There is no missing Souq al-Milh if you are in Sanaa – this is the main and the oldest market in the city, similar in significance to Khan Khalil in Cairo or Grand Bazaar in Tehran.
Souq al-Milh is located in the very heart of Old Sanaa. It stretches northwards from spectacular Bab al-Yemen (“The Gates of Yemen”), so to find it easier, enter from there.
Literally meaning «The Salt Market», it is certainly not limited to selling salt these days. Originally it was only one of the smaller markets in the bazaar area, which is presently called Souq al-Milh in its entirety, divided into the specialised markets, some of which have their own names.
I have not walked through all of its sectors, but can bet it’s possible to buy traditional spices; cloths; jewellery – silver and gold, with precious and semi-precious stones; antiquities; woodwork, including window frames and doors that Yemen is famous for; jambiyas (curved daggers that all Yemeni men – from kids to seniors – carry for both symbolic and practical purposes) and accessories for them; books; some souvenirs and even qat.
The qat, spices and henna markets are among the ancient ones. I also found them terrific for people-watching and photo-opportunities! Yemeni people just love to have their photos taken; so the Souq is a photographer’s paradise. Painters in henna market can decorate your hands with henna-painting in the way adored by local women.
Even if you are not into shopping, don’t hesitate to go to Souq to watch the amazing daily life scenes – man chewing qat, women shopping for cloths, bazaris promoting their goods, locals chatting and changing news, omnipresent kids fooling around and posing for cameras...
And if you love to shop, better come very early in the morning or before dawn, when the market is at the peak of activity. Unlike obtrusive Egypt bazaars, there’s no annoying hassling in Souq al-Milh. But like in any oriental bazaar, bargaining is more than welcome while shopping.
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