Dating back to the 15th century the many bazaars of Istanbul have been an integral part of the city’s urban structure, not only contributing to its economy over the centuries but also shaping an identity that has slowly become synonymous with the city.
Historically, the Grand Bazaar had its origins as a textile trading centre and by the 1600s it had already expanded to become a hub of trade, with goods being ferried both from Europe and Asia.
Over the centuries, fires and earthquakes destroyed various sections of the bazaar but it was always rebuilt and continues to thrive till date.
The Grand Bazaar today is spread across several kilometres of vaulted shopping lanes with over 4000 shops located in different zones, broadly categorised as per the products that they sell.
At the very centre lies the Ceuahir Bedesteni or the Old Bazaar that specialises in antiques, semi precious stones and jewellery. Around this are dozens of stores that stock only Turkish lamps and equally as many that deal exclusively in carpets.
In between the artisan-products, are also scores of daily use items ranging from spices and soaps to handbags and tea cups. Amongst the treasures to be discovered is the books-bazaar dating back to the Byzantine era and the Kalpakcilar Caddesi – a street lined with gold merchants.
A shopping experience at the bazaar is an intensive affair, best spread across many leisurely hours. Beginning with cursory glances at the many products, be prepared for friendly beckoning and over the top sales pitches. And although intense bargaining is de rigueur, a cup or two of Turkish coffee can usually seal the deal.
Text And Photos By Kunal Bhatia