Walking back to my hostel in Sultanahmet after a day’s sightseeing around the city, I stumbled upon the weird and wacky Grand Bazaar, which is known as one of the largest markets in the world, and attracts up to 400,000 visitors each day!
There was a narrow walk from the main road down into the Grand Bazaar, and this narrowness got me prepared for when I entered the Bazaar itself. It is a total maze of controlled chaos (spanning an amazing 61 streets!), with its 3,000+ stalls selling everything under the sun, from rugs to hookah, from trinkets to antiquities, and from food to musical instruments. I took so many photos inside the Bazaar, even though sometimes I didn’t even know what I was looking at!
It could be said that the Grand Bazaar is one huge treasure trove of goodies! Some of the items for sale here include musical instruments, fashion accessories, and I even saw some Viagra! More traditional Arabic and Turkish things were on sale here too, such as shisha pipes, gahwa sets (for Arabic coffee), and local authentic garments and headdress – including the fez, which must be one of the ultimate symbols of Turkey!
One of the main things I was interested in looking at when in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar was the traditional Turkish rugs on sale. These rugs are commonly – yet not literally – referred to as “magic carpets”. It would have been nice to pick up a rug or two and take them home with me, as I found them to be very good value actually. However, my backpack and suitcases only have finite space, and I cannot fit a rug in them. I had the same problem when visiting Souq Waqif in Doha, where I wanted to buy some traditional souvenirs, but again, my backpack would have been way overweight when checking in at the airport soon afterwards.
Turkish delight – known in these parts as Lokum – is the eponymous Turkish sweet. You can find MASSES OF IT here in the Grand Bazaar and it is sold extremely cheaply. I don’t know which shops in Istanbul have the most traditional lokum, but the stuff on sale here in the Grand Bazaar looked very authentic, and tasted very nice indeed. I returned here quite a few times in my stay in Istanbul to stock up for my evening snacks in front of the laptop in my hotel!
A Doner Kebab is a long piece of meat that is attached to a rotating spit, similar to shawarma. You can usually find chicken or lamb, and possibly other ‘exotic’ meats, such as goat. After a little while walking around the Grand Bazaar, I began to get hungry. I ordered a lamb kebab durum, which cost me around 4 Turkish Lira, (around £1.20)! Though, despite the tastiness of the food, eating in the Grand Bazaar may not be to everyone’s liking, as you will always have other people walk past very closely as they are browsing nearby stalls and this can cause privacy issues.
All in all, I would recommend the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul to everybody – it’s definitely one of the top attractions in the city. There is a wealth of souvenirs here that you can buy and take back home, but even if you’re not buying the traditional souvenirs, you can still window shop and just experience the atmosphere – oh and don’t forget those kebabs!