” – have become blurred. It’s thought that public executions may have taken place here. No more: By day, watch snake charmers with their distinctive pungi flutes as well as the ancient mastery of the henna tattoo artists. By night, a food market draws you in with marvellous smells and tastes like grilled meats, and for the gastronomically adventurous, sheep’s heads, a local delicacy. The feasting is serenaded by amazigh musicians and the singing of gnaoua troupes, as well as the antics of acrobats.

Read my articles on Morocco here with my deep condolences to all those who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the recent earthquake. May you rebuild in strength.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

The bazaar is vast – it spans 60 streets in the heart of the capital, so Hendrik suggests donning your walking shoes rather than your Louboutin heels. It’s operated in some form since 1455, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Entire roads are devoted to specific products: carpets, furniture, bracelets, leather goods, and so on. After shopping for antiques, jewellery, mirrors, lanterns and much more, have a restorative hammam, or traditional steam bath.

Kuromon Ichiba Market, Osaka, Japan

This lively covered market is affectionately known as Osaka’s market because it’s favoured by local residents and restaurateurs for its supplies. It also offers the best of street food experiences, with food prepared, cooked and served while you wait. There are also izakaya, popular with Japanese workers for leisurely after-work drinks and snacks. It’s famous for its fish and seafood, as well as pickles and fresh produce. X’s insider tip: Try the tea-flavoured ice-cream at Yamaguchien, a speciality tea shop that’s been in business since 1937.

Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala

It’s rated as among the world’s best handicraft markets, with pottery and vivid textiles, including the huipuil worn by Maya women. It’s also thought to be the world’s biggest outdoor market, so you can easily spend a day browsing and haggling, with regular stops for freshly prepared street food, like chiles rellenos, a blend of shredded meats and peppers, dipped in egg batter and fried. Fretting about pronouncing the name Chichicastenango? Don’t: The locals call it Chichi and so should you.

Feria de Libros, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina’s beautiful, beloved capital has a variety of markets, and while many visitors gravitate towards the well-known Feria de San Telmo, X suggests the Feria De Libros, a haven for lovers of retro books and magazines, vinyl and CDs. That super-rare bootleg double LP of Jimi Hendrix Live at the Los Angeles Forum in 1970? You might just find it here.

If you have any favourite markets you feel could be added to the list, do let me know. Otherwise happy shopping, bargaining and collecting in support of the trades and craftsmen and women who bring life’s energy to these historic and charming places.

** This post was supplied by Qatar Airways who I love to fly with.

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