The only embarrassment is of choice. Sex sells in the souk, where Syrians flock to buy the latest lingerie, some of it edible, some sporting flashing lights and all of it kitsch personified.
Chocolate knickers, panties adorned with singing canaries, feathered bras that twinkle in the dark… all this and more can be found in the popular Al-Hamidiyeh market, the best known in the capital Damascus.
"Women, veiled or otherwise, come here to buy — and so do men," lingerie seller Samer says at his colourful stall on the way to the celebrated Omayyad Mosque.
He waves an arm at underwear of every description, colour and material. Fluffy, flounced, vinyl complete with pocket for mobile phone, G-strings that fall away at the clap of hands, and of course the strawberry-flavoured.
New line of naughty outfits
This year Samer plans to boost his business with a new line of naughty outfits, focusing on the schoolgirl, housewife and nurse.
His shop may be tiny, but he is not just selling "smalls". Piled on a table is aphrodisiac chewing gum called "Jaguar Power", sexy massage oils and even delay sprays imported from China and Thailand.
"Many women buy these for themselves, and also for their husbands," he confides, unfazed to be surrounded by a rainbow orgy of frilly bodices and skimpy thongs.
Sales of such lingerie are scantier than they were three years ago, but merchants such as Samer are loath to blame global economic problems on a reduction in raunchiness.
They hope that come summer their shops will be bulging with tourists, mainly from Gulf Arab states, attracted by the delights of such alluring fripperies.
Maha, a 36-year-old pharmacist strolling through the souk with some friends, admits she once bought some kitschy lingerie "for a laugh".
Keeping eroticism for her husband
That such sexy garments are visibly on sale in a well-frequented Damascus market should come as no surprise, according to one Syrian sociologist who prefers not to be identified.
"The culture of sexual pleasure has an important role in Islam," he says of a patriarchal and conservative society in which polygamy is allowed.
"A Muslim woman works hard to ensure she is attractive. But she keeps her eroticism for her husband. She may be limited in personal liberties outside the home, but inside anything goes."
Amal, a pretty woman of 42 sporting a colourful scarf, has come to the Al-Hamidiyeh souk to choose lingerie for her daughter who will be marrying her cousin this summer.
A belly-dancing outfit has become a must for young brides, Amal says as she picks out a gold-sequinned version for the blushing bride-to-be.
"Muslim wives must be desirable and pleasure their husbands so they don't stray," she adds with a large grin.
The shopkeeper steers a male customer towards pink nighties trimmed with feathers and lacy basques or teddies.
Rashad (37) chooses a little red-laced chiffon and vinyl number, for which he hands over $37.
"It's a present for my wife," he says. "I often buy her gifts to keep things new."
"Islam orders the woman to keep herself pretty for her husband, that's well-known," Mohammad Habash, head of the Damascus Centre for Islamic Studies says.
He says there is nothing at all contradictory in a veiled Muslim woman buying sexy underwear.
"A woman can buy whatever she desires, even a dancer's outfit for when she wants to give pleasure to her husband," Habash adds. "This is not only her right, it's an obligation."
Article By: Roueida Mabardi/iafrica.com