Turmeric. Paprika. Cumin. Saffron. Coriander. Piles of rich spices that taste as warm as the colors they wear, resplendent in reds, yellows, oranges, and bronzes. Many I don’t even know the names for. How do I choose what to buy? Next to them are more piles of pistachios, almonds, figs, and Turkish Delight. Amber-filled glasses demonstrate how rose tea blooms inside the cup. Their vendors call out, claiming that their spices and nuts and fruit are the best–the cheapest, the most flavorful. The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul is densely populated with these tables heavily laden with their wares. Squeezed between them are other vendors, selling amulets and charms, coffee services, bolts of silk, rugs and carpets of all sizes, and other, more touristy items. I simply wander, breathing in the mixed scent of the spices, listening to the constant stream of languages, mostly Turkish and English, taking in the scenes of sellers and buyers haggling over the price of this, or the price of that. I buy a bag of dried strawberries, the most delicious dried fruit I have ever tasted. If I had the wealth, and the luggage room, I would have bought a sampling of spices, a coffee set, and my own magic carpet. Near closing time, I successfully haggle down the price for a small hamsa, also called the Hand of Fatima, no larger than my own hand. I slip out into the warm evening, proud of my prize from the Spice Bazaar.
Photo: The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.