Weaving and braiding straw has played a part in Bahamian culture since the early 1940s.
The original open air straw market in Nassau, Bahamas covered an entire block on Bay Street. Vendors in the market would craft baskets to carry fruit and weave nets for fish traps to support the island lifestyle. After World War II, tourism to the Bahamas became popular and Vendors started selling straw bags, straw hats and non-straw souvenirs like t-shirts and other colorful items.
In 2001, the original Nassau Straw Market burned down and the current air conditioned straw market was completed in 2011. The modern market has around 500 vendors selling a wide variety of merchandise ranging from straw products and other handmade item to traditional souvenir items like ball caps and t-shirts.
Handmade straw items are no longer the primary products in the market but they are still available. Straw products like baskets, floor mats, purses, hats, dolls and fans are some of the items that can still be bought in the market.
In addition to straw items, other handmade products are sold in the market. A large number of vendors sell wood carved souvenirs along with conch shell crafts and jewelry. Some of the products are being made in the market.
Not all goods in the market are handmade! The Straw Market is full of manufactured products that are similar to most souvenirs which are found anywhere around the world. Products that are tagged “Made in China” are commonly found on ball caps, t-shirts, other clothing and bags but somewhere on them in big letters will be “Bahamas” so that you will be reminded of your time in the Nassau Straw Market.
One of my most anticipated reasons for traveling is it experience the cultures of the places that I visit. Going to local markets is a good way to experience a portion of the local culture. The products that are being sold, the atmosphere in the market and interacting with the vendors tell me a lot about the local culture.
Of course, two of my primary reasons to visit a local market is to buy unique products that can only be found in that specific area and to sample local foods made like they have been for generations.
The Nassau Straw Market is one of those places that can satisfy all of those desires. One of a kind locally handmade products are easily found in the market, local foods are nearby the market and spending time in the market will give you a glimpse into the local culture.