Shopping in Panama City

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Panama City Shopping

Panama City has more shopping options than you can shake a credit card at. Because of the country's role as an international port, manufactured goods from all over the world are cheaper in Panama than in most countries. Merchants from South and Central America regularly travel here to shop, but Americans will find that the U.S. megastores often beat the local prices for cameras and other electronic goods—plus the stores back home are more convenient in terms of warranties. Busy Vía Veneto, in El Cangrejo, and the Casco Viejo have souvenir shops. The city also has several modern malls, where the selection ranges from the cheap to chic.

Panama also produces some lovely handicrafts. The famous Panama hat is misnamed, because it's actually made in Ecuador, but it has been associated with Panama since Teddy Roosevelt was photographed wearing one when he traveled to the country to check on canal construction. Panama does, however, produce its own distinctive handwoven hats. The country's second most popular handicraft is the mola, a fabric picture sewn by Guna women and worn on their blouses as part of their traditional dress. The Guna are also known for their bead bracelets and necklaces, as well as simple jewelry made from seeds and shells. The Emberá and Wounaan are known for their animal figures carved out of dark cocobolo wood, or the seed of a rain-forest palm called tagua. They also produce attractive rattan baskets, bowls, and platters, which can take weeks to complete and are consequently expensive. The Ngöbe-Buglé Indians produce colorful dresses, jute shoulder bags, and intricate bead necklaces called chaquiras.

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