The Spice Souk of Dubai
Every city in the Middle East or South Asia has its market area that is centrally located and is situated in the oldest part of the city around which the rest of the city has grown over the centuries. These markets are called “souks” in the Middle East or “bazaars” in South Asia.
In pre-modern times before the spread of print or electronic media and widespread literacy, most of the merchants who sold the same product were in the same area of the market with their stalls right next to each other. This made it easy for buyers to find what they were looking for. Often each street in the souk would be named after the product sold there, e.g. “butcher street”, “gold lane”, “carpet alley”, etc.
The souk of Dubai is one of the oldest and best-known markets in the region. Dubai’s location near the entrance to the Persian Gulf places it strategically on the natural trade routes between India, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and East Africa. Of all the products found there in the souk, the spices are the most exotic, fragrant, and visually exciting. The fresh spices arrive daily by boat and are off loaded on the quay along Dubai Creek and carted into the spice souk where they are placed in front of the vendors’ shops for sampling. The Souk is a mix of sights, sounds, and smells that seductively draws you in.
It was in the Dubai Spice Souk that I first encountered some of the spices we are offering through “Spice Your Life.” I remember the first time I sampled “Za’atar” which is a blend of herbs and other spices and widely used throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The vendor invited me into his shop for tea, conversation, and a snack of warm bread with olive oil sprinkled with the Za’atar. Wow! It had a taste of earthy herbs and citrus that turned the simple olive oil and bread into something exotic and flavorful. I realized how simple fresh spices could transform your meals into something so much more than just another bland lunch or dinner. It was the spices that made all the difference.