Sustainable travel will be a big focus of our grand tour of the world this year. Whenever we settle into a place we’ll be buying local produce and local products wherever we go. We want to inspire you to do the same on your travels.
As we’ve travelled the globe over the past few years we’ve noticed an increasing trend for markets around the world to all sell the same trashy manufactured stuff — a real blight for those who believe in sustainable travel and buying local.
From Jordan to Spain and Bangkok to Bahrain the same cheap, mass-produced souvenirs, plastic trinkets and machine-made textiles and carpets keep turning up.
We’ve been seeing everything from Kashmiri ‘pashminas’ made in Korea to ‘local’ tribal jewellery sold right across the Asia and the Middle East that comes from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Conversely, the amount of authentic, locally produced handicrafts and other products are in serious decline, or are simply finding it hard to find buyers.
In recent months, we revisited a handful of markets across the Middle East and in Thailand that once sold largely locally-made goods that are now selling tacky foreign-made ornaments that have nothing to do with the country or culture where they’re being sold. In Petra, Jordan, for instance, most of the stalls that are scattered about the site are selling junk from China.
While we find it mind-boggling that people buy this stuff, we can only assume that most people don’t know where the things are coming from and are trusting the vendors who tell them it is made locally. It’s disheartening to know that traditional crafts are dying in the process, as much as it is to know that this rubbish is being transported halfway around the globe.
We’ve persistently promoted locally-made products in the writing and photography we’ve done over the years, writing about everything from home-grown specialty food products, such as ‘nduja, the fiery sausage from Calabria, Italy, to bespoke, handmade leather bags in Rome, to handcrafted musical instruments such as the oud (Arabic lute) and saz (a Turkish instrument) and their makers in Cairo and Istanbul.
One example of the kind of projects we love to discover and support is Anat,* a non-profit collective in Syria, established and operated by a Palestinian-German family, with a workshop in the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, that markets and sells beautiful embroidered products made by women in villages across Syria (see the photos above).
This year, we will continue to seek out and identify unique, authentic, locally-produced goods, both traditional and modern, from food and wine, handicrafts and textiles, to clothes and accessories, and highlight these here on Grantourismo. We’ll visit the craftspeople and artisans who make them and talk to the people keeping their traditions and culture alive.
Is there really anyone out there who is happy to see a stand in a traditional market selling knock-off Crocs or fake designer sunglasses, where once there were locally made leather sandals and handcrafted bags?
Are we the only people who get annoyed about seeing unplayable Chinese-made guitars and Indian knick-knacks for sale in the souqs of Jerusalem? We’d love to know what you think.
And if you know of some ‘must-have’ locally-made handicrafts, artisanal foods and wines, or other authentic goods that you want us to report on here, please let us know in the comments below.
You might also like our post on Travelling Responsibly: How to Shop Ethically and Sustainably.
*Sadly, Anat no longer exists. You can read more about the story of Anat and about its tragic demise here.