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  If you know one thing about Istanbul, it may quite possibly be that it's the city of the 'Grand Bazaar' (Kapali Carsisi in Turkish). The mother of all covered market places had humble beginnings as a much smaller market in 1461, during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror. Now comprised of well over four thousand shops stretching over a maze of sixty-odd winding streets, it easily holds the title of largest covered market in the world. And inside: the famous hand-made carpets and kilims (a woven-style of rug), leather goods, and everything from belly-dancing outfits to 'cezve' (pronounced 'jesveh' - the special copper pots for brewing Turkish coffee). The bazaar's streets are named and labeled, but still confusing. Unfortunately, this bustling space of the new and old has had its fair share of tragedies. Earthquakes and fires have both affected the building more than once - the most recent being the major fire of 1954. After each event, the Grand Bazaar was repaired, but original records have been lost forever. And so, we've lost that bit of history too. But life marches on in and around the bazaar. Around, because the marketplace is not merely within the walls of the official covered section, but it also extends past the surrounding areas to create an open-air shopping arena that disappears each evening until its subsequent morning arrival. You may have heard that the Grand Bazaar is really just a tourist trap these days, but that is only partly true. Although it has become a major attraction for most of the many visitors to Istanbul, you will notice that most voices in the bazaar are Turkish, as a large percentage of the locals do make purchases here from time to time. With a keen eye and careful bargaining, great deals are certainly there for the taking. Take your time, decide what your limit is for the desired item, and keep firm to that number. And make sure you also simply wander - if you don't find what your heart desires on one street, remember that there are dozens of others to explore. If browsing is your style, this is certainly THE place to do it. It can be difficult to take in all the colors and noises, but the fun, as always, is in the trying. Important to note, also, is that the outdoor market is far less touristic than the official covered one, and the necessities are easier to find. If you are not interested in the trinkets of souvenirs and the investments of carpets and kilims, this may be for you. The Grand Bazaar is open from Mondays to Saturdays, 9:00am to 7:00 pm, and is located in the Beyazit section of Istanbul, near Istanbul University. It stretches from Yeniceriler Caddesi (the tramway street that is also the extension of Divan Yolu) down towards Eminonu, where the Egyptian Spice Bazaar takes over nearly to the banks of the Golden Horn. The easiest way to find it is to take the tramway to the Beyazit stop (2 stops from Sultanahmet, or an easy walk). You will immediately see a conglommeration of people - follow them, and behold! The Grand Bazaar entrance (one of them) is amidst the kebap stands, smeet (sesame-covered bread rings not unlike a hearty bagel) vendors, and rows of shoes and clothing for sale. Be aware that there are cash machines, tea gardens, and full restaurants within the walls of the Grand Bazaar, and plenty of tourist police who can prove very helpful when trying to locate said amenities. And as this is a crowded place, mind your purses and wallets. This is not a warning against Istanbul in particular, but against crowds in any big city for a foreign visitor. The outdoor markets are generally open longer hours, and every day of the week.

THE EGYPTIAN SPICE BAZAAR

Found near the Galata Bridge, which passes over the waters of the Golden Horn, and practically in the shadow of the New Mosque (really four hundred years-old, and called Yeni Cami in Turkish) is the famous Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Misir Carisisi). Much smaller than the Grand Bazaar, and less touristic too, the Spice Bazaar was built in 1660 to help support the upkeep of the mosque. The Grand Bazaar is known for its colors and noises,but the Spice Bazaar is a lesson in smells and tastes. Here is where you can find all manner of Turkish Delight candy (lokum), baklava, teas and Turkish coffee, and dried fruits. The array of containers overflowing with colorful spices is really something to see, as well as smell. This is also the best place to buy toiletries like the big cakes of olive oil soap displayed at many shops. Like the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is surrounded by vendors of clothing, school supplies, and most everything else. In fact, you could easily make your way from one bazaar to the other, and not stray from the outdoor markets.

 The Egyptian Spice Bazaar is open Mondays to Saturdays, 8:30am to 6:30 pm. NEIGHBORHOOD MARKETS Apart from the biggies, there are many others of the covered varieties, and also several open-air markets all over the city of Istanbul on any given day of the week. The former are generally shopping plazas in a fairly Western style, and the latter are usually the ones for buying fresh fruit, kitchen implements, and clothing in a setting more reminiscent of a flea market or farmers' market.

 

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