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Feature: Bountiful bargains at Tunis’ flea markets


Fabulous jeans at the flea market

Fabulous jeans at the flea market

 

Timeless treasures abound at Tunis’ endless flea market stops. 

 

By: Amel Gaaloul & Moez Achour

Tunis, Tunisia

 

Vintage. Hmmm, a foreign and somewhat alien word to the daily Tunisian dialect and preoccupations. Here, “brand new” is generally the favoured trend, especially when it comes to clothing.

 

Yet, the growing number of flea markets establishing themselves across the country these last 7 years or so reveals a growing interest in second hand items on the part of the Tunisian consumer. Indeed, Tunis’ renowned historical flea markets, Malasine, in the North of Tunis, and Hafsia, in downtown Tunis, are now in competition with several other district markets, such as Bousalsla in the Northern suburb of La Marsa, Ariana and Ibn Khaldoun markets, both niched in the North-West of Tunis, and Ezzahra and Rades markets in the Southern suburbs of the capital, to name but a few. While most of these markets are run weekly (Bousalsa on Sundays, Ezzahra on Thursdays, Rades on Saturdays, Ariana on Fridays), Hafsia, which to this day remains the reference, is run every day of the week.

 

 

Blazers for every occasion.

Blazers for every occasion.

 

Whether you’re looking for contemporary or vintage pieces, all you need to be armed with when planning a matinée at the market is a little cash, lots of patience and good intuition.

 

Clothes are generally hung-up or piled in huge chaotic mounds on top of trestles, more or less by theme: trousers, tops, underwear, coats, pyjamas, toys, tights, belts, shoes, bags… You can even find vintage cutlery and dishes, old radios, lamps, mirrors… You name it!

 

Groovy hats!

Groovy hats!

 

We’ve all fantasized on the provenance of that 60s painted black leather hand bag we bought for 3 dinars which says, “Made in Italy”  (I know I have), that white lace table cloth we got for 15, or even that Max Mara shirt we found with the label still on it. Well, we know they have travelled: items are shipped over from Europe, the US and Canada, sent over either by charities or retailers specialized in second-hand merchandise, or by fashion retailers who want to get rid of their unsold articles. Normally this commerce is reserved for developing countries.

 

The best part of the trip to the flea market is knowing that whatever you will be taking home in the black plastic bag the vendor will have given you with your purchase in it, you’ll have got a bargain! From 1 dinar (0.6 USD) to 50 dinars (33 USD), prices suit all shapes and sizes of purse.

 

Success!

Vintage success: the black bags says it all.

 

Mainly frequented by women, the flea market typically attracts clients of all ages and social and occupational categories —there’s something for everyone!

 

My personal favorite is the Hafsia market. To access it you need to walk through some of the the narrow and historically-charged streets of downtown Tunis, where the views of French colonial architecture and the scent of freshly brewed coffee and warm croissants will lft your spirits. I generally go on Saturdays, when I’m sure to have the time to grab a glass of freshly squeezed juice on my way in, and why not grab a bite to eat at a local greasy spoon on my way home, charged with enthusiasm, a great sense of satisfaction, and an urge to stick those clothes in the washing machine and show them off to all my friends.

 

Ahh… Just my kind of shopping.

 

Photography by Moez Achour

 

 

 

 

 

British-Tunisian born Amel has lived in Tunis for 5 years, where she works in advertising as well as a freelance editor for www.tunisia-live.net. Together with Artistic Director and blogger, Moez Achour, (www.fashionplaylist.com), they like to wander around Tunis in the search of inspiring places and people that make up the new Tunisian scene. 

 



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