It’s hard to take a bad photo in Israel considering that idyllic blue skies dominate nine months out of year. It improves the quality of my visual content, making it seem as if it’s due more to talent than to accommodating weather conditions. A serious upside to this sunny state of affairs is the abundance of outdoor shopping and specialty vendors to be found – a fantastic way to get a firsthand feel for local culture and community.
If you’re in Jerusalem, Machane Yehuda Market – also called The Shuk (or Machne if you don’t obviously look foreign (like me) and want to be mistaken for a local) – is a bustling hub of activity and a feast for the senses. It’s an exemplary traditional, Middle Eastern-style marketplace with over 250 vendors – the largest market in this holy city, selling everything from antiques to artisanal delicacies, fresh meat and produce to local beer and handmade goods.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the chaos of The Shuk. For example, distractible by nature, I unwittingly bought $70 worth of Jerusalem chai which I regretted immediately. If you’ll looking to avoid the crowds, don’t go on Thursday and Friday mornings when The Shuk is particularly crowded as locals are preparing for Sabbath. Also, keep in mind that the shuk closes for Shabbat – which according to Jewish religious law is observed from sunset on Friday evening to the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night.
No matter your vibe or your tastes, Machane Yehuda has something for every kind of personality! Go explore one of the largest and most traditional shuks in Israel, armed with curiosity and a hearty appetite.
THE HEALTH NUT:
If you treat your body like a temple, take a rejuvenating pause at Uzi-Eli Etrog Man juice stand and sip the delicious and beneficial concoctions that the third generation Yemenite healer is brewing up.
Descending from a long line of alternative medicine practitioners, Uzi Eli experimented with the etrog – a type of citron cultivated throughout the Mediterranean – as well as a variety of fruits, herbs, and spices to create natural remedies in the form of healing juices and skin care products.
Sample the fresh juices that various wellness benefits then select the cup size and fill ‘er up! The Apple Pomegranate Cayenne juice blend – alleged to iron-rich, prevent high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and be anti-aging – had a zesty kick to it that I was obsessed with.
Uzi Eli Etrog Man | 11 HaCarmel St (at the very top of the market)
THE GOAL-ORIENTED SNACKER:
If you’re the type of eater who prefers snacking a little bit here and there (and there) over the limitation of a single entrée, experience the culinary diversity of the market independently through Bitemojo or Shuk Bites. These self-guided food tours provide a curated route through Machane Yehuda where you stop at various stalls for a ‘bite,’ liberating you from the paralyzing stress of decision-making.
Eat your way through the market with a Shuk Bites card that is comprised of 6 slips or with Bitemojo app, you can choose from a couple of routes that you follow through an app on your phone (requires data) that you show to the vendor to redeem your “bite”. This method offers a more comprehensive overview of the tastes, flavours, and aromas the market has to offer.
THE AMATEUR CHEF:
In Jerusalem, I was staying at a hostel with access to a large kitchen that was a mere 6-minute walk from Machane Yehuda. Despite being in close proximity to some of Israel’s best restaurants, a lot of fellow travellers opted to cook elaborate feasts with fresh findings from the market.
If you consider yourself to be somewhat of an amateur chef or just prefer a comforting, home-cooked meal even when abroad, experience Israeli cuisine through their produce and spices. Let your senses guide you through the bustle to vendors selling piles of exotic spices and haggle over the prize catches or prime cuts of the day before perusing vibrant-hued produce for stellar vegetable dishes.
THE ADVENTUROUS EATER:
If your palate is as trailblazing as your passport is stamped, then you probably consider it essential to eat authentic, local cuisine to properly experience Israel.
Serving up the most drool-inducing, homestyle dishes that is particular to Middle Eastern Jewish culture, Azura dominates the majority a hidden plaza, situated past the winding alleyways of the Iraqi Shuk of Machane Yehuda.
Grab a red-checkered table on the patio or an air-conditioned seat inside where you can witness huge vats of stews being slow-cooked to perfection and efficiently served mere minutes of being ordered.
While the hummus has the reputation of being some of the best around, take the adventurous route by opting for the ‘Alzaneq’ dish of eggplant stuffed with meat and cooked with onion, tomato, and potatoes, and the spicy fall-off-the-bone oxtail stew with peppers and garlic.
Azura | The Iraqui Market 4, Ha-Eshkol
THE SWEET TOOTH:
Some people have such a sweet tooth that they believe dinner is just a hindrance; an obstacle to be endured to get dessert. Machne provides endless ways to satisfy those cravings.
Start slow by browsing the plethora of dried fruits from the expected prunes to shocking dried watermelon. Move on to bakery vendors selling flakey, buttery sweet cheese bourekas, crescent-shaped rugelach, and a variety of nutty tart squares. Finally, explore the abundance of flavours of halva at Halva Kingdom to fully appreciate this dense, tahini-based dessert.
Halva Kingdom | 12 Etz HaChaim St.
THE ART-LOVING NIGHTOWL:
There’s this misconception that a post-secondary art school education is a walk in the park. If anyone dared to voice that aloud to me, I would punch them in the throat. I existed in a caffeine-fuelled haze of anxiety and barely slept, developing a Stockholm syndrome-type relationship with the night.
My sleepless, art school student self would’ve loved how when the stalls of Machane Yehuda close and the last tomato has been tucked in for the night, the market transforms into an urban art gallery, the perfect backdrop for a vibrant bar scene. The shutters are pulled down to reveal colourful murals of famous contemporary and historical figures – from former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir to celebrities like Steven Spielberg – by the Banksy-inspired artist, Solomon Souza and project partner Berel Hahn.
If you’re a night owl, admire the “Shuk Gallery” after dark while discussing the Bauhaus movement with friends over a couple of Israeli beers.
THE BEER SNOB:
Did you know that rabbis were the first established brewers in Israel? It’s a good thing to know if you fancy yourself to be a beer aficionado. Another thing you should know when you’re in Machane Yehuda is to head over to hop central at Beer Bazaar for happy hour!
Get delightfully lost perusing their extensive and hyperlocal selection of craft beers that impressively bedecks an entire wall of the bar. Boasting three locations and their own brewery, Beer Bazaar comes alive at night, so don’t waste any valuable drinking time with impossible decisions. Start with a beer sampler, consisting of ten kinds of draft beer served in shot glasses OR if you want a more focused tasting, order a flight of four larger glasses of beers.
Beer Bazaar | Etz Hayyim 3, Jerusalem