[ #TheMagicCity ] • The International Bazaar
Its Torii Gate is a landmark & unmistakable from the distance.
I suppose you can say that it was the heart & soul of the Magic City. I would say that it was more sought after than the Port Lucaya Marketplace. It was an attraction for all persons; visitors to the island and the island’s permanent residents.
It is (or was, depending on who you’re speaking to), the International Bazaar. As a child, Saturday afternoons would be spent here. Browsing stores or walking through the famous, “Arcade” and staring at the glass blower, completely fascinated by his talent and crafts. Sundays were spent in one of its restaurants.
The International Bazaar was opened for business sometime in 1967. It was one of the main shopping areas for residents of and visitors to the Magic City. Living up to its name, the 10-acre complex was divided into sections representing different areas & cultures of the world. These regions ranged from Africa, France, India, the Middle East, the Orient, Scandinavia, and South America. In each section, there were shopping outlets and even restaurants with dining options that represented that particular region.
There is no denying the fact that this open-air shopping mecca once attracted thousands of visitors. Today, however, there is no sign of the allure that it once possessed. Taking a visit to the International Bazaar can quite possibly be compared to a visit to the ruins of the City of Pompeii; destroyed by a volcanic eruption so long ago. There are dilapidated buildings and almost impassable walkways due to the copious amounts of debris and overgrown shrubbery.
During my visit, I was able to speak to one of the last remaining vendors in the Straw Market section of the Bazaar. His name, Ricardo Dean. Originally from Lowe Sound, North Andros, he now makes his living from his woodwork. He told me that there are about 19 business operators in the Bazaar today. Most of which were Straw Vendors, who, I’m assuming, aren’t quite ready to give up on the Bazaar. In the beginning of our conversation, Mr. Dean spoke of the Bazaar as if it was still in its glory days, only to accept the reality that, “things just ain’t how they use to be any more”.
It was sobering. In its heyday, there were almost 100 businesses and small business owners in the International Bazaar. After the opening of the Bahamas Princess Resort, the two essentially became one. And, after the twin hurricanes of 2004, business was finished for both properties.
Since then, there have been a few revival and clean-up campaigns for the Bazaar. However, none of them have been successful in the long run.
“The once attractive and bustling landmark is now an obscure, filthy mess and a graveyard of abandoned vacant stores, with only a handful of struggling merchants and straw vendors with nowhere else to go.” – The Bahamas Tribune