Bargaining at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

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Istanbuls’ Grand Bazaar, or Kapalıçarşı (meaning ‘covered market’) speaks directly to every Indian’s heart. Over 550 years old, this market has over 3000 shops inside a large covered area. Everything that a tourist needs – or doesn’t really need but will buy anyway at great cost – is to be found here. Carpets, silver jewellery, tea, spices, lamps and kandeels, souvenirs, leather goods, and ceramics, among other things. And Indians, with their love for bargaining, will find themselves right at home here.

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Competition is fierce among the sellers and they employ all kinds of techniques to woo customers. They make jokes – many of them inappropriate but it is difficult not to laugh with them because they have such a pleasing manner and enjoy their own jokes immensely. For example, the shops selling tea – many nudge-nudge, wink-wink references to the sexual prowess some of these teas are believed to impart. They proudly advertise their ‘Turkish Viagra’ and display signs for ‘genuine fake watches’. It is futile to resist those who are happy to laugh at themselves this way.

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Like in other countries like Egypt, the minute they know you are Indian (and oh, believe me, they can identify us very easily), they launch into long discussions about our movies. And of late, Katrina Kaif in particular. They offer refreshment (oh, the apple tea!), discounts that seem attractive and lots of reasons why you must buy that item and from that shop alone. Listen to them patiently, banter with them and start from half the quoted price. They enjoy the bargaining and bantering more than you do and will probably be disappointed if you pay the asking price. If you are planning to buy something expensive, like a carpet, then it is best to do a bit of research before you enter the bazaar. Me, I stick to cheap souvenirs and tea – the varieties and fragrances of Turkish tea!

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You can easily spend hours here, browsing, bargaining and buying – with stops for coffee and lunch in between at one of the numerous cafes inside the bazaar. Whether you want to buy that pair of lovely silver earrings or a set of six ceramic bowls with the whirling dervish motif, or even a belly dance costume as a souvenir to take back home, the grand bazar is the place to shop at in Istanbul. Hang on to your patience, sense of humour and your wallet (watch out for pickpockets) and you will have a great experience.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. NS says:

    I can’t agree more about the Indians and movies thing. We took a cab recently from airport to home (here in US) and the African cabbie started singing Pardesi Pardesi !! And said his kids ONLY watch SRK movies. Did he really think we’d believe him??

    1. charukesi says:

      Perhaps not 🙂 but Bollywood is really popular everywhere these days!

  2. Lovely pics! 🙂

    I have always wanted to go to Istanbul, to see the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia and the market. I am so sure I would love to see the market and shop for souvenirs there.

    Turkish viagra, indeed! 😀 Love the varieties of tea available! Some of them appear to be round, a very different shape for a tea!

    1. charukesi says:

      I bought some lovely silver earrings there – very different from the stuff you get here. And apple tea too (I can live on it!) – these round tea buds open up when you pour boiling water on them – nice to watch!

    1. charukesi says:

      Yeah, very much like Indian markets!

  3. Hey! I think you took this trip sometime ago, but is there any chance you would remember the places you went to? I was looking for someone to see my plan so that I don’t miss out on anything.
    i understand one visit is never good enough for any country:) but I would like to do my best:)

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