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Thursday, 12 February 2015 16:14

Ditch The Bull: Traditional Canary Island Souvenirs Worth Buying

Souvenir camel in Gran Canaria Souvenir camel in Gran Canaria

 Back-scratchers, novelty bottle openers and wonky plastic bulls all make amusing souvenirs from Gran Canaria. However, they don't have the authentic kudos of these quality Canarian handicrafts.

Canarian Knives

Traditional Canarian knives are known as "nifes".They have wide blades and a rounded handle that's either wooden or inlaid with horn and bone. Nifes were used for everything from cutting cheese to pruning banana trees. Today they are worn during fiestas and romerias, along with traditional Canarian clothes

Old Canary Island knives were made from scrap metal from old cars such as Model-T Fords. This made their thin blades very sharp, but prone to wear down over the years. Genuine old ones with worn down blades are collectors items and worth a lot of money.

Buy a nife from quality souvenir shops like Kactus or the state-run FEDAC shops, or buy a hand-made one from a local craftsman.

Pottery

Gran Canaria's pottery traditions started over 1000 years before the Spanish discovered the Canary Islands.

Because there are no rivers on the islands, and therefore no natural clay, Canarian pots are made from volcanic ash that is processed by hand to make it usable. Most are still made using coils as the island's original inhabitants didn't have potting wheels. Modern designs are still based on pre-historic pots and decorated with Guanche and Canarii designs like headless stick men, spirals and triangles.

The best modern Canary Island pots are sold in craft markets and during local fiestas and romerias.

Rum

Some people believe that rum was invented in the Canary Islands back when sugar cane was a major crop. It's still grown on the islands and most ends up made into local rum. The two main Gran Canaria brands are Arehucas and Artemi although the La Aldea brand is excellent. While it's now madein La Palma, the original factory was at La Aldea de San Nicolás in west Gran Canaria.

Buy Canarian rum in any supermarket on the island, or visit the Arehucas Distillery for free samples and a huge selection of different rums and liqueurs.

Cigars

Hand rolled cigars from La Palma island (known as Palmeros) are the best in the world after Cuban cigars. Many Cuban tobacco farmers are descended from Canarians and the cigar industry in the two islands has been linked for centuries.
You'll see men making Canary Island cigars by hand at romerias and craft fairs. It's a quick and skilled process.

If you like a good smoke, then stocking up on Palmeros in Gran Canaria makes sense. You'll also find some of the best-priced Cuban cigars in Europe on sale in cigar shops in Gran Canaria.

Other Stuff

Canarian women used to be famous for making lace, especially in fishing villages. The tradition has almost died out because it takes so long. Most lace work sold in souvenir shops is made abroad and shipped in. You can still find some authentic lace work for sale in craft shops.
Craftsmen still make baskets out of reeds, as well as felt hats and leather drinking pouches. Most shops also have modern ceramics and paintings.

Electronics

Gran Canaria is an excellent place to buy electronics such as cameras and phones. Taxes are low and prices often cheqaper than anywhere in Europe. However, please read this article before you choose a shop.

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