Covered Bazaar-Kapali Carsi
Welcome to Istanbul at its legendary Covered Bazaar! Join in an aged tradition as you poke your way around this historic and enormous maze of shops. This is the place to wander around and purchase loads of interesting gifts for yourself and others! The structure that houses all these goods and experiences is itself one of the most important historic sites in Istanbul with its architectural style, location, and extensive history. Soak up the colorful atmosphere as you explore a labyrinth of corridors with vaulted, ornately decorated ceilings. Marvel at the great deal you got on the jewelry you bought and the haul of unique gifts you found for next to nothing. If you go with a group, use the buddy system and be sure to pick an easily recognized place to meet up or else you could find yourself wandering the corridors in frustration as you try to find your friends.
The shops are filled to bursting with loads of different goods that spill out into the corridors with huge displays of everything from fake brand name goods such as hats, watches, belly dancer's outfits, carpets, roasted chestnuts, postcards and pomegranates.
The Covered Bazaar is not for the faint of heart. Here the shopper is constantly barraged with a pushy but friendly sales pitch that usually begins with: "Excuse me please", "This way, please" or the ever popular "Where are you from?" and "Are you American?" as you stroll past the shops. They will keep repeating such phrases in an effort to grab the attention of the passers-by and doggedly try to start conversations in pursuit of making a sale.
Be prepared for this, but try not to be offended by the constant badgering. These people's livelihoods depend on their ability to grab your attention in the fierce competition of the Covered Bazaar. They use this sensory overload to try to tempt you into their shops and hopefully convince you to buy something.
In fact, it is the friendly but persistent merchants hovering over their wares that make the experience of the Covered Bazaar as unique as it is. The salesmen largely ignore the locals and focus their sales pitch on each and every foreigner they spot. Their ability not only to spot foreigners, but also to guess their nationality is astonishing, as is their incredible skill in being able to communicate in multiple languages. They are a huge part of the palpable sense of vitality that bristles around you from the moment you enter the Bazaar.
All shopkeepers speak some English and are willing to help you find the area with the type of goods that you are interested in. They know the layout of the Bazaar very well and will help you find some order within the chaos. They will of course invite you into their shop as well, and may even offer you tea. Just remember that you are not obliged to buy anything unless you want to. Even if you don't plan to part with a lira, revel in the strange world of the Covered Bazaar.
Tradesmen of the Covered Bazaar are also amongst the best marketers in the world. Once you step into a jewelry or a carpet store, it is almost impossible not to find something that you feel you simply must have. Expect a hard sell especially when shopping for carpets. Within seconds your salesman will have spread perhaps fifteen carpets on the floor in front of you. They surround you with colorful rugs making it feel virtually impossible to consider leaving. Needless to say, bargaining over price is standard operating procedure and that about half the original starting price on most items seems to be the place to settle. The price you are going to pay for an item depends on the mood of the shopkeeper and your haggling ability. Even if you don't plan to buy a carpet, it is lots of fun to go into a shop and have the carpet shop experience.
Lots of people don't like bargaining and that is understandable. Just try to remember that you are in a different place with different rules and try to have fun with it. Don't worry about what the "right" price should be. When you find something you want, don't think in terms of "what is the price", think in terms of what you are willing to pay for it. Bargaining is part of the Turkish culture, and although the exchange may be done in a friendly way, it is never personal, so don't be embarrassed to give it a try!Please note that: Explicit authorization is needed for the purchase and/or removal of Turkish antiquities and other cultural artifacts. A receipt and the official "museum export certificate" are needed to legally export such an item.
One of the main entrances to the Covered Bazaar leads you into the main thoroughfare of gold and jewelry shops that glitter and twinkle out into the corridor. Salespeople will invite you in for a look, knowing quite well that you will be tempted to do more than look. Speaking some Turkish does miracles here, if you don't; try to get a local friend to go along with you if you are in the mood for serious shopping. Otherwise have a glance or two and move along, there is a ton to see around every corner of this enormous bazaar and enough to keep you busy for hours.
Although the Covered Bazaar is one of the most heavily frequented tourist attractions in Istanbul, it is also still an important center of commerce for Turks as well. Families come to buy bridal fabrics and clothing as well as engagement and wedding rings. The bride comes with her mother and other relatives, who assist her with the selection. Often the groom accompanies them, which helps make them feel more comfortable as women may find themselves being hit on quite frequently as they browse through the Bazaar. There is an ongoing tradition in Turkey of presenting the bride with gold coins or jewelry, as much as the relatives of both sides and the wedding guests can afford. This is one of the reasons for the abundance of jewelry shops in the market. Workshops in and around the Covered Bazaar meet most of the demands for such gifts for the whole of Turkey. This should be some indication of the overwhelming amount of gold that changes hands at the Covered Bazaar.
Although this favorite tourist attraction can sometimes feel like a tourist trap, it is a destination that is not to be missed. In Turkey business, art and the folklore are inextricably bound together, and the Covered Bazaar is the best place to see this side of the culture in action.
Please also check the following link for detailed information on Covered Bazaar.
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Alexandre Vallaury - Architect Alexandre Vallaury was born into a Levantine family in İstanbul in 1850. Apart from the years he spent on architecture education in Paris, he lived in İstanbul for the rest of his life. more...
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