Istanbul has done what it does best and once again pushed itself to the forefront of our minds. That’s what this city does to you, and at this point, we’d love the next clause of this sentence to read, ‘so we’ve decided to go back there this weekend.’ But that’s not going to happen. There are nine weeks left in 2012 and, for the moment, none of those nine weeks includes any travel plans. The complete opposite in fact. We’re in hibernation mode, already pondering travel plans for 2013.
So this week, it’s been a case of scrolling through the Istanbul photo archives – there are a lot of them – and the second clause of the sentence is actually, ‘That’s what this city does to you, so we’ve decided to do make another addition to our Istanbul black and white photo series.’ Our first set of black and white photos were of some of Istanbul’s more familiar sights and then back in July of this year, we experimented with black and white shots of Istanbul street food. So what’s in store for part 3?
Mısır Çarsısı (the Egyptian Spice Bazaar) in Black & White
The Egyptian Spice Bazaar is probably Istanbul’s most famous historic trading centre after Kapalı Çarşısı (the Grand Bazaar), and it comes in for just as much stick for being ‘touristy.’ Last October, we decided to give it another go and decided that touristy it most definitely is, but that’s no reason to ignore it when you’re in Istanbul.
Built in 1664, Mısır Çarşısı is an L-shaped ornate construction whose main entrance sits right next to Yeni Camii. There’s no grand sign to announce its presence and, with the crowds of people to-ing and fro-ing and the fact that there’s a huge mosque demanding your attention, the entrance is easy to miss if you’re just passing by and aren’t familiar with the area.
We’re in the Eminönü area – one of our favourite areas in Istanbul. Those looking to do traditional Turkish souvenir shopping can get all the classics from Mısır Çarşısı: Turkish tea, macun, Turkish Delight, fabrics and, of course, spices. Nothing special there, so what is it that makes the Egyptian Spice Bazaar so appealing?
The 1664 construction date is the give away here. As shopping centres go, the Egyptian Spice Bazaar is both historic and aesthetically pleasing. We love walking through here. We’ve never bought anything (although the natural soaps above were a bit of a temptation). We just enjoy the experience of passing under hundreds of years old vaulted ceilings, breathing in the jumble of aromas.
If ‘touristy’ isn’t your thing, ignore the camera lenses and the ‘hello, yes please,’ of the traders. Enjoy the history, the intricate paintwork on walls and ceilings…but, oh, how mouth-watering does all this sausage, sucuk and pastırma look? If we were staying in an apartment in Istanbul, as we did in Izmir, even we would have parted with some cash at this shop.
Keeping one’s eyes looking straight ahead in Mısır Çarşısı is no easy task. Colourful mosaic lanterns, cured meats, sundried tomatoes, chillies and dried, hollowed out aubergines hang along your route towards your exit. Ignore all this and you can march through the main entrance by Yeni Camii and exit the other side at Hasırcılar Kapısı in around five minutes – but what a waste that would be.
Because there’s nothing overwhelming about the size of the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. You’re not going to get lost in a maze of covered streets. Take it as it is, enjoy the experience, and then emerge into the world of crowded streets that hug the exterior walls of this fine building. These are the streets where you’ll find alternative Istanbul souvenirs and where you’ll join the queue to buy fine Turkish coffee from the famous Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. These are the streets that sell all manner of household goods and where you’ll pick up good, cheap street food.
We use Mısır Çarşısı as our historic thoroughfare to get to these streets and this is where our Istanbul shopping expedition begins. Have you ever been to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar? What did you think?
Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Istanbul: Useful Info
- The Egyptian Spice Bazaar is in Eminönü, next to Yeni Camii (New Mosque)
- Entrance is free and it’s open 7 days a week, daytime only.
- If you’re arriving by Metro, get off at Eminönü. You can’t miss the imposing presence of Yeni Camii.
- From Taksim and Beyoğlu areas, walk down to Karaköy and cross Galata Bridge. You’ll see Mısır Çarşısı directly ahead of you.
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