Explorations - (Page 70)
The Grand Bazaar PASSING THROUGH THE MOORISH ARCHES OF ISTANBUL’S GRAND BAzAAR IS LIkE STEPPING BACk IN TIME TO THE DAYS OF SCHEHERAzADE. SMELLS TANTALIzE YOUR SENSES — HOT APPLE TEA, CINNAMON AND SAFFRON, EXOTIC SOAPS. THE DIFFUSE LIGHT SHINING THROUGH THE CLERESTORY WINDOWS GLEAMS DOWN ON FINE SILk HEADSCARVES, GEMSTONES AND LAMPS STRAIGHT OUT OF ALADDIN. YET THE GRAND BAzAAR IS EVEN OLDER — AND MORE ENCHANTING — THAN THE TALES OF A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS. Center of trade passed south. At its peak, the Grand Bazaar was as influential as Wall Street, and Istanbul was thought to have controlled two-thirds of the world’s wealth. The buildings have undergone numerous reconstructions over the years, but the complex is essentially the same as it was when it was first built over four centuries ago. Milk from a chicken? Magic carpets In 1270, Marco Polo visited Turkey and wrote about seeing “the most beautiful carpets in the world, and the most magnificent colors” — a conclusion you’re likely to reach yourself when you see the carpets for sale in the Grand Bazaar. World-famous Turkish carpets and kilims are some of the most popular items with shoppers, allowing them to take home not only a beautiful souvenir but also a bit of Turkish culture. For instance, carpet colors often reflect the history of the region where they were created — with colors being introduced by various conquerors and then absorbed into the local palette. This is why Western Anatolian carpets are dominated by red and blue, Central Anatolian carpets use primarily yellow and Eastern Anatolian carpets use just about any color other than yellow. Kilims (which are flat woven instead of knotted pile-like carpets) also reflect local traditions. Many feature vibrant, geometrical tribal designs with motifs that originated in ancient Anatolian myths. Even the strands of fabric hanging from some kilims have significance, originating from a rural tradition where teenaged girls would fasten strands of fabric onto trees and then silently make a wish. Mounds of henna and pistachios, fine jewelry, hand-loomed kilims . . . the Grand Bazaar is truly a Turkish delight. There’s an old Turkish saying that you can find absolutely anything in the Grand Bazaar — even the milk from a chicken. That may be a bit of a challenge, but if you’re looking for great bargains on just about anything else, you won’t be disappointed. Wandering the labyrinth of shops, you’ll encounter hundreds of Turkish carpets as well as Turkish instruments, brocades and damasks, gold and silver jewelry, turbans, belly dancing outfits, leather goods, ceramic tiles, copper cezves for brewing Turkish coffee and even Aladdin lamps. Many of these shops have been continuously run by the same families for over five generations, making them institutions in themselves. And in the antique section of the Old Bedesten and the Booksellers’ Bazaar you can enjoy seeing museum-quality goods like ancient swords and antique costumes along with musty books, maps and prints that hint at secrets untold. The Grand Bazaar was founded by Sultan Mehmet II in 1464, just eight years after the Turks conquered Constantinople. Operating as a sort of center of finance and trade, the covered marketplace has grown over the years to include more than 4,000 shops in a maze of vaulted passageways interspersed with beautifully painted cupolas. Then, as now, the city’s location made it the ideal trading location at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe. Silk, wine, fruit and gold passed north; furs, honey and slaves 70 E xplorations
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