Istanbul Bazaar Quarter, Turkey – the smell of spices and the voices of the muezzins

Istanbul Bazaars

An integral part of Istanbul’s appearance are bazaars, of which there have always been many in the city, most of them covered and most often specialized. There were markets for meat and fish, vegetables and fruits, furs and fabrics, jewelry, etc. As a rule, oriental markets were a labyrinth of streets and alleys with vaulted roofs. Dozens of shops of traders and craftsmen made up a market complex, where noisy and bustling life began in the early morning, as usual for the Eastern markets. Such markets were built mainly according to the projects of famous architects, in particular, Tiryaki market was built according to the famous Sinan project.

Bedestans, massive stone buildings with iron bars, occupied a special place in the system of trade centers of medieval Istanbul. The French traveler S. Maurice in the 16th century described the first bedestan in this way:

“This is a place in Constantinople where gold and silver craftsmen, jewelers, and merchants of fabrics woven with gold and other valuable things exhibit their goods for sale. It consists of two large covered rooms surrounded by walls six feet thick. There are four double doors in the walls (one against the other), connected by vaults. The rooms themselves are also vaulted, and the dome is supported by twenty-four columns. There are many small benches built into the walls and pilasters, a sort of cabinet six feet wide and four feet long. Small tables stand in front of them to display goods for sale. Access to the bedestan is fenced by iron gates, which are locked late and opened early.”

The riches of the bedestans were incalculable: coins, precious stones, jewelry of all kinds, silk carpets, luxurious embroidery, gold, weapons. And all of this, to the European eye, was stacked in the strangest way – in more or less iron-bound spruce boxes with very uncomplicated locks. And despite this, there was no theft on the Bedestan. In addition, merchants and other merchandise owners kept a large number of watchmen.

Some of Istanbul’s bazaars were based on the market complexes of Constantinople. For example, on the site of today’s Avret Bazaar (Women’s Market) was the Arcadia Forum, where (as mentioned earlier) in 421 the emperor erected a column in honor of his father Theodosius I and with his statue. The column from its base to the top was decorated with bas-reliefs depicting the victories of Emperor Theodosius the Great over the Scythians. This monument stood in its place until 1719, and then fell to the ground during an earthquake. The very foundation on which the column stood, has survived and remains in its place to this day. In the past it was for a long time the home of a Turk, who, for a small fee, opened his shelter to the curious.

Not far from the forum of Arcadia was the square of the Bull, often called simply Bull. The square got its name from a huge bronze bull, which sometimes served as a furnace for the burning of criminals. The area is now known as Ak-Saray.

Kapaly Çarşı (Covered Market) is the largest in Istanbul

The Kapaly-Charshi (Covered Market) – the largest market in Istanbul – was also built on the basis of the Constantinople market. Built in 1461 by Sultan Mehmed II in order to regulate the affairs and security of the city merchants, it “consisted of long, wide and intertwined corridors under high arches, where light penetrated through the holes made in the roof. The vaults and walls of the market were painted with flowers and fruits, and on both sides of the gallery were arranged stalls, but so that there was a road left in the middle. Behind him, the big goods were put on the walls and the small ones were in clumsy glass boxes near him on the counter, where everything was piled up… With a roof and protected from the wind, this market served as a shelter to numerous crowds of people all day long. In the heat of summer it is especially pleasant. Everyone rushes from the stifling heat of an uncovered street into its refreshing coolness. Then it looks like an underground city, teeming with a bustling population of many thousands of people making noise, buying and selling in the cold half-light of dusk. Everything was traded here – incense and jewels, textiles and shoes, mace blades and ancient manuscripts.”[70]

Repeatedly reconstructed and expanded after great fires and earthquakes Kapaly-Charshi by the beginning of XVIII century was reconstructed as we see it today. By the end of the century, when the main part of it (bedestan) was built, it was transformed into an entire market town of 30,702 square meters. A description of this gigantic market was found in the books of every traveler who had visited Istanbul.

One can easily get lost in Kapaly-Carsi as there are thousands of shops and workshops, several warehouses and fountains, several small mosques and one big one… In 1704, under Sultan Ahmed III the Old Bedestan (Armory Bazaar) was built, which is a structure with arches and domes resting on pillars. The area occupied by this bedestan is 1,336 sq. m. The most valuable and expensive items are sold there, and in former times the iron chests in the cellars of the stores were used to store the treasures of the goldsmiths and jewels of the townspeople. The Old Bedestan also sells antiques, which is why it is also called the “Rarity Bazaar”.

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The Turkish merchants sat solemnly in their seats, paying little attention to the customers, who wandered in amazement among all this wealth. The filigree silver and goldware of Egypt, the diamonds of Golconda, the turquoise from Singapore, the ruby, the pearls, the corals, the bracelets, the necklaces, the rings-all testified and attested to the Oriental people’s taste for jewelry. Here one could also see delightfully small shoes embroidered with gold threads; robes, Persian shawls, women’s silk cloaks, bedspreads, velvets embroidered with bright colors, carpets, ivory products, all kinds of curiosities… It is not without reason that they say: “If you cannot find the thing you need at Kapaly-Charshi, it means that it does not exist in the world.

In the Armory Bazaar, smoking a pipe was not allowed, because this bedestan constituted the pride of a Muslim, who used to consider expensive weapons the only luxury that is allowed to everyone. If you are lucky, you can find here ancient items and costumes, ancient coins, Byzantine ceramics, weapons and swords… The French writer Theophile Gautier wrote: “The treasures contained in the Armory Bazaar are incalculable. They show you the Damascus swords and assure you that they are from the ones with which Sultan Salah-ud-Saladin used to cut down feather pillows in the presence of Richard Plantagenet. There are the mace swords, which in the hands of a skilled warrior can hammer into the anvil as if it were soft wood. There are also enchanted swords – with words of prayer on the blade, with notches on their blunt side that signify the number of enemies killed. On the walls hang scimitars so strong and sharp that they can pierce through a thick shell as if it were a piece of paper. Here you will be shown daggers with handles made only of precious stones, and daggers which may have been raised in the hands of Tamerlane or Genghis Khan and with which they smashed the helmet and skull of the enemy in one fell swoop. The whole picturesque and ferocious arsenal is spread out before your eyes, and when a ray of sunlight, creeping down from the vault, falls upon all this collection of steel, gold, sapphire stars, diamond moons, silver and copper, the whole bazaar glitters and revives, striking your spirit with unspeakable confusion.

True, it may turn out that the “medieval” guns and pistols are made in neighboring workshops, but even the fakes here are beautiful. What about guns! Analyses and studies have shown that some of the “prehistoric” items allegedly found in Turkish soil and stored in the world’s largest museums have in fact turned out to be fakes, too. Beautiful imitations had been misleading scientists even of world renown for decades…

There is an old legend connected with the Big Bazaar, as well as with many other places in Istanbul.

Since the number of poor people in the city was constantly growing, Sultan Bayazid II ordered to make room in this market for them so that they could sell their old things. Allah was pleased with the thought of the pious sultan, and the poor soon became rich. Since then, it has become a custom among the junk merchants of the Grand Bazaar to gather every morning, before trading, for a common prayer, in which they are sure to remember their benefactor. If anyone avoided the common prayer without a good reason, he was excluded from their circle.

The large bazaar has somewhat modernized by now, but even now, when one walks past the jewelry shops where diamonds, rings, chains, and silver filigree sparkle, it seems as if one has entered a cave from the fairy tales of One Thousand and One Nights. Numerous inns (khane) with access to Kapaly-Charshi are located around the market, and thus, they form a single whole with it. The gate of the Big Bazaar is locked at 7 p.m. sharp, and 50 watchmen stay there for the night.

In Yasyr-bazaar slaves and slave girls were sold (mainly from Arabia and Georgia), and it should be noted that they were bought not only by Muslims, but also by Christians. The slaves were kept like birds in cages. The buyers examined them naked from head to toe to see if their bodies had any blemishes or traces of disease. Women were priced according to their beauty, and often the rich and noble bought them to marry.

There have always been many captive Russians in Turkey, who were mainly sold into slavery by the Tatars. The main market for Russian slaves was in Constantinople, where Russian slaves had been sold since the times of Kievan Rus’. After the conquest of the Byzantine capital by the Turks in the harbor on a different day entered 3-4 ships with Russian slaves, who were then sold in the market squares of Istanbul.

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The true gem of Constantinople was the current Circhi Bazaar, which was also an endless labyrinth of corridors, under the low and gloomy arches of which shops with all kinds of goods were located: Eastern fabrics, shoes, carpets, books, jewelry … and there crowded together loan offices, pubs and taverns, whose owners roasted fat shashlik on a bright fire under the noses of the public passing by.

In addition to the Turks, there were many Greeks and Jews in the labyrinth of the Chirchi Bazaar, posing as the French. The tax-free trade in Constantinople gave all nations a wide range of activities. Visitors were overwhelmed by the mass of all kinds of goods and all sorts of faces. Turkish vendors learned to recognize the Russians and immediately called them: “Come here!” and “What do you want?” Russians were always greeted friendly, but that didn’t stop the vendors from charging ungodly prices, so you had to haggle without sparing your throat.

In the Eminenyu neighborhood there is another large market in Istanbul – Mysyr-Charshi (Egyptian), the history of which is very curious.

During the reign of Sultan Mehmed IV, his mother Turkan Hatice built a madrassa not far from Yeni Jami. One day she decided to take a look at what the softs are doing there. They had no classes that day, and sitting together in a room, they gossiped merrily: “It’s good for us in this madrassah. It is only a pity that the Sultaness did not take care of entertainment for us!” Upon hearing such talk, Turkan Hatice dispersed the students the very next day, and ordered the madrasah to be turned into a bazaar.

The Egyptian market was built with money paid as dues by merchants from Cairo (primarily spice merchants). The construction was begun by the architect Kasim-aga and completed in 1663 by the architect Mustafa-aga. The building was begun by the architect Kasym-aga and completed in 1663 by the architect Mustafa-aga. It is shaped like the Latin letter “L” and was demolished in 1943, when restoration work was carried out.

With six entrances and 86 stores, the market is now better known as the Spice Bazaar: a veritable museum of oriental scents – resins, medicines, herbs, spices, perfumes, incense – as if all of Asia has gathered its exotic fragrances here. Pepper, sugar cane, ginger, nutmeg, pistachios from Aleppo, resinous mastic from Chios, oriental brow rubs, henna for hair, incense, sandalwood and cactus oil…

At the Spice Bazaar.

It is said that when Sultan Abdul-Aziz returned in 1867 from a trip abroad, people began to grumble that he was spending money recklessly. To convince his subjects of the wealth of the treasury, the sultan ordered bags of gold to be displayed in the Egyptian Bazaar…

Above one of the entrances to the Egyptian Bazaar is the famous Pandilly Restaurant, more than 450 years old. The restaurant is lined with blue tiles interspersed with blue stripes. Plates hang on the walls of the small, interconnecting halls; chandeliers descend from the high, domed ceilings; and the unstoppable noise of the streets of Istanbul can be heard through windows punched into the incredibly thick walls and barred with grates. “Pandilli is famous all over the world: lovers of Oriental cuisine from France, Spain, South America, Japan, and other countries specially come here.

In the district Eminenyu adds its flavors to the smells of spices, basturma and fish and Flower Market. Nearby is the small Bird Bazaar, because many people in Istanbul are fans of birdsong and often have singing birds in cages in old tea houses, coffee houses or barbershops. The custom of buying birds to set them free has also survived: in the old days rich Turks, when they bought a slave, relieved their souls by giving freedom to a few birds.

This text is an introductory excerpt.

Continued on LitRes

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“Mysterious caves, aromatic scents and boisterous markets: why go to Turkey in springtime

Cappadocia is one of the most desirable places in Turkey for those tourists who do not like to spend their vacations lying on the beach all day. Many years before Christ, this land was home to a belief in the goddess Khepat, and the later Hittites called the area “Katpatuka”, which means “land of the beautiful horses. Here, in the heart of Asia Minor, ancient eras and a unique landscape closely intertwined – stone cities, volcanic landscapes, cave temples and bright balloons proved to be the ideal place for lovers of beautiful photographs, historical artifacts and natural wonders. Lenta.ru correspondent visited Cappadocia, looked into Istanbul and told about her adventures.

The Cave City

As soon as I awoke, I spent a long time trying to guess what time it was – the only small window in my cave room was covered with dense embroidered curtains. When I fumbled for the phone on the bedside table in the darkness, I knew it was time to get out of my rocky hole. Sleeping in an underground grotto was at least an unusual experience – especially those who like coolness and absolute silence will like it here. Despite the scope of comfort and coziness that the designers managed to fit into a small rock room, the feeling of detachment from the outside world did not leave. Although at times it is very appealing.

Hidden in the rocks, the cave hotel was the perfect place to start exploring Cappadocia’s magical landscapes and history. The name of the hotel is not accidental – several hundred years ago it was the center of a small settlement named Yunak, which during the Ottoman Empire was part of the largest city of the region, Başhisar, which means “main fortress”.

Now it has a new name – Urgup, and the atmosphere of ancient Anatolia and the bustling tourist life are closely intertwined here.

The morning was in no hurry to warm the stone valley – the moon’s sickle and a few stars still hung over the hills. The cold breath of dawn plunged the town into a deep sleep. The silence was interrupted only by the chirping of birds, and a faint yellow glow on the horizon from behind the mountains also began to suggest the imminent arrival of the sun.

Shivering from the light frost, I climbed another set of stairs to reach the roof of the hotel. Out in the open, my phone finally caught on. It was only six degrees. Isn’t that a little low for a Turkish March? But until sunrise the high plateau will remain in its grim unfriendliness.

It seems that without the crowds of tourists tiny Urgüp remains a small village, which skillfully hides its identity in a measured way of life. The stone houses are surprisingly combined with dwellings carved in the rocks – a network of rectangular grottoes, caves of different shapes and small black holes of windows literally dotted the tuff mountains, which in their majesty towered over the city. It seems so natural to encounter locals in turbans and wide trousers, oriental beauties in long robes with their faces covered in silk shawls, and carts rushing to market laden with crops from the orchards and vegetable fields.

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There’s still not a soul on the streets – no stores or cafes have opened yet. But local merchants have long prepared to welcome visitors: they have laid out various red clay figurines, Eastern ornaments, relief figurines, colorful mosaic lamps – in other words, everything that catches the eye of a tourist hungry for souvenirs. Lying unattended goods are unlikely to interest anyone – respect between people is paramount here.

The steep cobblestone path led me deep into the narrow streets, leaving behind the terrace of the restaurant, hidden under the sprawling branches of pine trees, and the slender silhouettes of the minarets of the Kebir Mosque. Suddenly a huge sheepdog appeared at my feet. After a friendly sniff of my boots and a couple of pokes in my lap, it just as quickly disappeared into the nooks and crannies of the houses, guided by its gentle inquisitive nose. Following the signs on the wall indicating the direction of Mount Temenni Lookout, I continued away from the souvenir shops and up to the very top of the hill.

When I came to a dead end, I was already doubting the rightness of my path, when I saw a small veranda of a cafe on the right side of the road. Behind it, a little further away, was a neat two-story house, on the porch of which there were also a couple of tables with chairs. The observation room itself was hidden deep in the courtyard, where the noise of the streets and the conversations of holidaymakers could not penetrate. There was nothing unnecessary in the panorama that opened in front of me. A huge sandy cliff smoothly split into carved vaults of dwellings in the karst rock, its steep slopes overhanging the stone city. In the perfect purity of the picture, ancient history wonderfully blended with the new age.

Valley of the Doves and Monks

At noon, leaving the master city of Avanos, famous for its pottery and carpet weaving, I set out for the southernmost part of Cappadocia. The sharply continental climate of the plateau is famous for its contrast – as night falls, the heated air instantly freezes and the temperature drops to sub-zero levels. But then I was even glad for the leaden clouds that covered the sky tightly.

The cloud cover had allowed the valley to be saturated with color-the sandy color of the cone-shaped spikes and tuff peaks scattered everywhere suddenly began to take on dusty pink and dirty green hues. One could hear the raindrops rustling softly.

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Heading down the road through the heart of the Göreme National Park, I had a panoramic view of the undulating plain surrounded on the horizon by cliff edges from the front row of a large bus. On either side of me flew sparse low trees and slowly stretched wide the dry land of the valley, still waiting for the bountiful rains and summer warmth.

The sun’s rays did break through the dense veil of clouds, throwing bright light selectively on the clefts and fanciful hills. The squat dark-olive mountain caps stood on vertical bases, stratifying and disintegrating into ochre columns, and at the very foot the tuff remnants protruded as sharp teeth of a pile.

Amazing volcanic landscape of the region is famous for its unique geology. Millions of years ago, a chain of volcanoes spewed out huge amounts of ash and lava. The magma flows and sediments were compressed under their own weight and turned into basalt and tuff, which covered the entire mountain valley, making it a plateau

Bizarre landforms, curved gorges and deep canyons have been weathered over millions of years, eroded by torrential rains and rivers, and shattered by ice and temperature variations-the cracks in the rocks are still slowly segregating due to unceasing erosion.

This is how the famous peribajalars in the Monach valley, which means “fairy fireplaces” in Turkish, came into being. The stone giants here look like mushrooms – a high tuff “leg” is crowned with a triangular basalt cap.

The bazaar at the foot of the Ukhcisar fortress lured me into its trap, and for a while my thoughts of the pinkish mountains of Cappadocia began to fade away. The abundance of souvenirs and pretty trinkets makes me stop here in search of an interesting gift for friends, just as the small cafes hidden in the steep cliffs beckon to pause with a view of the valley. Settled on the top platform, I watched with interest the ruins of the ancient city – dozens of multi-story stone pyramids with hollowed out in the rock ladders and passageways, connected by a thin web of paths.

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Long before the Romans came to Asia Minor, the Ukhchisar rock in the settlement of the same name served as a fortress for the Hittites, a 60-meter high ant colony-like mountain tower with numerous tunnels and passages leading to the other two tufa citadels.

The view from the Gyverdjinlik valley that skirts the southern side of the ancient city is fantastic as if the houses rising out of the rock pile up higher and higher on top of each other before plummeting down the steep slope. Hundreds of entrances and windows carved in the soft tuff gape with black eyes as the wind exposes more and more of the rubble over the years. For centuries, people have bred pigeons in this valley, carving small cells for them in the steep walls. Before artificial fertilizers were available, bird droppings were used to fertilize the sandy soil.

Sacred Ground

Having moved away to the mysterious land, people jealously guarded their faith – in the thickness of the volcanic rock whole complexes of monasteries were carved, reliably hidden from strangers by natural reliefs. In the cave labyrinths the first Christians found refuge from the persecutions of Rome. Here, in the rocky cells for centuries there have been unceasing prayers – an unshakable faith supported the human spirit in the struggle for existence.

Renouncing worldly goods, many found their own way in seclusion – having mastered the small tufaceous dwellings, people began to build entire underground cities and churches with an extensive system of utility rooms, kitchens, refectories, storerooms and cells. The peculiarity of the area and the sanctity of the land became more and more attractive for a quiet and secretive life as they were developed.

Each cave conceals the entrance to a small temple with its own unique history of creation, development, forgetfulness and desolation. From simple oblong room forms, Christians moved on to create two-story churches with vaulted ceilings and arches, referring to a characteristic feature of the Byzantine period. The central and side domes, which form a cruciform pattern, are supported by carved columns and apses.

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The ascetic red-figure iconography was invested by the first believers with a special meaning – the ornaments, made in bright ochre, depict the symbols of Christianity. In the little-understood figures, the eye hurries to recognize familiar subjects – triangles in the form of burning torches are most likely evangelists, eight vertical lines with radiant crowns look like archangels, and the cross is obviously the most powerful meaning of Christ for preachers.

The red icons and stripes peek through the various layers of painting, unique Cappadocian fresco paintings superimposed over old images. Despite the ravages of hundreds of years, some of them have managed to retain the brightness of their colors and the continuity of their subjects. This is largely due to architectural solutions – tiny luminaries carved in the stone – windows that allow a small amount of sunlight to pass through, for many centuries kept the semi-darkness in the high vaults of the Dark Church.

The faces of the saints, distorted by barbarians, do not diminish the monumentality of the images; rather, the crumbled and damaged fragments of frescoes create a magnificent atmosphere of true art and the sanctity of the sacraments that take place here

Istanbul

While in pink-gray twilight sleepy bus slowly carried me to the airport through the lands of ancient Anatolia, about a hundred balloons rose into the sky – their brightly colored colors played in the light of clear morning dawn. The road, stretching in a narrow band past the sleeping vineyards and small villages, went into the glowing orange color of the sun cloudy distance. As we rounded the valley from the west, the panorama of the huge, handsome volcano of Erciyas, hanging over the horizon in a blue clump, unfolded directly in front of us.

These last memories of the country’s volcanic landscapes were quickly swept from my mind by the frantic and noisy rhythm of Istanbul. In its streets you literally lose your head from the riot of flavors and color – motley shops under canopies appearing on every corner, huge shop windows with Turkish sweets, tiny cafes with miniature tables at which locals sit and leisurely sip tea from tulip cups. Despite the influence of European traditions, Istanbul continues to live in its identity, with its own views of the world and its own style.

In the center of the vast ancient city, which lives according to a strict prayer schedule, you can feel the free and willful spirit of the sea element. As I sat on the upper deck of the boat, the headwind whistled in my ears. Wrapped up in my plaid, I stubbornly resisted the cold air currents, but the sunset colors of the hilly Bosphorus coastline were worth staying for.

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