The Secret Bazaars of Istanbul

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Egyptian Bazaar
Egyptian Bazaar

From time immemorial Istanbul, Turkey, has been a city heavily associated with trade. It is also a crossroads of cultures and a fascinating metropolis touching on two continents, a gateway to the Orient and a favourite destination for travellers.

From a geographical point of view, the largest city in Turkey has a unique location, and that’s why trade has always been concentrated here. Merchant ships from faraway lands have long arrived daily to the mouth of the Golden Horn, carrying rare spices, exotic fruits, precious substances and metals, ceramics, and many other goods. And even today it’s not difficult to imagine this, if you find yourself in this city and its harbour, of course. Trade has gradually shifted from the coasts to higher ground, into built-up markets and bazaars which quickly grew on the slope above the harbour.

The Grand Bazaar

Egyptian Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar
. You’ll also find goldsmith shops and workshops here, as well as a great many restaurants and cafes.

There has been a bit of rush and a little bit of chaos for us at the Galata Bridge since the early morning hours. This is a place that captivates perhaps every visitor to Istanbul. The New Mosque, the youngest you’ll find in the city, dominates. The most fascinating place, however, is the Egyptian bazaar, which is also belongs to the New Mosque complex.

The beautiful spaces of this ancient covered marketplace, or the ancient delicatessen, are saturated with a mix of exotic colours and especially aromas. The unique shading gives the bazaar an original, somewhat mystical, atmosphere, as does the unceasing crowd of people, which definitely is not so daunting. One can wander and discover here for hours on end. It is, of course, complicated sometimes to resist the overly intrusive salespersons.

The most fascinating place, however, is the Egyptian bazaar, which is also belongs to the New Mosque complex.

But in the end, you will certainly not leave the complicated labyrinth of aisles empty-handed. There are rare and unknown spices on offer, and you will definitely take the opportunity to have something original mixed. You will find tea, coffee, nuts, dried fruits, sweets, herbs, honey, cheeses and various delicacies here. As you progress further into the cellars of the bazaar, you will discover goldsmith shops as well as rare perfumes. The goods here don’t only come from Egypt, but also from Iran and Yemen.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar
If you set off a bit higher from the Egyptian Bazaar, you’ll come to the most famous and largest bazaar of all, called the Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul’s bazaars are like cities within the city. This is a perfect system of alleys and main streets, and for us perhaps an obscure labyrinth where it is very easy to get lost. If you set off a bit higher from the Egyptian Bazaar, you’ll come to the most famous and largest bazaar of all, called the Grand Bazaar. Maybe this is because it has as many as 17 entrances. It is supposedly the largest marketplace in the world, with numerous shops and nearly 10 km of covered alleys and surprisingly, as many as 19 fountains.

The Great Bazaar, whose foundations were laid in the 15th century, is visited by more than half a million visitors, both domestic and tourists, every day. They are captivated by the enthralling atmosphere here, which really has few equals. On offer are carpets, leather clothing, jewellery, accessories, antiques, ceramics, copperware, but also pointless junk and unnecessary items. Anything and everything is produced here. You’ll also find goldsmith shops and workshops here, as well as a great many restaurants and cafes. And if you want succeed, then you will certainly have to haggle. This is the part of the colour of oriental purchases. Afterwards, you will obviously want to set off to find other bazaars in the city. One of interest, for example, is the book bazaar where lovers of old maps can come to enjoy their favourite pastime.

Text and Photo: Daniel Košťál