Wednesday, October 04, 2006
The spice of life
I never saw a region take its spices so seriously as the Middle East. They sell them in bulk in open-air markets - I've always said everything is sold by the kilo in Damascus, and spices are no exception. If you want to take home two pounds of oregano, in Damascus, you can do it.
When you walk through the spice section of the souq in Damascus or in Aleppo, the aroma is almost overpowering. It's almost too much, especially because it's usually mingled with the smell of the fresh meat section just down the way, or, heaven forbid, the perfume section the next aisle over.
The vendors often create elaborate spice displays such as the ones above. These particular works of spice-y art are in the Aleppo souq.
These are the shelves at a spice shop in the Sha'alan neighborhood of Damascus. As you may recall, it's a language-learning strategy of ours to take pictures of menus so that you can memorize any unfamiliar words. I don't think we got very far with this one, though, because some of these spices aren't known to me even in English!
Here is the other side of the spice shop. In addition to the canisters on the shelves, this shop also had large barrells of spices on the store floor.
My favorite thing about this spice shop was that one of the "spices" for sale was actually Milo, that pseudo-Ovaltine drink from Nestle.
So whether it's 500 grams of za'atar or enough Milo to last you a few months, you can be sure that Syria's spice vendors can meet your needs.