This was the day I was looking forward to. Grand Bazaar DAY. Over 5000 shops under one roof, up to 60 streets of shops. Madness.
The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest (and oldest) covered market places in the world. Up to 400 000 visitors can stroll these streets daily….
A bit of background tells that upon taking control of the city, Sultan Mehmed (during the Ottoman period) sought to rejuvenate Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar was his initiative. He also brought back fleeing Catholic and Greek Orthodox residents and in seeking to establish a mixed population he brought in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish families. And he was also the brain behind many of the architectural monuments, schools, hospitals, public baths, and grand imperial mosques. The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, the Fatih University and the Fatih College are all named after him.
But I’ll stick to the Grand Bazaar.
Since 1461 the bazaar has been a trading centre. Walking those 60 or so streets is a bit like wandering in a labyrinth, you struggle to get to different shops without walking in a circle. And because the businesses that sell the same goods are grouped together, you are never sure if you have been to a particular shop before of not!
During the reign of Sultan Suleiman the bazaar was enlarged in the 16th century and underwent a major restoration in 1894 following an earthquake. Within this Grand Bazaar there are also two mosques, four fountains, two hammams (Turkish baths) and several cafés and restaurants. That is thus excluding all the shops! There are four main gates – although we were convinced there were many more – situated at the ends of two major streets.
With jewellers side by side, carpet and textiles sellers side by side, spice sellers, ceramic sellers side by side competition is fierce!
And despite the chaos and the total onslaught on all your senses it is such a wonderful and rich experience, you cannot miss it for the world. You don’t have to buy anything, just take in the smells, the colours, the textiles, the magnificent crafts and the diverse culture.
If you haven’t had enough yet, there is still the spice bazaar, the fish market….