on July 8, 2011
The Grand Bazaar known as the Kapali Carsi (Covered market).The grand Bazaar is another must see place to visit when in Istanbul. It is quite unique in the way that it is set out. It is absolutely vast covering an area of at least 37.1 hectares and is the biggest covered market in the world. Although there are 21 entrances there are four main entrances at either end of the two main streets in the bazaar. Most of the bazaar is under cover and off the two main streets one of which is called Kalpakcilarbasi street where they sell gold and the second main street is called Inciciler Sokagi ( Pearl Street). There are over 50-60 plus smaller streets and alleyways all containing shops. There are two mosques, a hamam, wells, fountains, a post office, a police station and of course thousands of shops and many cafes throughout the Bazaar. It is like a city in itself.The grand bazaar first started trading in 1461 taking five years to build and is still trading goods to the public today. It was expanded in the 16th century and again in the 1800’s following an earthquake to its current size today.The grand bazaar is said to be more expensive than the much smaller Egyptian spice market down near the seafront and if you have the time you can always compare prices of the grand bazaar and the spice bazaar although the spice bazaar is very much smaller with one main street and a couple of streets off to the side. Within the labyrinth of streets there are 5,000 shops within the bazaar selling every imaginable thing going the main streets of course are probably the most expensive streets to walk through or purchase things from presumably because the shop owner is likely to be paying premium prices for the premises. The lighting in the bazaar can be quite intense in places especially where they are selling gold and jewellery and the walls and ceilings and arches are decorated with windows allowing in some natural light.The shops are set out according to what they are selling so the main street will be selling gold and jewellery. The jewellery is all set out in the windows and sparkles and glistens in the indoor lighting. The next street will be selling leather, Turkish delight, bags, clothes, shoes, ceramics, lanterns, spices, antiques, rugs, or knick knack souvenirs. The list of items is endless. It is amusing to find shop after shop selling toilets!!! ( I would have called it Karzi Street)! All the same items but I guess you can get a bargain as there will be an element of getting the best price you can for whatever you are buying. It is very atmospheric and if you spend a second or two glancing at the merchandise or showing any interest it will elicit a response from the stall holder who invariably will be able to detect which country you come from without you even uttering a word. They seem to have an inborn knack of knowing exactly where you are from and will utter colloquial sayings such as Alright mate come in and have some char! Turkish char is the best. Mind the apple and pears! Etc etc. I must admit that the stall holders are not as pushy as in some other countries especially the traders in Egypt who are quite mercenary in obtaining a sale blocking your way and in the end being quite rude. The Turkish traders we found to be friendly and not too pushy however should you start negotiating a price for an item it should be with serious intention of buying. If you have no intention of buying in the first place under no circumstances start this process.Bartering or haggling is not something the English are particularly good at but don’t be intimidated or put off by this as it can be great fun. The trader will start off quoting a grossly inflated price of which one should offer approximately 20% of that price. He will play around and say NO ‘I will have to sell my mother to make any profits’. ‘You are a hard man I have seven children to feed they may go hungry! ’. Increase slightly by another five percent. He will drop his price slightly so you should up yours again. It’s a great game but it is a serious business. Do not be fooled though if he refuses to come down to approximately 50-60% of what he initially offered then say no and walk away. He may well come after you and offer you it for the price that you want. Once you have agreed a price you will shake hands but make sure if they are packing the item it is the actual item that you have bought and if you are travelling ask them to pack it carefully. The market is very colourful and busy and although there are many locals in the market there are significantly more tourists it is estimated that each day 500,000 or half a million visitors are tourists. I do not like crowds but I never felt claustrophobic or overwhelmed by the thousands of people in the bazaar. This place is a magnet for pickpockets so be aware of your wallet and purse. There are two mosques inside the compound of the market and also a police station and there were plenty of policemen stationed around the Bazaar. I did not see any women traders and I believe that it is solely a male domain. Sit down and enjoy a cup of fruit tea or Turkish coffee or a cool drink. There are plenty of cafes around the market and it will fortify you for further shopping.A warning though the market really is a maze of alleyways and small streets and it is quite easy to lose yourself or if travelling with friends. I mistakenly raced off to find a loo never to find my friends again until we met at the entrance we agreed to meet at should any of us get lost.The grand bazaar is open from 09:00- 19:00 Monday – Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and bank holidays.It is easy to get to by tram, taxi or bus ask anyone and they will help you find your way!
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