When Samantha from Sex and the City broke her toe on one episode, Carrie asked her “Honey, if it hurts so much, why are we going shopping?”. Samantha’s answer was simple and yet explaining it all: “I have a broken toe, not a broken spirit.” I believe shopping is an art. It is not only walking into a shop, picking something from a shelf and paying for it. And because it’s more than that, I believe some of the shopping places are like spiritual centers. In this case Grand Bazaar of Sultanahmet is like a holy place for shopping lovers.
As one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar hosts over 3,000 stores. In Turkish, it’s called “Kapalıçarşı” which literally means covered bazaar. Mostly popular for its jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops, the Grand Bazaar’s construction was started by Sultan Mehmed II in 1461. During the Ottoman Empire, this place was like the heart of economy. Located between Nuruosmaniye, Mercan and Beyazıt, the bazaar has indoor area of 45.000 meter square with 64 avenues and streets, 2 covered bazaars (Inner bedesten with jewelery stores and Sandal bedesten with clothing stores), 16 inns and 22 gates. For some it might look like a labyrinth but thousands of shoppers visit this bazaar everyday. It suffered from earthquakes and fire disasters, but today not only its style of architecture, but also cultural structure is attractive to its visitors. There’s a health unit, post office, bank branches, private fire department, police station, private security service, coffee shops and restaurants inside the bazaar and in this case the bazaar is not only a shopping place but also like an entertainment center. As for me, one of the greatest pleasures is “bargaining”. In the Grand Bazaar, you can find so many different things at much lower price than many other places, but it’s also possible to find them still expensive. Especially the carpet stores are must bargain places. While you’re walking on the streets of the bazaar, some men might approach to invite you to see their collections of carpets. Sometimes this type of behaviour might seem insistent but if you remember that “ignorance is a bliss”, they will eventually leave you alone. If you want to buy a carpet, you should always keep in your mind that salesman always tells the highest price and ready to negotiate that price. So do and enjoy it. At the end you can feel like you have a achieved a great success by buying the item at lowest price possible but keep in your mind that if the salesman lets go an item, he would still be profiting on it.
One can not appreciate the bazaar without visiting it because from belly dancer costumes to fake brand bags, the bazaar has it all. It’s a real fun to explore these stores with the merchants whose expertise in the trade went back for generations. Taking a walk on the bazaar is like a journey in the history. Every place you touch has a history. Every salesman has a different story. Every turn you make is a discovery.
To make the long story short, the Grand Bazaar is waiting for you to shop heavenly!