Abu Al Hawa market in Kut has been selling alternative remedies for around two centuries now. But as one historian points out, the place is about more than just self-medication.
The stores in this market, in the centre of the southern Iraqi city of Kut, are tiny. There’s barely room for the owners to sit alongside their wares. But business is thriving here in the city’s “medicine market”, as it has done for almost two centuries now.
There are around 3,000 kinds of natural medicines available here, says Zaher Abu al-Hawa, the eldest son of the al-Hawa family whose ancestor is credited with creating this market around 200 years ago. “Its proof that comfort comes from the earth,” al-Hawa says poetically. “The healing power of the many different kinds of medicines sold here has given alternative medicine credibility.”
Al-Hawa says the market was first started during the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish occupation of Iraq. “It was named the Abu Al Hawa market because it was built by al-Haj Rashid Abu al-Hawa, the eldest son in the family at the time. He became famous for his knowledge of alternative medicines and he healed diseases that medicine at the time could not.”
Al-Hawa’s family, who started out selling herbs and vegetable fat, has grown prosperous thanks to the market, and their sons still work here in Kut today.