Grand Bazaar Istanbul

grndbzr2It is probably the world’s first purpose-built covered market, which dates back to the time of Sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror of Constantinople, who ordered it to be built to encourage trade within his new empire.

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is possibly the world’s greatest market. A hodge podge of over 60 narrow alleys boasting over 5,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar is a city within a city, but a city with one purpose only – the pursuit of commerce.

Crowds flock to the bazaar, which attracts a daily average of 250,000 patrons, so getting a car park can be more problematical than at your average mall.

Known locally as Karpalicasi (literally “covered market”), it is arguably the world’s first shopping mall, but it is also one of the places you must visit in Istanbul, if only to experience an example of what trade must have been like during medieval times. Although the shops have acclimatised to modern times, many of the goods for sale are still bear a resemblance to those that were traded over 600 years ago.

There has always been a tradition of selling fashion and jewellery in the bazaar, together with gold, which has always been a popular way for Turks to display their wealth. Fabrics and clothing have been staple trading commodities for millennia, and jewellery has always been a popular adornment for women. Shop owners in the bazaar sell everything from antique jewellery to modern, sophisticated pieces.

Of course, you couldn’t venture into the bazaar without browsing the many shops which sell carpets. Particularly as carpet weaving is one of Turkey’s most ancient crafts, and its patterns sought after the world over. The carpets and rugs for sale tend to be made out of wool, cotton or silk, or a combination of all three materials, mostly woven into intricate patterns.

With so much competition amongst the traders, the sales people can be very canny in the way they entice prospective customers to their shops, and in the way they determine prices. Haggling over prices is all part of the process, and sales people will always ask you where you are from as it helps them to judge what you may be able to pay. If you are from, what they appraise to be a wealthy country, no matter what your personal circumstances, they will expect to extract a generous price from you.

The shops in the bazaar are grouped by the types of products they sell. Which helps if you are looking for particular items, and it does keep the traders competitive, depending on your degree of haggling expertise. They all have wide open eyes and ears, and will know that they may get a sale by slightly beating a competitor’s price, whilst still extracting as much as they can.

The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s great shopping experiences, and can be a real hoot if you are in the right mind for it to be so.

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