With the countdown in days – or rather hours – to Christmas Day, our thoughts turn to shopping. But not the glitzy, swish designer and brand name shops that now dominate Valletta and Sliema’s main streets. We’re pausing in the Christmas rush to take a look at the far more mundane, work-a-day shops that cater to our local needs 364 days a year – the village bazaars.
The village bazaar is an Aladdin’s cave, not for all that glitters, though it’s bound to have all the Christmas paraphernalia in stock right now. The bazaar will stock just about any useful little thing a home and family could want – from everyday items like light bulbs, food containers, preserving jars, dustbins and plastic buckets, to seasonal goods like cheap plastic Xmas trees, fans (summer) and gas heaters (winter). It’s always the first to signal seasons changing. It may also offer dry cleaner services and do a good trade in bed mattresses, conveniently taking away your old one for free! It has shower curtains, cheap towels, buttons and cotton. Need a belt, shoe lace or hair grips? The Bazaar is the place.
The bazaar is often named after its owner; my first rented place in Malta when I moved here was (conveniently) next door to ‘Silvia Bazaar’ in the lower reaches of Zabbar. I didn’t mind her wares spreading across my frontage – I was a regular and she had everything I needed. My local one now is a corner shop that doubles up as the place for catching up on gossip about who’s died and what ailments people have. As the word ‘bazaar’ suggests, these shops are merely stone and mortar versions of a market place and certainly have a busy market feel to them. And as with most local shops, if you’re a regular, you can put things on the ‘tab’ or if you’re out of change, just pay a day or so later.
If you do live near a bazaar, try it first if you’re seeking something for the house. I almost drove to a large kitchen store the other day, but thought I’d just see if the bazaar had what I needed. And lo and behold it did! You might not be getting those special presents for nearest and dearest from the bazaar this week, but I am sure if you find your roasting tin for the turkey too small, you’ll be hot footing it to the bazaar round the corner. As always, it will be open mercifully late on Christmas eve!
Photo: Gethin Thomas