Grand Bazaar... Always in your list of "must see places." How about 100 years ago?“There is nothing dull or commonplace about shopping or shopkeeping in the East.
The unconscionable length of time necessary to develop a bargain in Turkey accounts, perhaps, for the perpetual crowd in the bazaar. Whoever wishes to buy anything must return many times to the assault before he gets what he wants. The consequence is that where every customer comes four times instead of once to the shop where he has business, there are four times as many people in the tortuous passages and labyrinthine ways of the bazaar compared to the reasonable level. The process is certainly cumbrous. When you first see the object for which you are looking you must be blind, not let your features betray by the least expression that you are interested. Next, you should ask the price of at least one hundred articles in the shop, being careful, however, not to omit the one you need, lest the omission should make the shopkeeper suspect that you want it. You will then send for coffee and say that you have not come to buy anything, but have merely made inquiries out of curiosity. A few days later come, and again ask the prices of several things. On your third visit you may allow yourself to look more closely at what you have long since mentally selected, and to offer the shopkeeper not more than one-third of what he asks. On the fourth day prepare for a final pitched battle. If you do not look unrighteously rich and have not the appearance of being a " tender-foot," you may consider that you have done fairly well if you pay in the end about two-thirds of what was demanded.
Everything is mysterious in the bazaar and much is beautiful. A walled city within a walled city, and again an almost impregnable fortress within that, cut up in all directions by narrow passages, blind alleys and crossways, the whole being vaulted and roofed, and entirely lighted by countless little domes.”
The secret of not getting lost
These are the tactics Crawford offers for shopping at the Grand Bazaar. It seems that not much has changed today. Famous historian and guide Saffet Emre Tonguç offers another good insight on the seemingly complicated passages and labyrinth-like streets of the Grand Bazaar:
“If you don’t want to get lost at the Grand Bazaar, you have to understand the logic of the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar has 21 doors. The Nuriosmaniye Door is door number one. If you enter from there, numbers of stores increase by one on the right-hand side, and by two on the left hand side. To find the exit, you should just reach Store number one or two. All of the 65 streets are either perpendicular or parallel to the Kalpakçılar, the main street. Therefore, reaching the main street will always make it easier.”
Reference: 1890’larda İstanbul / Kültür Yayınları
From my interview with Saffet Emre Tonguç on Akşam, 11 January 2014 issue
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