Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Sunday Market in Mary.

Camels for sale.

We ended our visit to Mary with a bit of fun. We went to the market. But since today was Sunday, we got to visit the animal market. This is the one day of the week that the villagers can bring their livestock to sell.

The market was located just on the outskirts of town. Dolat pulled the van to an area of the market grounds that was designated for parking. It was like the parking you get when you go to the county fairground except there was no longer any grass here - it was just bare dirt.



We followed Jabbar into the heart of the market.


The market take place every Sunday and it looks as if it's just set up on an empty piece of land. The market is huge and is organized into sections by type of animal. Where we entered was where the goats and sheep were sold. We walked along the *road*. On either side were people and the animals they had for sale.




With the exception of a few wired pens, the animals were pretty sold in the open - tethered to whatever was necessary or able to hold them still. Some were just left in the back hold of a truck. It was quite a sight all around us! I was surprised to see the variety and color of goats and sheep. Some were quite beautiful. According to Jabbar, many of the goats and sheep sold here are sold for their fur which Turkmens use to make their traditional hats from. Price wise, it starts from about $40 USD for a small animal and then goes up from there depending on size and the rarity of the variety.


I couldn't help taking this photo of the butts.....with no tails.  Cute?  Okay, maybe not cute but unusual.

Jabbar had a soft spot for all the baby animals. As many as he could lean down and pet, he did. If he could pick one up, he did. They all melted his heart.


I don't know what this breed of sheep is but their hair is very popular for traditional Turkmen hats.

It was fascinating to see all the activity around us. On the surface, it seemed chaotic but it was obvious that the sellers were regulars here and they knew the rhyme and order to everything.


Along our walk, we came upon a makeshift stand that was selling food. I was curious so I went to check it out. A young girl was busy packing freshly baked samsa into plastic bags. Someone had placed a large order.

A bowl of freshly baked samsa.

A man then approached her for more water for the tea kettle. It's amazing what you can figure out by just observing people's actions.

Even in this place, there are no disposable cups or pots for serving and drinking tea in!


Underneath the corrugated tin roof was a woman standing over a tandir oven. She had samsa cooking inside. I took a few photos from in front of her and then went behind her to take a few more. Standing behind the woman, I could feel the heat emanating from the tandir - it was hot!


Slapping the unbaked samsa on to the side of the fiery hot tandir oven.

She was standing even closer to it - I don't know how she took it! As I was about to walk away, she handed me a plastic plate. On it were two samsas. With her hands, she indicated that one was for me and one was for Pat. I took the plate, nodded and said, "Thank you". I was incredibly touched by her generosity. I found Pat and told her what had just happened and then went off to find Jabbar. I wanted to have him pay her. I knew she wouldn't likely accept the money but I wanted to offer anyways. Jabbar felt the same as I and initially he resisted approaching her until I insisted. As expected, it was a treat from her to us. I asked Jabbar to reiterate our appreciation in Turkmen and to tell her that these were THE best samsa that we've had on our trip so far. The meat was flavorful and perfectly seasoned and the fact that it was fresh out of the oven....well, that just put this samsa a notch above all the others we've had. And that was the honest truth!!


As I munched on my samsa, I noticed Jabbar striking up a conversation with a woman. Later, he told us that she was from Afghanistan.....from the same village that his family had fled to as refugees decades earlier. She was surprised to find out that he spoke her language. Turned out she was looking for a guide to take her and her family around in Ashgabat. Jabbar lives in Ashgabat, he's a licensed guide and he speaks their language. A win all the way around!

Afghan woman exchanging contact info with Jabbar.

The pretty, young Turkmen girl who works alongside her aunt,
selling samsa and tea.  You can see the Asian touch in her facial features.

Had to walk pass more goats and sheep on the way to the camels :-)

After our snack, we made our way to the area where the camels were sold. Camels cost about $1500 or more for an adult so they are not cheap animals to buy. Hence, there weren't all that many for sale. Here, camels are used for milk and their fur - Turkmen do not eat camel meat.



Contrary to popular belief, camels are not mean and they don't spit. At least that has been true for all the camels I've met. They do bray (??) when they are unhappy but what animal doesn't cry out when they're not happy?



Their legs may be spindly but the large pads of their feet make it easy for these beasts of burden to walk on sand.


Looking back towards the sheep and goat market.

Queen of Camels?

A pair of friendly but very curious young boys.

We stopped to see the adults and then went over to the spot where there were two baby camels. They were tethered up. Jabbar, the softie, couldn't help but pet one.

The baby was suckling on Jabbar's finger.  Poor thing was hungry.

The owner told Jabbar that the baby camel was only 3 days old. It was so cute.  We asked why they were separated from their mothers and the owner said it was deliberate - so the babies would not wean but it was obvious from their cries that they were hungry. I don't know if it was because we were standing there or what but after a few heart wrenching wails from the babies, the owner came by and untied them. We then watched a most fascinating thing happen before our eyes. Both babies scampered over towards the group of adult camels. Though they were only a few days old, there were already veterans with using their legs which seemed so thin and fragile.

A baby camel in search of its mother.


Sniffing different adults to try and find its own mother.  An amazing act of behavior to see.

Between crying out and sniffing each adult camel and moving among the camels in the group, each baby eventually found its own mother! We watched as one baby licked each of its mothers teats in succession. That action is to get the milk flowing.


Sucking on each teat to get the milk flowing.


Once there was milk, the baby then latched on and drank. How amazing is it that a 3 day old camel not only knows how to find its mother but to also get the milk flowing from her teats? Poor thing was hungry though. He was gulping so hard and fast that milk was dripping out from the side of his mouth.

Milk, at last!

The other baby also found its mother. Amazing animal instincts at work!

After the camels, we headed over to the cattle market.  Along the way, we passed a row of trucks filled with goats for sale.


The cattle market turned out to be a pretty boring place after the goats, sheep and camels. We were there for barely 10 minutes.



By now, it was around noon - time for the villagers to pack up their unsold animals and go home. We stood by to watch one man rope the feet on his sheep and then with the assistance of another man, haul the animal up into the back of a truck. One by one, he got the animals ready for transport home.






Somewhere in this vast market were the chickens but I was sure we couldn't top what we had already seen. Besides, I was getting hungry. Yes, it was time for lunch!