Destination Rio de Janeiro, the first travel to the former capital of Brazil.
In Downtown Rio, one block consists of numerous interesting small stores and market stalls in narrow streets.
Day 3: 2 PM.
Deborah, Rodrigo and I did not have the intention to hang around the pousada in the afternoon. We said goodbye to the other three, and went searching for a bus stop, where buses heading for ‘Centro’ would stop. We ask three bystanders, who directed us to different locations. The third one proved to have provided the correct information; even for the cariocas (inhabitants of Rio) the bus system seems to be quite complicated. Fortunately, the proper bus arrived quickly. It was very quiet in the bus, but the bus driver was very talkative. Also here it is against the rules to talk to the bus driver when he is driving. He promised to warn us when he will stop for us near the center. It is quite a distance, from Copacabana to Downtown Rio. More or less 20 kilometers, equivalent to the distance from Amsterdam to Haarlem. The population size of Rio is about fifty percent of the entire Dutch population…
About forty minutes later, we arrived at the bus stop just outside the center. The friendly bus driver gave us detailed advice, how to walk towards downtown. Rodrigo gave him two reais as a reward for his cooperation. Again we dearly missed a city map; as outsiders we constantly had the feeling to be lost in this metropolis. Rodrigo had a good sense of direction, and was easy going when asking bystanders for the correct direction. We walked towards the tower of a large church, which was our focus. We passed numerous market stalls, along narrow streets where the black market flourished. Trade in pirate discs, cheap electronics, fake designer clothes, fake perfumes. Until recently, many streets in downtown Belo Horizonte were occupied by market stalls with these products. Formally, this kind of trade is not allowed. However, the city government has opted to control this trade instead of banning it. Two large buildings in the center were transformed into locations where such trade is now concentrated and controllable. The centers of Shopping Oiapoque , better known as “Shopping Oi”, and Shopping Xavantes. The traders pay little money for the rental of their stalls, and spend much less concerning salaries of staff personnel; they have control of everything by themselves.
Without really realizing it, we had arrived in SAARA, a popular area with many small shops and stalls. A number of pavements were covered with a red carpet. SAARA is not misspelled as a girl’s name, but just think an ‘H’ somewhere in that name: correct, you will get … Sahara. SAARA is the Portuguese translation of ‘Sahara’. But SAARA has nothing to do with the desert in Northern Africa. It is the abbreviation of the local community of shopkeepers. SAARA is anything but a deserted desert; it is a busy and crowded shopping center in downtown Rio. I was very cautious here; I did not show my digital camera too much, and hid it quickly, after taking pictures. Rodrigo and Deborah already had warned me to be careful. Not without reason, since Rio is notorious in the substantial number of robberies and robbery. Fortunately, I could use my old European trick. A trick to hide my device in a plastic bag, that was full of papers, knickknacks, and more plastic bags. It was as if I had done my purchases in a large number of stores. The camera is slightly better hidden between the plastic bags, and I was able to retrieve it quickly without drawing much attention from others.
The SAARA is located within a block of narrow streets. Many small and larger shops, their ware gracefully positioned in front of their entrances. With less than three weeks to go before Christmas, the theme is clearly obvious. Christmas decorations. Christmas snacks. Christmas clothing. Christmas music. A huge variety of everything that has to do with Christmas. We walked slowly in these streets, observing everything that was caught our eyes. But we rarely stopped; even Deborah did not need to surrender to the magnetic attraction of the stores. The shopping was lavishly decorated with red and green garlands that were spanned across the street. Some stores had extra decorations: a Santa Claus who was climbing the walls, reindeer at almost full size. It’s funny to see that in Brazil the American version of Santa Claus is dominating. What would Christmas look like, if Santa Claus was portrayed in the Brazilian way? Sitting on a white horse? With a miter and a red robe like a bishop? Would he be white, or brown, or black? I am only using my fantasy, but maybe the image of the Dutch Sinterklaas might fit better in tropical Brazil…..
|The SAARA Market in Rio de Janeiro
|Guia de Compras do Saara-RJ (makes, bijus, bolsas…)
|Saara Market in Rio de Janeiro
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2007,2014