Cardamon, cumin, cinnamon, and sumac wafted, mingling with unfiltered cigarettes, rotting garbage, and urine, and the unmistakable stench of oily, perfumed bodies pushing past in search of their next meal or treasure. My foot shifted as it slid across a rounded stone in the narrow corridor, made wet by the dripping ice under the raw fish on display in one stall. Next to it, the source of the sweet scents, a ground spices carved into patterns and textures, their earthy orders turning heads to admire the edible artwork. Squeals screeched from another, brightly banded birds in gold cages matching the scarves next door of gold, blue, and red fluttering in the breeze of those hurrying by. Cut flowers in white buckets offered a momentary respite from the kaleidoscope of smells, sights, and sounds. A honking bray parted the crowds as I paused, a heavily laden mule clomping its way through a well-worn and practiced path on autopilot, unaccompanied Its baskets swayed back and forth as people inhaled to back away, then swelled together behind it, a never-ending stream of humanity snaking its way through the dark.
Location: Egyptian Spice Market, Istanbul, Turkey