Kapalı Çarşı – The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

(Last Updated On: November 29, 2020)

Shopping is always a good way to spend a rainy day and the Grand Bazaar has been the place for shopping in Istanbul since 1461.

Originally a place where merchants from throughout the Ottoman Empire and the world beyond gathered to sell their merchandise, today it is more a gathering place for tourists. It gets a bad rap in most guidebooks for being touristy and tacky, but, while that is true, it is a fascinating place to visit. And, if you do want to shop, I think you could find just about anything you might want if you just look around long enough. (And the building is interesting too.)

While there is merchandise of all types for sale here, there is a LOT of gold jewelry. Gold dominates the central corridors. Much of the jewelry on display is designed for tourists, but there are also pieces that might appeal to a local audience as well. Some would appeal to me, if gold were not so expensive, but a lot of it is really over-the-top.

Of course, ceramics of all types are also on display in abundance.

Luckily, ceramics are not easy to transport and my cupboards back home are already filled.

I just keep walking. However, try as I might, it is almost impossible to avoid the carpets and carpet salesmen.

They are everywhere: Stop to admire at a plate or scarf and the salesman will offer to take you to his carpet shop. Seriously. Obviously the real money is in carpets.

When one salesman flags me down by waving a carefully preserved page in National Geographic Traveler that highlights his shop, Kemal Erol (reputed to be the oldest carpet shop in the bazaar) I stop. Of course, he isn’t at all put-off by my protest that I don’t need a carpet and am not going to buy one – they assure me that “no one needs a carpet,” and urge me to come in just to see what they have. They promise I don’t have to buy (which I know is true – even if I accept their offers of tea as they show me their wares), so I step inside.

It’s fun, I learn a few new things, and I don’t buy anything; so a worthwhile diversion.

Exotic lamps are also on display in abundance.

They are fun, but I really can’t imagine one hanging in my house.

Actually, there are so many interesting things here that I don’t really have any interest in shopping. I’m overwhelmed by the variety, by the colors, by the strangeness of the merchandise, by the crowds, by the insistence of the salesmen. It’s sensory overload. I’m glad to have my camera and so I can focus on photographing it all.

It’s the crowds that put me off. When we first arrived it was nearly too crowded to move, let alone compare merchandise at various shops and take pictures of it all. However, as the end of the business day approaches, the tourists clear out. Soon it feels as if we are the only tourists here and I can’t think of a better place to shop.

Luckily for my bank account, it soon will all be closed for the night.

Truth in reporting: I bought a turquoise necklace (I had gone back to look at four times and finally was forced to decide as they locking up the shop), a couple of scarves, and some refrigerator magnets.

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