Before my eyes could adjust, the smell was upon me–pungent and powerful. My eyes were stinging with scents I did not recognize. Inside the ancient spice bazaar, crowds were swirling, the noise was disorienting. Shop keepers smiled and nodded at weathered women. Women scowled back in negotiation. Shouting began as a wave that crested and broke over exotic shops in the tidal rhythm of the ancient spice trade.
I raised my camera to capture the confusion and she froze. Perhaps she thought her burka made her invisible. Amidst the current of chaos she had been invisible. I would not have noticed the androgynous shape among the many shapes in motion. It was in that moment of pause that our eyes met. Her eyes were all I could see. Sights and sounds and people were swirling about us and I could see her eyes.
I think that’s what I felt. I’m not sure if that’s what I saw.
She raised her hand, translucent against her robes and I took the photograph. We stood there for moments, centuries swirling before us. I could not see beneath her coverings. I had no desire to violate tradition. But in that moment, in her eyes, I could sense a depth of inner life, hidden beneath the burka; hopes, dreams, struggles, desires, hiding in the Misir Carsisi Spice Bazaar, in Istanbul.