I wish I could give you more specific descriptions as to where these things were purchased since "Iran" and "Turkey" are extremely unhelpful locations, so I'll list the city if my parents remember it but otherwise I'm afraid I can't.
My mom knows how much I love trying local cosmetics so while they were in Tabriz (my dad's hometown in northern Iran) she got me two skincare products from Cinere--a nourishing facial cream and an anti-acne treatment. The interesting thing about the treatment is that it's meant to work sort of like a mask in that you apply it to cleansed skin, leave it on for 20 minutes and then wash it off. I've never used any acne treatment like that before, so I'm excited to give it a try. As far as I can tell, Cinere seems to be a natural brand, since the ingredients listed for the face cream are mostly oils like evening primrose, avocado and cotton seed with only very few chemicals. The anti-acne product also sounds a bit like a Lush spot treatment I once used as both rely on tea tree oil as the main ingredient.
Apparently, soap is a hugely popular skincare item in Turkey--and not just any old soap, of course. These bars are usually handmade and jam packed with all sorts of good ingredients for any skin type. My mom picked up a whole bunch from a bazaar--argan oil, tea tree, rose petal, and bitter almond--it's almost like Lush, only more natural! This is such a cool idea and would definitely make for a nice departure from the more artificial gel cleansers I tend to use. They also function as really lovely presents for the women in my family since there's a soap suitable for every skin type. I'll probably wind up using the tea tree (again, for my acne prone skin), the argan oil one is great for more mature or dry skin (it also smells a lot like MoroccanOil) and the rose and bitter almond are meant to cleanse the body. I was hoping the almond soap would be exfoliating, but while it isn't, it has the most delicious gourmand sort of scent. My dad also got me a soap from Nar in Istanbul containing olive oil, laurel oil and pistachio oil (who knew, right?) that smells deliciously Mediterranean. Apparently the brand also specializes in using regional and natural ingredients, which I always appreciate from a company. You can check out their website here.
(Left to right: bitter almond, tea tree, rose and argan)
I had also put in a request to my parents for some unusual looking evil eye jewelry--the ones you usually see here are kind of plain in my opinion, though definitely lovely in their own way. My dad said he got this from Anatolian Arts in Istanbul (where else would you go but Turkey for evil eye jewelry?) and I absolutely love how rustic it looks. The chain of the bracelet itself is gorgeous, and I love the sort of sponged painted print the pendant has.
And because no trip to the Middle East is complete without dessert, my dad and his notorious sweet tooth brought back a whole bunch of delicious sweets (or shirini--one of the few Farsi words I know!). I don't usually like Iranian desserts since I find them way too sugary sweet--which says a lot, coming from someone like me--but some of these treats are completely delectable so I thought I'd share them with you.
This particular goodie is one that I have yet to stop eating. I had never had them before and am currently looking up several different recipes online so I'll always have a stash on hand when the current supply runs out. These are koloocheh, from Lahijan by the Caspian Sea. My parents had already purchased some from the main bakery company there when their taxi driver told them of a place that makes them even better. A few dangerous swerves on a four-lane highway, and my parents arrived at Tishin, a relatively new bakery in the middle of nowhere that specializes in koloocheh. They're difficult to describe and the translation is no help (it means "little delicious bread"--not the most descriptive people, are they?) but it's really just a doughy cake filled with a sweet, flavored buttery filling. Traditionally, they're meant to be filled with walnut, but I prefer the more nutty pistachio. Sadly, these pastries are exclusive to Lahijan, which again, is why I'm looking up ways to make my own.
My mom was really fascinated by this Turkish cotton candy and I can totally see why. It doesn't have that obnoxious, artificial color and flavoring most candy floss has, but it has the most unique texture and consistency. For starters, it's rolled and almost pressed into these little mounds that crumble and basically fall apart at the slightest touch. It looks and really feels like shredded up cotton fluff, but the bits and pieces are incredibly refined and just melt when they hit your tongue like snowflakes instead of cotton candy. I'm typically not a cotton candy girl, but believe me, I've been eating this stuff nonstop.
And of course, no trip to Turkey is complete without some Turkish Delight! If you normally hate that gummy, glycerine junk, I firmly believe this box of mouthwatering goodness will turn you into a Turkish Delight fanatic. This treat arrives in strange logs of dessert which unfortunately is only more tempting for me to cram the whole chunk into my mouth. You'll also notice that this one is actually pinkish-red on the inside, as it's a new pomegranate flavor. While the fruitiness does make a nice change, it's really the pistachio nuts that are the standout ingredient here--the whole bite of chewy fruity sweetness rounded off with that crunchy nut is just perfect.
I don't know if anyone actually likes these kinds of posts since I'm talking about items that aren't available in North America, so hopefully you found this interesting. And of course, if you've used any of the items I "hauled", please let me know if/how you liked them!
My parents had a wonderful time on their trip--my mom in particular can't stop talking about how polite, friendly and generous everyone was. Which, given the, ahem, stereotypes surrounding the Middle East and the people from there, is really great to hear.
But don't get me started on that. =)
Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy the weekend!