I think the term "shop til you drop" was created with Bahia's Mercado Modelo in mind. Over 300 handicraft stalls cram three levels, along with a colorful collection of bars and restaurants. Although the Mercado is filled with authentic Bahian culture, from baianas selling acaraje, to capoeira performed at the entrance, the place was clearly created for tourists. So it you're like me and can't stand to go near any silly tourist traps, don't pass up the Mercado. You'll have to haggle and the sheer number of souvenirs, along with huge crowds and echoing noise is overwhelming but its worth the experience.
The paintings reveal a riot of vivid colors and talent. Most of the vendors aren't aggressive and you can browse without being harassed. I think it helped that I was mistaken for a local Baiana, even though my Portuguese is horrifying. I haggled for two small orixa paintings that now hang triumphantly in my hallway.
For music and instrument fans, there's never ending displays of handcrafted drums, flutes and berimbaus, the traditional stringed instrument played during capoeira. This pile of drums was just one of many creative arrangements that I saw.
Ceremonial masks are also popular at the Mercado. Some were imported from Africa and some were carved in Brazil, in honor of various orixas or deities.
Because the African/Brazilian religion of candomble permeates every aspect of daily Brazilian life, figurines and statues of candomble orixas are found everywhere. Here, Xango, deity of thunder and Yemanja, deity of the sea, tempt art lovers and candomble worshippers alike.