In Aleppo there's a "market" known as "Thursdays and petty theft market" (suq al-khamis wa-l-laslasa), even though it runs throughout the week--under the heat of the burning sun, and under the drizzling rain--and, as far as I know, the displayed "commodities" were not stolen. Thursday is generally, however, the shopping day par excellence, as it comes right before the Friday closing (but does it close on Friday? Does it close any time?). As you can see, it's an open market, and it's location used to be a couple of blocks south of the micro-buses terminal. When the work for the new Asad Library began early this year, the bus terminal was shut down and moved to the location of suq al-khamis, which forced the market to relocate one block down the terminal. Now the two are face-to-face and provide wildly different sceneries. The displayed "commodities" are definitely the strangest part of the suq. For one, they're hyper-used and over-used objects, to the point that one wonders whether there's anything in them that still functions properly. Phones, beds, shoes, TVs, VCRs, computers, furniture, cell phones, jeans, underwear--you'll find everything that you want and that you don't want. But why should you buy that kind of stuff? If you're not part of the underclass--now a hefty majority among the three million or so Aleppo inhabitants--you'll have no reason to buy anything that will, for sure, not function--or malfunction at best. It does seem that the ones who market that kind of stuff are the same ones who buy them, meaning it's a closed market for the Aleppo underclass. Even a casual look at the displayed objects will suffice to inform us as to what the underclass "owns": nothing at all, as it's not even the bare minimum. It's already the lowest common denominator, below which looms only starvation. "Why are you taking pictures of us? Are you enjoying the scenery?," asked one of the sellers. I was ashamed to tell him that poverty is "photogénique," and that it's much easier to photograph the poor than the wealthy. Indeed, the poor tend to exhibit themselves--at least the males, and girls below a certain age--more easily than the wealthy bourgeois who have learned the benefits of "privacy" and what an "individualistic" culture entails. When I told my inquirer, "every human being is worth a photograph," I was, of course, cheating. There's something in the faces of the underclass that definitely worth more. It's that uncontrollable poverty that points to the failures of a political and economic system, maybe to an entire culture and civilization.

portfolio of suq al-khamis

copyright © 2004 by zouhair ghazzal