Welcome to the Grand Bazaar

The story of the Grand Bazaar includes everything from the lessons Olivia learned from local artisans, to the theft of a golden treasure.

History in its bones

Entering the Grand Bazaar there is a cacophony of noise, scents and sights. Established in 1461 by the ruling Sultan as a trading place of jewels and textiles, the market straddles the old and new world. Sprawled across the slope of the third hill of Istanbul, it nestles between some of the most significant ancient sites in the Middle East.

Çelik Gülersoy wrote in his "Story of the Grand Bazaar" of all that that great building would express if it only could...

What novels they would write
What stories they would tell
The stones full of memories
Remembering and worrying over all they saw

Joy of creation

Here artisans who have been making jewellery for generations assist their apprentices in learning their trade. Guided by their hands, their words, and their smiles, old and young jewellers work alongside one another. Using traditional techniques and ancient materials they carry on the customs that have existed within the markets for hundreds of years. There is a real sense of the joy of creating - that work to these the jewellers is about writing their own story continuously through their craft, in a way that will persevere long after they themselves are gone.

Grand Bazaar
Exotic foods and market legends

Once upon a time the shops were merely roadside stalls, where a merchant would lay out their colourful wares, carefully stashing the most precious ones in a cabinet. It was said that the most beautiful of these were not the jewellery stalls but the shoe shops, because of how pretty all the coloured slippers were. Along the roadside a visitor would sit to chat with the vendor. Traders were friendly with one another, disinterested in profit and free from envy of another’s success. They shared their lunchboxes with one another - fragrant rice, and cooked vegetables, and a special dessert made of chicken breast, milk sugar, and rosewater!

Only rarely was calm disrupted, such as when a young Persian musk dealer stole 30,000 gold coins, stashing them under his stalls’ mat. The bazaar was closed for days, and the whole of Istanbul came to a standstill until the culprit was found, and offered the mercy of the Sultan. The ordinarily peaceful days were ended with the vendors closing curtains around their stalls as the sun sank.

A peaceful moment

It is this atmosphere of calm and quiet that you can still, surprisingly, find among the hustle and bustle of the main markets. Passing through the Jewellers’ Gate in the East a traveller is mesmerised by the array of gold, silver, rubies, emeralds and other gems on display. Diamonds, in the Ottoman style, shine in circular arrays like Lantana plants. But in the courtyard, by the fountain, one can stop for a cup of Turkish tea with an artisan, and gaze at the lanterns overhead. In this moment, the long history of the Bazaar feels as present as ever.

Gülersoy's musing ends...

The stones which remain by themselves
Close their eyes and start meditating
When the iron gates are closed
and darkness falls.


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