The Grand Bazaar
The Grand bazaar, otherwise know as the covered bazaar, was founded by Faith Sultan immediately after the conquest of Istanbul. The elaborate shopping area has nearly 60 streets, 4,400 shops, and over 2,000 craftsmen. It is easy to get lost in this massive complex. There are several different sections in the bazaar, each dedicated to different goods. Various sections include: the leather bazaar, old antique bazaar, and the old bazaar. One of our favorite sections was the Old Antique bazaar. This section had so many unique items. Unfortunately, we were unable to buy anything since the things we were interested in were items like daggers and swords, not something we can really carry in our backpack everywhere.
There are hundreds of other types of items sold in the Grand Bazaar as well. During our first trip we were a bit overwhelmed. Trinkets like key chains, magnets, bracelets, t-shirts, and scarves are sold everywhere. You can also find Turkish Delights, spices, nuts, and other snacks like shaved meats. As we walked around, we encountered many salesmen who were relentless in trying to get us to look and buy their products. We had decided before we went in that we were only looking on our first visit. We focused on inquiring about prices of items that we liked, but not buying anything until a later visit. This is a good strategy to use, since the more you walk around the better the prices seem to get. Be sure to haggle with the shop owners. Venders will quote a wide range of prices for the same items and you want to be sure that you get the best price on your purchases.
“The Scarf Guy”
As I was casually looking at some scarfs, “the scarf guy” offered to show me more of his collection. I wasn’t really aware of what this meant. He took me into this closet-like room and quickly closed a sliding door behind him. I was immediately uncomfortable, as I didn’t have a chance to tell my travel companions where I was. The guy asked me who I was shopping for and began to shower me with compliments. I told him that my other friends would want to look as well, and I slid the door open and motioned them to come in. This made me feel a lot better. Once all four of us were in the small closet, “the scarf guy” started showing us all of the different styles of scarfs he had. We repeatedly asked him the price of the items and he continually answered, “I will make you a package deal.”
The next thing we knew, he had tea for us and was putting together scarf packages for us, as well as our extended family. Whoa, how on earth did this happen? As we began to ask about prices more firmly, he finally told us that for 3 scarfs it would be 520TL! WHAT?!? That’s $260. No way. As we declined and tried to leave he got upset. He tried to make us feel bad by saying things like “we have spent 15 minutes together and we had tea. Now you are just going to leave?” Umm, yes dude. He wanted to know what we wanted to pay and Brandon told him he’d pay 50TL max price for all 3 scarfs. This is when it became extremely uncomfortable as “the scarf guy” began to stomp his feet and raise his voice. This was our cue to exit the tiny room and never look back.
Major piece of advice: DO NOT GO INTO THE TINY ROOMS!!
The Spice Market
The Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, is another interesting place to check out. This bazaar acquired its name due to the vast amount of spices and goods that came into the city from Egypt. Westerners referred to it as the Spice Bazaar because spices from Arab lands, India and the Far East would arrive here by special boats. The L shaped shopping area contains over 100 shops. While walking through the corridors you experience vibrant colors and rich aromas. If you are interested in cooking, you could probably spend hours in this place. But for us, we were happy to pick up some dried fruit snacks and just enjoy the scenery.