Spice Bazaar, Istanbul

This bustling marketplace was constructed in the 1660s as part of the New Mosque complex, with rents from the shops going to support the upkeep of the mosque and its charitable activities. It was called the Egyptian Market because it was famous for selling goods shipped in from Cairo.

Enter the Egyptian Bazaar  (M?s?r Çar??s?), also known as the Spice Bazaar from the northernmost entrance, where Tahmis Sokak meets the square in front of the New Mosque. The bazaar was built by the Valide Turhan Sultan in 1660, build and the architect was Kasim A?a, as part of the New Mosque complex; its name derives from the goods that were once sold here, having arrived by sea via the annual ‘Cairo Caravan‘. The brick walls and high, vaulted ceilings give it all the allure of the Grand Bazaar, but at a fraction of the size.

In the old days there were sold here drugs of all kinds, prepared medicines, useful herbs and spices beyond number, with flowers, seeds, nuts and perfumes. It was in fact an important oriental market.

The bazaar’s stalls brim with heaps of brightly coloured herbs, spices, tea leaves, nuts and lokum (Turkish Delight), as well as copious amounts of honey, olive oil and caviar, and even the odd pot of the aphrodisiac “Turkish Viagra“. Also peppered around are stalls selling natural soaps and sponges, ceramics, jewellery and scarves.

Used to a steady influx of tourists, the vendors can be tiresome and their prices often inordinately high. But try the Arifoglu Spice Centre “at stall no. 59“, a no-hassle trader with a wide stock of medicinal herbs and oils. As well as spices, nuts, honeycomb and olive-oil soaps, the bustling spice bazaar sells truckloads of figs, lokum (Turkish delight) and pestil (fruit pressed into sheets and dried),  try the highly regarded Malatya Pazari (shop 44) if you want to take home some dried fruit or nuts, and Ucuzcular Baharat (shop 51) if you’re after spices.

Although the number of shops selling tourist trinkets increases annually, this is still a great place to stock up on edible souvenirs, share a few jokes with the vendors and marvel at the well-preserved building. Make sure you visit shop 41, the atmospheric Mehmet Kalmaz Baharatç?, which specialises in henna, potions, lotions and the sultan’s very own aphrodisiac. Most of the shops offer vacuum packaging, which makes it easy to take souvenirs home. Also here is Has?rc?lar Caddesi, a narrow street selling spices and other goods that are often a fraction of the price of equivalent products in the Spice Bazaar. Look out for the flagship store of the most famous coffee purveyor in Turkey, “Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi”, which is on the corner nearest to the bazaar.

When you are ready to leave, take the exit in the middle of the bazaar that leads out into the plant and pet market nestled into the crook of the L-shaped structure. Here dogs, ducks, pheasants, rabbits and even leeches are available to buy, but you will most likely prefer to take a breather in one of the adjacent open-air cafes.

 

Istanbul Travel Guide

 

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