Kelantan’s women are famed for their beauty and their assertiveness, sometimes to the consternation of men not from the area. Women rule the market, and their homes as well: men are not reputed to have good business sense, and for the most part they seem to accept it gracefully and retire to the coffee shops which surround any market. The divorce rate in Kelantan is quite high, the highest in Malaysia, and I believe it is in part due to women’s ability to earn their own living, and make their own way. They are women who take charge of their stalls and their lives, and live in no man’s shadow: Mak Cik Maryam, I hope, represents this tradition.
  • The market is packed! The vegetable sellers were the outside ‘layer’ of the market, and the cloth sellers were inside.
    Steps at Home
  • Some market women took their wares into Kota Bharu’s neighborhood kampong, and sold door to door. This woman sold fish in Kampong Dusun, arriving every morning to sell the fresh catch.
    Wan Hamida
  • This cloth seller is minding the store, in front of her stock of Kelantan made batik.
    Sabak at Dawn
  • See, husbands do help! This man was carrying stock home after a day at the market, where his wife had a stall.
    Selling Snacks
  • This stall specialized in woven goods, made from palm leaves. Notice the rolled sleeping mats (called ‘tikar’) on the woman’s right.
    Pantai Sabak