“It is said to be washed in the azure waves of the Gulf of Persia, and harvested by virgins at the dark of the moon.”


“We are coming with you to Kerman!” Fatima said.

Johanna was startled. “We only just decided we were going there.”

Fatima gave that remark the back of her hand. “Father has heard of a new kind of grain available in the west, one that in the right climate can bear twice in the same season.”

“Has Ahmed the baker become a grain merchant, then?”

“Who cares, so long as our time together is not yet done? Although—” Fatima managed to assume a stern expression “—we are not pitching our yurt anywhere near yours again. I tremble to think what would happen the next time you called on the North Wind for aid.” The four of them laughed.

Uncle Cheng had arranged for them to join a caravan headed for Kerman by way of Talikan, where they would trade for almonds and pistachios but mostly for salt. “It is said there are mountains of it,” Jaufre said.

“What’s so special about this particular salt?” Johanna said.

“It is said to be washed in the azure waves of the Gulf of Persia, and harvested by virgins at the dark of the moon.”

Johanna raised an eyebrow. “Hard on the feet, stumbling around all those rock pools at night.”

“Also said to be flavored with the blood of said virgins,” Jaufre said, inspired.

“Oh, well, we should definitely buy some, then.”

I love markets. Street markets, farmers markets, craft fairs, markets with 5,000 stalls where fifty thousand people have been meeting every Sunday to buy and sell since before Mohammed was born. Like Kashgar in Xinjiang in 2005 when I saw a guy making rivets for buckets, and then using them to make the buckets. And Kuche where I saw stuffed sheep’s lungs for sale, dyed pink and blue and green. Like the market in Urubamba, Peru, where I saw 52 different kinds of potatoes for sale, and the Waimea market on the Big Island where you can always find papayas and apple bananas and those fabulous Hawaiian avocados. This December I’m going on a Rhine River cruise to visit holiday markets in Germany, France, and Switzerland.

For me, markets are a window on the heart and soul of any society, seeing what people are making and selling and buying and eating, and yes that includes the good old American supermarket, where bags of Cheetos dominate the displays and it’ll take you ten minutes to find the natural food section, if you can find one at all. In Turkey we had a couple of hours in Izmir before we flew to Istanbul and I asked the guide if we could go see a Turkish supermarket. She thought I was nuts but away we went. I have never seen so many different kinds and brands of yogurt in one place in all my life.

Markets. Love ’em, and yes, one of the attractions in writing Silk and Song was that my main character is a trader.* –Dana

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*You may have noticed that the main character of the Eye of Isis novels is also a trader. Just, you know, 1,400 years before Johanna.

Chatter Eye of Isis Silk and Song

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Have just re read all the Silk and Song books, forgotten just how much
    I enjoyed them first time round! Couldn’t put them down, again, second time round, thank you Dana!

  2. Market fan here too! I live in Waimea and we now have 3. I got hooked on visiting supermarkets and grocery stores during travel while in Iceland. I need to reread Silk and Song, it’s time!

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