What do you imagine when you think about spices? Little glass jars with coloured lids, dutifully lining the shelves of your local supermarket? Or are you transported to ancient bazaars, bustling with curious shoppers and vendors energetically going about their business amid a rainbow of fragrant spices? For those with a passion for travel and an insatiable appetite for new and exotic flavours, the world’s spice markets are a haven waiting to be explored. Read on and be inspired by the spice markets that we know and love, then discover them for yourself…
Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar
Tantalising scents envelop you from the moment you step through the 17th century gates of Istanbul’s famous Spice Bazaar, welcoming you to the hub of the spice trade since the Ottoman Empire. Fuel up at the gate with a Turkish coffee from one of the oldest coffee shops, Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, then venture into a vibrant whirl of spices. The most sought after ingredient, saffron, often comes from Iran or India and even the locals admit that the best varieties of the golden spice are imported, while aniseed reigns as the prized local spice. Naturally, we’re drawn here to experience the spices, the ambience and the history but few expect to find natural remedies from long established but sadly diminishing herbalists or to be filled to bursting with titbits from the vendors! With myriad flavours of Turkish Delight on offer (our favourite is the pomegranate) alongside dried apricots and figs stuffed with pistachios and walnuts, it’s wise to take your time and allow the experience to account for at least two meals. Don’t forget to memorise the word Lezzetli, meaning Delicious – you’ll need it!
Discover Turkey on Trafalgar’s 14 Day Best of Turkey itinerary
The Mellah, Marrakech
It’s hard to avoid spices in sun-baked Morocco, with plenty on offer throughout the country and not least in our favourite spot, Marrakech’s Mellah spice souk, situated in the Jewish Quarter. Often crafted into brightly coloured and impossibly perfect pyramids (could they be the eighth wonder of the world?) spices such as saffron, cumin and coriander, to name but a few, are widely available and insanely flavourful. Surprisingly, the flavour we’d go back for again and again is the rich, zingy ginger. Your supermarket pales in comparison, so learn to haggle like a local and stock up. Afterwards, set a course for Jemaa el Fnaa and enjoy the exhilaration of a star-lit medina, buzzing with street food vendors, wandering fortune tellers and of course… the obligatory snake charmer.
Experience the 9 day Best of Morocco trip with Trafalgar
Old Delhi’s Ancient Khari Baoli
Vibrant colours and intoxicating scents assault your senses, beckoning you into Old Delhi’s Khari Baoli Spice Market; swiftly putting you under the spell of the culture and into the hands of the locals. Shopping side by side, locals and tourists seek the rich foods and flavours that have been sold here since the 17th century. Those willing to venture deep into the narrow streets and alleys will be rewarded with a breath-taking array of spices, teas, nuts, dried fruits and the sweet, peppery scent of red chilli. Overwhelming at first, the sights and sounds of the market soon soak in, allowing you to relax and seek out ingredients like cinnamon and cardamom from Southern India, or Black Gold (black pepper) from Kerala. Kind and enthusiastic vendors give their sunny smiles for free and, occasionally, you’ll find a little paper recipe book tucked in with your purchases, their way of ensuring that ancient recipes are preserved the world over. Inevitably, hunger strikes hard here, so give in to the local street speciality, Paratha; bread stuffed with cauliflower and fried in butter oil. Maybe just one more…
Indulge in ancient India on Trafalgar’s Leisurely Rajasthan with Mumbai itinerary
Words by Laura Wilson-North