People watching at Shuk Hanamal

by Sarah on October 25, 2012

shuk hanamal

The Port Market or Shuk Hanamal is not your typical Israeli market. It’s air conditioned, clean and well organized. The hawkers don’t call out to potential customers through megaphones like highway patrol men. Nobody is haggling or shouting from across the aisles. It feels more like a marché than a Middle Eastern bazaar. Here French cheese and asparagus are on display instead of amba or sambusak.  This is uptown Tel Aviv, where vendors are young, chic and gregarious and patrons stroll in with their pet Chihuahuas.

shuk hanamal, tel aviv port

Tel Aviv port

Most noticeably, the market did not develop organically within the neighborhood but was born fully formed into one of Tel Aviv’s most popular entertainment districts.  While most markets develop to meet the needs of the residents, here the impetus was driven by two young entrepreneurs.

freshly squeezed juice, shuk hanamal

Influenced by the slow food movement, Shir Halpern and Michal Ansky envisioned a business atmosphere that would flourish without the usual retail intermediaries. Instead, the food producers would interact directly with the customers to share their knowledge with them, both of food and life.

Tel aviv port

Although the market is relatively compact, it contains several eateries, a fish monger, a cheese stall, a local produce section, a freshly squeezed juice stand, a coffee shop, bakery and charcuterie. Friday, I am told, a bustling farmer’s market opens in the square opposite. This is not where frugal house-makers gather but a prime venue for the food enthusiast.

shuk hanamal, tel aviv port, carrots

It is hard to imagine that until recently this beach front strip lay in dilapidation.  Build close to the wooden promenade, the covered market overlooks the Mediterranean Sea where the old port of Tel Aviv once stood. Numerous stores, restaurants and cafes have replaced the warehouses of the industrial shipping zone which relocated to Ashdod in 1965. The remnants of a crane and the occasional fisherman are the only reminders of this bygone era.

tel aviv port, shuk hanamal

Shuk Hanamal lacks the raw energy often found in more established areas, such as Hatikva or Carmel yet it has a vibe of its own. There is no better way to absorb its character than to spend a lazy afternoon people watching. Last time I was there, I bought a croissant and a tall cup of pink grapefruit juice and headed outside to the patio by the boardwalk.

tapas at the shuk, shuk hanamal

{Tasty tapas bar at Shuk Hanamal}

A child on a scooter rode ahead of his parents; a businessman, out of place in his suit strode quickly towards the office buildings; a woman smooched her boyfriend (husband?) at a table nearby; a white haired dame, meticulously dressed, walked out of the market with a basket of produce; a man in a speedo ran past a group of giggling school girls.

tel aviv port

 {I wasn’t kidding about the Speedo guy}

I looked down to see a cat waiting patiently for the crumbs beneath my table.

cat, port tel aviv

While the market is only a few years old as opposed to decades, it is no less authentic. Perhaps it attracts a different crowd and offers a new spectrum of culinary choices but the core is the same- a place where people and cultures connect.

Below is the Youtube video I did awhile ago:

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