Turkey: The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

I know roughly where it should be but it takes me a little wandering to find it. Suddenly I spy people with shopping coming my way – that must be it! I follow my nose down a small side street and spy the covered market.

I’ve entered on the main walkway – it’s broad and doesn’t seem too crowded. Almost immediately I’m caught up by a local man who wants to show me around. ‘I’m not trying to sell you anything, what are you looking for? This street, all jewellery, to the left leather goods, to the right carpets, what are you looking for?’ Hüseyin pressed me for answers. ‘Where are you from? London? My cousin lives in London, he has a shop in North London. He’s English now!’ Extracting myself from this man’s helpfulness, and indeed, he wasn’t trying to sell me anything, I cut down a side alley to dive deeper into the Bazaar.

A selection of ceramics

Ceramics crammed into one small stall

I keep snapping with my camera and pause to look at some brightly coloured ceramic bowls, the type which I realise later, are common throughout. It seems to pause in this place is to illicit a conversation with a friendly local. It’s been too long since I’ve taken a walk through a market overseas and I’m out of the habit of the careful slow walk, not making eye contact in order to be undisturbed. It’s not a problem, it’s all very friendly.  As I leave this stall to continue my amble I’m called over to Orhan’s carpet shop. Not deterred by my lack of willingness to purchase one of his many beautiful Turkish carpets, ‘how can you not want one, it’s part of our culture?’, I also leave with a dinner invitation for that evening. One which as a solo female traveller I’m unlikely to take up!

A selection of teas

Many claims are made on the various teas

As I wend my way deeper into the bazaar I move from Turkish carpets to ceramics to football shirts and take in all that it has to show me. The whole area is a riot of colour, lights and busyness. As the alleys take me deeper they narrow and so give the feel of a crowded, exotic market. Some stalls have spices on sale and many different teas – including a ‘natural viagra’ tea and ‘love’ tea. Many are selling to tourists – you can hardly move in the Turkish Delight shops for young Americans trying to find the perfect exotic take home gift. Other shops with their football shirts and jeans clearly cater to a more local market. There are as many locals as tourists in this mishmash of cultures and people.

Turban or sultan hat?

The bazaar is a riot of colour with many different things on sale

I stop to buy just a couple of presents but mainly spend my time soaking it all in. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is well worth a morning of your time. Look up as well as all around – many of the ceilings are brightly decorated in yellow and blue patterns in what I come to recognise as a Turkish style in many of the historic buildings of the city.

For more information on the Grand Bazaar, including a map, how to get there and opening times click here.

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