Haggler's Heaven -- The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
November 23, 2017 12:25pm CST
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, doesn’t have its name for nothing. It covers about 32 ha (which equals 42 football fields). Several halls are built side by side, the central ones with cupolas. The whole area is surrounded by walls which have 17 gates as entrances/exits. 60 mostly dimly lit streets criss-cross through it, about 4.500 shops employ more than 20.000 people. The first buildings, the nucleus of the present day bazaar, were erected in 1461 under Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople. Seven great fires and four earthquakes couldn’t destroy the bazaar. After each catastrophe, it was not only rebuilt but also enlarged. The men - not once did we see a woman - standing in front of the shops and stalls trying to lure potential buyers hardly ever make a mistake as to the nationality of the passing tourists and most of them know the respective language well. This does not mean that the Turks are especially talented when it comes to foreign languages, but that only men with good language skills have a chance of finding a (well-paid) job there. Something which we don’t understand is the fact that shops offering the same goods are clustered together in one street or even quarter. In the Grand Bazaar you can find rows and rows of shops selling only jewellery or carpets or leather clothes or ceramics or souvenirs made of copper or in the so-called Egyptian Bazaar only spices or caviar to name just a few articles. What’s the idea behind the bazaar principle? If there’s only one shop selling a special article the people in charge can dictate the price, can be sloppy and unfriendly, people will (have to) come to them. Competition can be good in so far as it makes the salespeople give their best to attract and satisfy customers. But what if there are, say, 20 shops, one beside the other, selling precisely the same goods? A customer can buy only one copperplate so that the chance to sell one is 1/20 for each shop. How can the shops survive with so many competitors? You can spend hours in the Grand Bazaar, lose your way and if you aren’t attentive, lose your money, too (rucksacks to the front!). Maybe it’s a relief for you to know that there’s a police station in it, too. You can also find a post office, a mosque, a bank, a refreshing fountain and coffee and tea houses. (The Bazaar is open Mo - Sa, 9 am - 7 pm, closed on Sundays and holidays) No doubt, the Grand Bazaar is a must-see in Istanbul. You’ll only know if you enjoy it when you’ve been there.
17 people like this
• Daytona Beach, Florida
Thanks for sharing. Sounds like an interesting place. I love markets and would love to explore one like this. Since I have no plans concerning Istanbul I just made up my mind to be bold and take a look online tomorrow to see what kind of Black Friday deals there might be. This year I am thinking of getting some presents for myself just to make the holiday a bit brighter.
5 people like this
@Tampa_girl7 The reason may have been that they attended German schools in which English is obligatory as the first foreign language. The bazaar people in oriental countries are a special species. They mostly learn by listening to the tourists.
• Derry, Northern Ireland
Never been to a Turkish bazaar, but the bazaar in Sousse in Tunisia was interesting, and the one near Hammamet was daunting. I am reminded of this classic scene...
Oh I miss this place! You made a good point about the competition though, I wondered the same too. The good thing is if I see something I like in a shop, I don't have to worry about buying it immediately because I can be sure there are probably 10-20 more shops selling the same thing. The shopkeepers are smart too, they know how to attract customers. Somehow some of them could tell I'm Malaysian and start speaking in Malay to make me buy their things.
• Bunbury, Australia
I hope that guy doesn't have to take in all his stock each night! My friends have just returned from Turkey and their rugs have arrived by mail. They were a bi worried about having them sent separately but they had to write their name on the back of each rug so they would know they had received what they'd purchased. I know that could be forged too but it did give them some comfort.