Ceará is renowned for the variety and quality of its traditional artesanato, and Fortaleza is a good place to stock up on pieces to add to your burgeoning folk art collection. You’ll find lots of wood carvings, ceramics, and leather goods, but two artisanal traditions that really stand out are woven hammocks and lacework.
The region’s cotton cultivation, together with its weaving traditions, make this the best place in Brazil to pick up a rede.No matter what Brazilian beach you happen to be on, if you ask the vendors hawking hammocks where their wares come from, the inevitable response will be “Ceará.” The region’s cotton cultivation, together with its weaving traditions, make this the best place in Brazil to pick up a rede. Some are very intricate, and they make excellent gifts for layabout friends back home. Meanwhile, you’ll find ample proof of Cearenses’ needle skills in the exquisite embroidery, lace, and crochet used to make everything from pillows and tablecloths to blouses and skirts.
The best places for artesanato include the Mercado Central (Av. Alberto Nepomuceno 199, tel. 85/3454-8586, 7:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.–noon Sun.), which is particularly good for hammocks, and the Centro do Turismo (Rua Senador Pompeu 350, tel. 85/3101-5507, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–noon Sat–Sun.). Ceart (Av. Santos Dumont 1589, Aldeota, tel. 85/3101-1644, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sat.), which also has a boutique in the Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar, sells pricier but very good quality artesanato. You can also peruse the stands at the nightly Feira Noturna held on Avenida Beira Mar from 5 p.m. onward, although you’ll have to search hard amid the profusion of souvenirs and tourist trinkets.
For contemporary fashion and beachwear, head to a couple of small malls in the chic hood of Aldeota, inland from Meireles: Shopping Buganvilia (Av. Dom Luís 1113) and Jardins Open Mall (Av. Desembargador Moreira 1011). Dirt-cheap clothing, shoes, and jewelry of the R$1.99 variety can be found by plunging into the bazaar-like commercial area surrounding Praça José Alencar, poetically known as the Beco da Poeira (Dust Alley).
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Brazil.