The Goldsmiths of Grand Bazar. Istanbul. Turkey 2011© Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.com
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi in Turkish) is one of the the largest covered markets in the world with its 4400 shops, 3000 firms, some 17 hans (separate inns for specific type of products), 64 streets,25.000 employees, 4 fountains, 2 mosques and 22 gates. It's a real heaven for shoppers and a good opportunity for people to discover the Turkish hospitality.
It looks like a labyrinth at first sight but it's actually not that complicated. All you have to do is to keep your eyes on the main street (Kalpakcilarbasi Street, the jewelry street).
The so-called main street of the bazaar is lined with jewelry shops, and a side lane opening to this street is allocated to goldsmiths. The handmade carpets and jewelry sold here are the finest examples of traditional Turkish art.
One may find a huge variety of gold, precious stones and semi precious stones like sapphire, ruby or emeralds.
The bazaar consisted originally of two 15th century buildings with thick walls that were covered with a series of domes. In later centuries the streets around these buildings developed and were covered and new additions were made, turning it into a trading center. In the past each lane was reserved for a different profession and the handicrafts produced here were rigorously controlled.
The bazaar contains two bedestens (domed masonry structures built for storage and safe keeping), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly enlarged in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1894 underwent a major restoration following an earthquake. All types of jewelry, fabrics, weaponry and antiques were sold by merchants whose expertise in the trade went back for generations. Although it was repaired according to its original plan, it lost its former characteristics and deteriorated.
In the old days the tradesmen commanded so much respect and trust that people asked them to safeguard and to invest their money. Today the shops in many lanes have changed character. Trades such as quilt makers, slipper makers and fez makers only remain as street names now.
Today, the grand bazaar houses two mosques, two hamams, four fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes. The sprawling complex consists of 12 major buildings and has 22 doors.