The Spice Market, Istanbul
June 2, 2009
On May 21, 2009, Linda and I started out on foot from our hotel The Four Seasons Sultanahmet. We walked west through a mixed commercial and residential neighbourhood, where a few blocks still had some old charm.
We arrived at The Grand Bazaar in about twenty minutes and wandered a bit. It is as enormous as everyone says, but we didn’t find the merchandise appealing. If we stopped to look into a shop that seemed interesting, the shopkeeper would immediately start hassling us with high-pressure salesmanship.
So eventually we exited at the Örücüler Kapisi in the northwest corner and found ourselves on the Çarşı Caddesi, or Market Street, for a walk as suggested by The Turkey Travel Planner. This eventually becomes the Uzunçarşı Caddesi, or Longmarket Street. We wandered slowly downhill on these two streets where there are fascinating, very specific, shops for many things. In one block there are shops for buttons, shops for buckles, shops for beads etc. One block has firearm shops that would bring joy to any American gun lover. One can buy camouflaged gear. More sedately, there is a block for toys, games and woodworkers. There is much cooking equipment for sale. Interspersed are kebab stands with hot wood charcoal and tea shops. The merchants don’t have to go to the tea shop as there are many tea men carrying fresh glasses of tea on little copper trays; they seem to have regular routes among the shops. Linda bought a sesame bun from a street vendor. It did not seem as fresh as we had thought it would be.
At the bottom of Uzunçarşı Caddesi we turned right onto Hasircilar Caddesi, Street of the Matmakers. This wonderful street is a prelude to the Spice Bazaar at its other end. It is lined with specialty food shops of many kinds.
Aged cheese, including the salty string cheese.
Many varieties of “Turkish Delight.”
Grape leaves ready for stuffing and many types of pickles.
Nuts and dried fruits.
Behind the man in the brown shirt below is a big, old-fashioned coffee roaster. He sells just roasted coffee beans in little bags. The aroma pervades the street in front. Very popular, although tea is the regular drink in Istanbul.
Inside the covered old Spice Bazaar itself there are stands for a huge variety of comestibles, confections, oils etc, but not fresh foods, which are sold in the surrounding streets.
A remedy for almost anything, including a sign in French.
When I took this photo, the shopkeeper offered me a kilo for free for having taken a picture of his shop. I didn’t find out how that would have progressed if I had accepted.
Honey is used in many Turkish desserts.
Iranian caviar is available.
Sponges from the Aegean Sea.
On the quai along the Golden Horn below the Spice Market are food vendors, including one whose kitchen is on a boat.
Along the outside east wall of the Spice Market are garden stores and pet stores.
He can’t put up his magnificent tail in this cage.
Along the outside west wall of the Spice Market are butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers. Here we have tripe and other innards.
The photo below was a happy accident. All morning I had been hoping to get a photo of one of the many tea men delivering tea around to the shops, but they move quickly in an out of the crowds and doors. I didn’t see this man coming and was glad that he had walked into my photo of the combination butcher greengrocer.
Strangely, we only saw the big globe artichokes, never the smaller Mediterranean variety. Here some have been trimmed with just the heart for sale in bags or bottles. We found the mezes based on them to be disappointing. A glass of tea has just been delivered for the greengrocer.
This is the north end of the west wall.
This is the view from the north. On the left you can see the garden shops. The fishmongers etc are to the right. The Spice Bazaar building was constructed between 1597 and 1664. Its rents were to subsidize the adjacent mosque. In Turkish it is called ‘Mısır Çarşısı’, or Egyptian Bazaar, as many of the spices came from Egypt in the Ottoman era.
We had lunch at Hamdi, which is off to the right of the last photo. Then we took the very efficient tram back up the hill to Sultanahmet. On our last morning in Istanbul we took the tram both ways for a last visit to the Spice Market, which, in our opinion, ranks with Topkapi Palace as the two greatest sights of Istanbul.