The Arab Bazaar of the Old City of Jerusalem
The Arab bazaar is a wonderful, colorful bazaar just within the walls of
The people minding the stores are Arabs, descendents from many
generations of storekeepers they are experts at getting the highest
possible prices from their customers. Not only do they succeed in selling
their wares at a good profit, their customers also go away feeling happy
that they’ve struck a great bargain and that they’ve made a new friend.
The greatest experts among them start the dealing with a personal
compliment, for example: “Wow you’re the first customer I’ve had today.”
This means you’re his “siftach”and everybody knows that a person who is
a “siftach”deserves a big discount. One could even say its an unwritten
law of Arab market storekeepers.
Often when he has a “siftach”he’ll shrug his shoulders, in a sign of
resignation that he has no choice, but to sell whatever thing you have
chosen from his store, a bag, a shawl, a pair of shoes, at a loss. You’re a
“siftach” and if he doesn’t do the right thing by you he’ll have bad luck all
day long. If he gives you a discount, at great sacrifice to himself, he will
have good luck the whole day long.
The most important thing in the market is to keep the upper hand
while at the same time being polite. Whatever he does you should
complement him and insist that he’s a wonderful fellow.
If you refuse to buy the article he’ll show you other articles in his store
until you buy something. He’s always trying to sell something. The only
way to get out of buying is to tell him what a good fellow he is and
wonderful his store is and even to promise him you’ll be back.
The phrase that you’re not in the market for that article right now is a
give away that you realy want that article and it’s just a question of
In this game the more you want the article the more you show how
much you don’t want it.
The Jewish stores in the Jewish Quarter aren’t really a market. The
bargaining there is different. Nobody ever seems to go down in price.
I think you can buy beautiful things there, like paintings, kiddush cups,
candle sticks for the festivals and Shabbat and even some antiquities.
There you’ll get pleasure from what you buy. In the Arab Market you’ll
get pleasure from how you buy.