Souk El-Khan in Hasbaya, an Old Style Barter Market Since 1365

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Hasbaya, Lebanon

December 29, 2014

Souk El-Khan is one of the oldest public markets in Lebanon. Located in between Hasbayya, Arkoub and Marjaayoun, it is attended by the merchants and citizens from the South and the Bekaa. Also, in previous times, in was used by the people of Houla in the South Galilee in Palestine; and Houran and the Golan in Syria for all kinds of dealing and trading. Some of the market’s most common goods were cattle, olives and local farming products like seeds, lemons and bananas. Moreover, the market was used as a pit stop for herds of bulls, camels and donkeys coming from Mount Amel, Safad and Houla regions towards the Bekaa and Syria.

The market was given its name after the great hotel built by Wali Abu Bakr al-Shihabi in 1350. The hotel was built with old stones, lime and white sand, and maintains its traditional feel until now. Every Tuesday, merchants spread their carpets under tents of cloth and display their goods on rocks, wooden boards, or in front of their animals and old cars.

Since 2005, the market has witnessed a series of modernization and sophistication. Through a cultural project funded by USAID along with the implementation of Mercy Corps, which completed a full integrated outline, the market became not only a commercial epicenter but also a station to various cultural, artistic and social activities, a space for recreation in times of holidays and festivals, and a popular destination in the various political events and festivals.

The market occupies more than 30,000 square meters. All along the Hasbani river’s west bank, popular stalls are spread, offering nuts, falafel, and grilled meats to attract the people’s attention. Also found are affordable goods brought by traders from Nabatieh, the South and the Bekaa Valley. Moreover, the market has, since 2006, become the intent of many UNIFIL forces.

Nowadays, the market is cut by a tight road for the cars, around which small shops are present and to its sides tents are mounted to handle the products. There are many alleys and side streets to the market. To the right of the road, between eucalyptus and cypress trees, products like clothes, dresses, carpets, shoes and home utensils are displayed. To the left of the road, all kinds of fruits, vegetables and sweets are displayed. To the south, we find a big market for meats and barbecue products. Also to the south, exists a big animal market used for trading cattle. Additionally, there is a section for plants: fruit trees, forest trees and various flowers. The noises, sounds, discussions and variety of local dialects show the market goer that social interaction plays a major role in the market.

Hasbayya has kept the market within its interest. It has therefore cooperated with foreign funding entities aimed at updating the market’s infrastructure, while preserving its old-fashioned traditions and feel. Consequently, the work was distributed over 8,000 square meters, in addition to the renovation of the Khan over four thousand square meters. The project included the construction of eighty shops roofed with tiles, surrounded with parking lots that fit up to two hundred and fifty cars. Distributed inside are green spaces that hold old trees. In addition, the project holds a slaughterhouse, bathrooms and a multi-purpose exhibition room built of concrete, with a meat market on its roof. This is the heritage of Souk El-Khan. Also, the project includes a public park equipped with seats and amusements for children with ongoing security under the municipality’s supervision.

Shot List

Wide shot of Marjaayoun area
Close up on the sign boards
Various shots of the traffic, the merchants, and the people in the area of the market
Various shots of cattle in the market
Various shots of butchers in the market and people eating meat.

SOUNDBITES

(01:11-02:08)

(Arabic, Man) Unnamed

Al-Khan market is the oldest vegetable market in Lebanon. A bit down from here, there used be a khan [a hotel], where people from many countries used to stay and sell their merchandise on camels and horses.
I am 70 years old now. I used to come here with my father to sell iron tools, for agriculture and so. Until this day, I still come here, I made a family, built a house, bought properties, and my pocket is full, thank God, all because of this market.

(02:32-03:08)

(Arabic, Man) Unnamed

Al-Khan market is located in the center of Marjaayoun area in Hasbayya, it dates from the ottoman times. It is a very ancient market, and as we said, the inhabitants of the area come here to sell their products – grains, cattle, grapes, figs, nuts and almonds, and vegetables.

(03:51-04:07)

(Arabic, Man) Unnamed

We have been coming here for 20 years. We have to come to the market to trade and sell.
Interviewer: What do you sell?
I sell cattle. I have a butcher shop and I sell cattle.

(04:36-05:06)

(Arabic, Man) Unnamed

It is a very old market, over 200 years old. Caravans used to arrive here carrying agricultural products, silk, and fabrics. There used to be a khan a bit down from here; it used to be a station for merchants and their cattle. There, they were able rest and then to continue their journey to the south.

(05:18-05:35)

(Arabic, Man) Unnamed

Now it is all about money, you buy something and you pay for it. Before, it used to be a trade system. People brought chickpeas, and took tomatoes in exchange for them, or exchange cabbage for bring tomatoes. Now, this does not take place anymore.