Shopping in Ethiopia is quite different than heading out in the minivan, the pet shop boys blasting en route to filling cloth bags with expensive organic produce from Natural Grocers or the odd, “Why did I go to Target again?” mistake behind me. I do most of my day to day shopping at any of the innumerable small shops or souks that line the streets near my house. I can walk perhaps 20 ft outside my gate and be at one of these souks selling everything from toilet paper, incense, laundry soap to lightbulbs and sometimes even eggs and tomatoes.
The above pictured souk is pretty substantial. Most souks are way smaller. Many shop owners live directly behind their storefronts.
A little further up the road is my orange and banana guy.
Another place I always buy my avocadoes. Milk is bought at a little shop that also serves jebena bunna (traditionally prepared coffee) and bread.
The butcher and bakery are also within a short walking distance.
Still, all these places take time to walk to and fro from, especially with an exceedingly slow 3 year old following behind. There are also several larger “western” style grocery stores in town that have aisles you walk up and down and prices are clearly marked. At the souk, you stand at a window and point or ask what you want and they tell you the price (prices vary, needless to say). The big stores sell things like South African corn flakes and Maltese custard powder, birthday candles, cleaning products, snickers bars, frozen chickens, gouda cheese, alcohol! I have been blown away (obviously) by the plethora of consumer products available here as compared to what was available in Jimma 8 years ago (gouda cheese, are you kidding me?). Hawassa is very wealthy in comparison. People have money to spend and it shows in the number of shops and grocery stores catering to the middle class. Then there is the gebeya or market. This is a sprawling expanse of shops selling everything from clothing to cookware to green coffee beans, vegetables, etc. Mondays and Thursdays are the big market days in which people from the countryside come into town to sell their produce.
I’m sure many of you are hitting the grocery store in the next few days stocking up for your respective Thanksgiving feasts. We are planning on cooking the hell out of an Ethiopian chicken in the form of soup in the hope that it will tenderize an otherwise notoriously tough bird. Maltese custard powder for dessert perhaps? I’ll have to let you know how it turns out.
Me, getting comfortable, cooking dinner.