Istanbul: Egyptian Spice Bazaar In Black & White

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

Mısır Çarşısı, The Egyptian Spice Market In Istanbul

Main entrance to Mısır Çarşısı

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.

Turkish Viagra, Istanbul

No shortage of (Turkish) viagra for sale in Turkey

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?

Turkish Natural Soaps, Egyptian Spice Market, Istanbul

Natural soaps are increasingly popular in Turkey

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.

Cured Meats, Istanbul

VERY tempting cured meats for sale in the Egyptian Spice Bazaar

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.

Dried Aubergines & Tomatoes, Istanbul, Egyptian Spice Bazaar

Strings of dried aubergine and tomato for sale

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.

Hasırcılar Entrance, Mısır Çarşısı, Istanbul

Hasırcılar Kapısı – historic, gated entrance / exit to Mısır Çarşısı

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.
  • You can use our search facility to book hotels in Istanbul at great prices.

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  1. Oh, I loved this place! Just, as you say, it might get a little bit annoying with everyone trying to persuade you to buy something, but it’s still a great place to wonder through. So many sweets, teas, spices – and the smell is just marvelous! 🙂 however, if you want to buy something, there are way more reasonably priced places to do that 🙂

  2. I must prefer the spice market to the Grand Bazaar. It smells so delicious it always makes me hungry to wander around.Did you eat at Pandeli’s in the corner with its photos of film stars around the walls?

  3. . . as you enter through the bottom gate, turn to your left and right behind the gate are stone stairs that lead up to the most atmospheric restaurant in Istanbul (in my opinion). It doesn’t appear to have changed in a hundred years or more. You are surrounded by old black and white photos of the rich and famous who have dined here. It ain’t cheap but it is a treat now and again. Try the fish steamed in its own little grease-proof paper parcel – delicious!

  4. I love getting lost in the different shops in the Spice Market…so many treats to try! The market looks great in B&W!

  5. @ Migle: Glad you like the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, too. And looking is always free. 🙂

    @ BacktoBodrum: I think on this particular day, we wandered around and then bought a big cup of pickles (by the main road) to eat, if I remember rightly. 🙂 Will look out for Pandeli’s next time.

  6. @ Alan: Heard lots of good things about this place before but never been – it’s the ‘not cheap’ bit that’s seen to that. May just go as a treat if we’re ever in Istanbul at a time when we’re feeling flushed… 🙂

  7. @ Alan: And yet again, I’ve just worked out that you and BacktoBodrum are talking about the same place. Definitely going top have to try it now. 🙂

    @ Jenny: Thanks. Definitely going to go back to the Spice Bazaar to get some good colour photos, too. A shame not to show all the fab spices and lanterns in their full glory. 🙂

  8. This is a great place….I’ve been several times. So many teas, spices, and fantastic smells and aromas…. my husband’s cousin has a spice shop there so he always loads me up when I go to take back with me.
    Love the black and white.

  9. Great photos, in black and white they are more dramatic. I ADORED this market, should I go back to Istanbul that would be my very first stop.

  10. @ Erica (Irene): Lucky you, getting loaded up with spices. You’ll have to try and arrange a good deal for us next time we go to Mısır Carşısı then we can top up, too. 😉

    @ Angela: The Egyptian Spice Bazaar is very attractive isn’t it. Think we’ll be back shopping in Eminönü as soon as we’re back in Istanbul, too. 🙂

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