The bright coloured lamps were a sight that, for me, was synonymous with Turkey. Almost every image I had seen of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar featured them. One of the many expectations I had of the world’s most famous marketplace was that I’d be bumping my head on glass lamp shades dangling from above as I browsed souvenirs I had no space in my luggage for but would probably buy anyway.
It was expectations that kept me from the Grand Bazaar during my first few days in Turkey. I was so exhausted and run down I just couldn’t face a barrage of Turks trying to corral me into their shop. From what I’d heard about the Bazaar, it would make my market experiences in Asia (where I was sometimes stalked through the marketplace) seem tame.
In reality the Grand Bazaar wasn’t the madhouse I was led to believe.
There also weren’t as many lamps as I’d imagined. I turned every corner waiting to see masses of people, but there only seemed to be a fraction of the camera-wielding, bargaining tourists I’d expected. In some ways this was great. Navigating a crowd is not one of my favourite pastimes. On the other hand, the lack of anonymity made me an easy target.
The Bazaar did live up to one expectation – it was a maze. While there is some signs of order in some parts of the market, most of the alleys are lined with what looks like the exact same stalls selling the exact same products. I have to good eye for detail that usually helps me navigate these kinds of places, but I went round and round in circles looking for a stall I bought one scarf from when I decided I wanted another. The commentary in my head went something like “Is that the same shoe store or a different one? Hang on, that’s definitely a different tea shop. Isn’t it?”
The scarves and an imitation Long Champ bag that I don’t at all believe I got the “best price” for were my only souvenirs, although there was plenty of temptation. I could have easily treated myself to a tea set and a carpet, especially if I’d let the stallholders have their way with my wallet. The vendors certainly have a way with words. I’ve shared some of my favourite lines below.
Make him happy. Buy something.
Where are you from?
Ahhh you swim here?
How can I help you spend your money?
I don’t have any money to spend.
Ah sometimes for free.
After passing several vendors, another makes eye contact.
Yes lady now it’s my turn.
A man points his finger at the ground and draws a trail into his store:
Lady I have everything…except customers.
Excuse me, excuse me you dropping something.
I turn to find a man on his knees holding his hand out.
…..my heart for you
Is this the shop you’re looking for?
Would you like carpet?
I don’t have a home.
You stay with me. I have a home and we can put carpet in it.