If you decide to step into this Turkish market with its 5000 shops, 60 streets and tons of vendors, you had better bring your game face and your wallet.  While this covered market is one of the most ancient and beautiful places I have ever parted with money, it never promises to be a relaxed shopping experience.

Turkish deLIGHT
Istanbul Grand Bazaarlaszlo-photo / Foter.com / CC BY

For one, on any given day there are over 250 000 people with the same idea as you.  To stroll through as many of the streets as possible (you just cannot see it all in one day) and find the true treasures amongst all the stalls.  This is true spoiling for choice and your senses will be overwhelmed, but what an experience.

Within its walls lies restaurants, cafes, mosques, four fountains, hamams as well as the high domed hall of Cevahir Bedesten where the antiques of the old world are stored and on display.  Amongst the treasures you’ll see weapons, amber prayer beads, gold and silver jewellery, copperware, old coins and furniture.

It doesn’t compare with anything we know in Cape Town! Being one of the world’s largest markets, you can easily get lost in the maze of cobbled streets and passageways with curved ceilings and intricately painted interiors.  This is been a crucial trading centre since 1461 and there are demarcated sections for everything under the sun. All goods will lure you into their corners and if not, the vendor will intercept you in true market fashion and ask which country you’re from.

Turkish rug owners are everywhere and they will offer you in for a cup of apple tea.  It is rude not to accept the tea and this may be the one time you get to rest your weary feet, listen to their tales of what really goes into carpet making before deciding if you really want to lug a rug home.  Weaving of carpets is one of Turkey’s most ancient crafts and together with embroidery was used to fashion clothing, headscarves and furnishings for royalty and the country’s citizens.

I found myself drawn to the lanterns with their mosaic of colours and glass pieced together to display light.  I spent the longest time in the jewellery section, trying on turquoise rings, eyeing delicate necklaces made from precious stones and gold earrings that hung heavily with ornate design and colours. I had never tried belly dancing, but desperately wanted to own a beaded bra, Turkish vest, skirt, head band and hip band all decorated with imitation coins and beads just in case.

The roots of Turkish ceramics can be traced all the way to the 8th centuries where Iranian Seljuk art arrived in Anatolia when the Seljuks defeated the Byzantines.  Cobalt blue, eggplant violet, turquoise and black tiles and ceramics appeared in all forms of architectures of mosques, palaces and tombs.  Today you’ll find many vases, bowls and other ceramics with a distinct blue and white Iznik design stemming from the Ottoman period.

Best of all the spices will lead the way to the food stalls where you can forget the hagglers and feast on kebabs, wraps, dolmas and marinated beef on yoghurt-eggplant puree.  Sit beneath hanging eggplant and peppers and watch the bustle of market go by.   Welcome to the Grand Bazaar.