Tucked into the southeast corner of the Grand Souk, the diminutive Spice Souk (now signed “Herbs Market”) is perhaps the most atmospheric – and certainly the most fragrant – of the city’s many bazaars. Run almost exclusively by Iranian traders, the shops here stock a wide variety of culinary, medicinal and cosmetic products, with tubs of merchandise set out in front of each tiny shopfront. All the usual spices can be found – cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander – along with more unusual offerings such as dried cucumbers and lemons (a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine), incense and heaps of hibiscus and rose petals, used to make a delicately scented tea. The souk is also famous for its frankincense, sold in various different forms and grades – the most common type looks like a kind of reddish, crumbling crystalline rock; frankincense burners can be bought in the souk for a few dirhams. Most stalls also sell natural cosmetic products such as pumice and alum (a clear rock crystal used to soothe the skin after shaving), while male visitors in search of a pick-me-up will also find plentiful supplies of so-called “natural viagra”.

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