Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Market – Istanbul, Turkey
Jet lag on our trip to Turkey was no joke, so we ended up getting later starts to the days than planned. When we finally set out for the day, we headed for the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Market– one of our favorite adventures in Istanbul. Although they are very different than what I’d imagine they were like in years past (lots of tourists these days!), it’s fun to feel like you’re going back in time to visiting the bazaar for your weekly (or daily?) grocery trip.
‘Mısır Çarşısı’ — the Egyptian Spice Bazaar — is a covered market selling anything and everything for locals and tourists alike. The biggest item they offer (which is likely exclusively for tourists) is spices, which is sort of what the place is known for (obviously). We didn’t buy any spices — not sure how they’d fare in US Customs — but it was magical just to walk through and smell the fresh spices. The bright colors of each spice were gorgeous — it’s hard to imagine having these spices at your fingertips while cooking.
Just next door is the Grand Bazaar–one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world (over 60+ covered streets in the place and more than 4,000 shops!). It turned out (as we both expected) to be my dream-come-true: rows and rows of painted ceramics, jewelry, leather goods and hand-woven carpets (incidentally, this is Jeffrey’s worst nightmare). The bazaar is truly a complete sensory overload — tons of things for sale and plenty of people everywhere. After a few turns, you literally can’t even figure out which way is up.
I knew my time was short in the Grand Bazaar since Jeffrey is not very patient when it comes to shopping, so I had my eyes peeled for just one thing: a set of hand-painted plates (my number 1 souvenir I wanted to bring home). Jeffrey loves to haggle (and he was really eager to leave the swarms of people), so he jumped right in and helped me search for the plate. We went around to a few stores and looked at very similar sizes/color and everyone was quoting around 45 TL/plate, we got one guy to agree to about 35 TL if we got all 4. When I countered at 25 TL he sort of laughed as we walked away… OK, so know we know their limit. Same deal with the next guy. Started at 45 TL, but only came down to 37.5 TL each for 4, reluctantly he dropped it to 35 TL which I told him his buddy up the road said he would do, too. On the way out he said, OK, what is your maximum? 30 TL. No, no, no, he said, what is your MAXIMUM. Yeah, dude, my MAXIMUM is 30 TL. No, what is your highest price? Ughh (trying to figure out the disconnect….) my highest price is 30 TL each (maybe he was expecting me to meet in the middle?). He let out an annoyed sigh and said FINE, pick the ones you want! Haha, easy there dude–you just made a sale. When the time came to pay, he owed us some change but I just told him to keep it …to which he sort of rolled his eyes–Jeffrey just loves to haggle.
The Egyptian Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar are must sees in Istanbul and, just like the city itself, perfectly blend modern day with old world charm. Pop in to examine the beautiful, old architecture and imagine the bustling rows of artisans selling hundreds of years ago– then, pick up a few gifts for people at home!