Shopping at Rissani’s Wednesday Market
Hamid pilots the mud-covered Toyota west across the desert to Rissani, a former caravan center known for its leather and goat skin trade. Risani is the closest town of size to Erg Chebbi, and its lively Wednesday market is our destination. Plunging into the crowds inside the roofed souk in our blue turbans, our conspicuous presence attracts a few stares.
Shoppers and shopkeepers clog the aisles. The immediate assault on the senses snaps us from our hypnotized desert mindset. Kaleidoscopic vegetable stands piled high with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, oranges, grapes, squashes, and carrots give way to stalls of slaughtered sheep and goats in varying degrees of dismemberment. Butchers nicely arrange hearts, brains, and kidneys on tables and hang body parts on hooks overhead so prospective buyers can take a close look at the goods. Flies also enjoy the display. A row of severed goat heads stare up at passers-by; the tongue of one head lolls outside its mouth as if the whole ordeal was just too much.
Stands of household items, colorful shawls and blankets, cheap clothing, small electronics, and a junk shop of scrap metal and machine bits and pieces each have a devoted aisle. Vivid cones of spices and herbs – turmeric, paprika, cumin, coriander, saffron, ground ginger, pepper – lavish their vibrant colors on my senses.