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The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı in Turkish) in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets (Bazaar) in the world with more than 58 streets and 4000 shops. It is well-known for its jewelry, pottery, spice and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of good, with regions for leather coats, gold jewelry and the like. The bazaar contains two bedestens, or domed masonry structures built for storage and safe keeping, the first of which was constructed in 1464 by the order of Mehmed II. In 1894, it underwent major restoration after an earthquake. It has 250,000-400,000 daily visitors.

In the Eastem culture, the wealth of trade shows itself not in the decoration and extemal appearance of the shops, but with the abundance and value of the merchandise. What made the Grand Bazaar rich was thus the abundance of goods and the variety of crafts applied. The stores used to be so smail and tidy that they were called 'closets'. The owner would sit cross-legged on a knee high platform, reach the shelves easily and without having to stand up, and make his sale. Some closets would have smail chairs placed in front of them for customers. At night they would be sealed with hanging covers of plain cloth or pulldown shutters tied with strings to the ceiling, most of them decorated with flower motifs. Every day at dawn, the shop runners would gather before the gate and enter the bazaar together, say a prayer together in front of their closets and then start the day.


This bazaar was a whole world itself with its bedestens (block of shops with the same kind of trade), commercial complexes, workshops, and streets between the structures where jewels, valuable goods, delicate fabrics, carpets, silverware, glassware and books were sold and different cultures stood together. The two stone bedestens that Fatih Sultan Mehmet got built for a supply of income for the Hagia Sophia was surrounded in time by open-air bazaars. Then the entire structure was enclosed to become a whole big trade center with its inner streets and working complexes.. And there formed an enclosed marketplace with all the colours and wealth of the Ottoman whole with its Turkish, Greek,' Armenian and jewish people. The streets and avenues were named after the types of tradespeople that worked in them, like the miniaturists, carvers, varak (gold or silver leaj) omamentors, swordmakers, broadcloth sellers, nacre processors, mirror makers, carpet sellers, antiquarians, and traders of secondhand artifacts.

Among the whole lot, next to those who were keeping alive the jobs or craftmanships that were the legacy of their fathers or grandfathers, there were also those that arrived at a very young age, passed their youths and now were at the realization of the wisdom of their present age.

The bazaar was shaken by fire incidents and earthquakes from time to time, but each time it was repaired back into life. The Westernization that started in the Ottoman structure in 1839 was soan niflected in the Grand Bazaar, too. The modernization gained speed after the great eartquake that shook Istanbul in 1894. Western breezes blew everywhere, manifesting themselves in the merchandise and the setting up of the shops.


The Grand Bazaar includes more than 4000 stores taday, and it is surrounded on all sides by tens of hans (commereial buildings). The hans that used to host caravans now host workshops where many goods are manufactured. In the Valde Han that was built in 1650 and has a set of stairs with 200 steps, there is no longer any sale. Carpet washing and repairs are carried out in the Mercan Ali Pasa Han and the Cebeci Han.

Coloured Anatolian weavings can be found in the Mercan Cukur Han, and beds, blankets and linen in the Safran Han. Another of the most beautiful hans in the bazaar is the Zincirli Han. Jewellery processors are the majority here, and it has pink-painted walls that soften even the greyest air in winter. In Cebeci Han, on the other hand, you can find port-hale lids, bells, fans, watches, to torches, propellers, anchors in the shop where second-hand sea materials are said, get your carpets repaired in carpet repairing workshops and find replicas of old artifacts at the coppersmith 's shop in the corner. One of the two bedestens that form the core of the bazaar is the Ic Bedesten (inner bedesten), a.k.a. the Cevahir Bedesteni.

The other is the Sandal Bedesteni, taking its name from a kind of fabric woven using silk and cotton threads alternately for each line. This is where you get attracted by the gleam of antiquities. You can find antique specialists for ancient objects, porcelains, silver, ceramics and ornamented engravings, and tour the stores filled up with ancient, valuable and beautiful artifacts. You can touch coffee cups of finest porcelain, silver cigarette boxes from the 18th century, spoons, glasses, candlesticks with stems of coloured glass, and see the jewels of the Ottoman era.


Carpets, kilims, sumachs, 'cicim's... Next to the traditional carpets coming from Usak, Gordes, Sivas, Ladik, Kayseri, Konya, and Hereke, the tulles flowing in from the east of Konya plain are also worthy of attention.There are also the Filikli spreads, the production of which has stopped since many years ago. The fabrics known as Angora or mohair used to be woven in 60 cm wide and 200 cm long pieces, then brought together in threes tir fours to form wall covers, bed spreads or sitting groups. These, too, are among the artifacts that come out of the trunks of the Grand Bazaar.

The Grand Bazaar is a whole culture in itself, a whole wride ocean that has preserved its existence for many centuries. Let's enter into the gleaming world of the Grand Bazaar through one of its 18 gates, find its hidden prizes and mix into its cultural atmoshphere.

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