Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) - Istanbul, Turkey
Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) - Istanbul, Turkey

Spice Bazaar

This market place was built by Saftye Sultan, mother of Mehmed III, in the year 1663 as a part of the New Mosque complex, which included the mosque, shops, a tomb, two water kiosks, a hadith school and an elementary school. When it was first opened, it was called the Valide Market, but as most of the goods sold came from Egypt, it took on the name “Egyptian Bazaar”. The bazaar burned twice, in 1691  and in 1940. After both fires, it was restored by the municipality of Istanbul and retained its present state.

Istanbul’s second largest covered market, the Egyptian Bazaar has six gates, all of which are not used today. The shops inside sell spices, nuts, traditional “meze” foods, and gift items.

The L-shaped rows of shops are behind the New Mosque, to the west. One line of the row of shops, 120 meters long, is perpendicular to the mosque; the other line, 150 meters long, is parallel to the mosque.

In the middle of each line is a walkway covered with a barrel vault and on both sides is a row of shops. The dome covering the bazaar is higher than that of the Covered Bazaar. The bazaar is made of stone, brick, and rubble stone.

The molding is a good example of Turkish architecture. The Egyptian Bazaar mostly sells daily needs, such as medicine and spices. In the past the front of the shops was not open as they are today. The doors became open arches, more convenient for the shopkeepers. Outside of the Egyptian Bazaar there is an open market with plants, flowers and varieties of live animals puppies, birds, rabbits, etc.  It is one of the most lively and interesting places in Istanbul.

The Spice Bazaar is located in the neighborhood of Eminönü, adjacent to the New Mosque. After the Grand Bazaar, it is the largest and oldest covered market in Istanbul.

Completed in 1664, The ‘Egyptian Bazaar’ (In Turkish, Mısır Çarşısı), often referred to as The Spice Bazaar, is so named because it was built with taxes collected from Egypt. The bazaar originally housed spice stores and pharmacies. In recent years, many of the spice shops have closed and have been replaced with venders selling gold, soaps, Turkish Delight, cheeses, scarves, rugs, backgammon sets, and other souvenirs.

Assuming you sample a Turkish Delight or two, the bazaarwill delight all five of your senses. Upon entering, your nose is immediately flooded by the wide array of spices. The voices of tourists and beckoning shop keeps bounce off the domed ceilings. Neat uniform mounds of vibrant spices line the sides of the bazaar. Tiny labels are planted in the towers, giving the price per kilo. The spice stalls also sell various dried fruits, flowers, and herbs. You’ll even see piles of all-natural Turkish Viagra.
Even if you don’t intend to purchase anything, it’s worth it to take half an hour to stroll through the L-shaped market and take a peek at its 86 shops. During the afternoon, the bazaar becomes quite crowded. If you want to peruse and take your time, be sure to visit in the morning.

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