Welcome to another "catch-up" article! After this one, I have one more and then I will be current!
One of the places I love to visit, but rarely get a chance to, is the Grand (Covered) Bazaar and Nuruosmaniye Street!
|Grand Bazaar (Nuruosmaniye Entrance)|
But, once I arrive, I always kick myself for not visiting more often! And... you don't need to necessarily go to the Grand Bazaar to buy something... it's even fun just walking around and eating at one of the restaurants or cafes in the Bazaar or around Nuruosmaniye Street!
There's a certain charm and energy at the Grand Bazaar that you don't find in other parts of the city. I can't explain why I feel this way, but I do!
The shop owners at the Grand Bazaar, called Kapalı Çarşı in Turkish are known for their "persistence" in attracting customers, but compared to just even a few years ago, they have learned to become a little less pushy! Deep down, I don't think they mean to harass visitors, but sometimes because of the language barrier and the amazing competition, they tend to come off more arrogant than they really are (most anyway!)...
For example... I run into the same problem... I guess living abroad for over 30 years and having blonde hair (although lots of Turks have blonde hair too thanks to hairdressers - including me), they think I'm a tourist! Normally, they don't bother Turks in the same way. Sometimes, if I hear one more "hey lady... come look at my shop", I think I will scream! Now, if they said this very simple sentence in Turkish, "Hanımefendi... dükkanımıza uğramazmısınız?", I wouldn't react the same way. But, in English, it just sounds crass to me! However, once you start talking to most of the shop owners, they are really very nice people and are willing to give you a helping hand to find what you need if they don't have it!
After a very long absence, I went to the Grand Bazaar on December 21 and then again with my sister on January 3rd.
I took a taxi on my first visit and got off at the entrace to Nuruosmaniye Street (see picture above) because I enjoy walking down this pedestrian only street lined with upscale jewelry, carpet, porcelain and handicrafts shops. Every time you turn, there's a new one shop... one example is Armaggan at No. 65 Nuruosmaniye Street (www.armaggan.com)
As my time was limited, I didn't get a chance to go into Armaggan, but did call my friend Sevan Bıçakçı (www.sevanbicakci.com) and was thrilled to find out he was at his store, soI went to visit him because we hadn't seen each other in ages, although we speak on the phone from time to time!
The way to go to Sevan's shop is very simple.. hang a right (if coming from the main street) or left (if coming from Grand Bazaar side) at the corner of Armaggan and then make a right onto Gazi Sinan Paşa Sokak and walk down about 1/2 block and Sevan's shop is on the right hand side of the street.
Sevan and I met around 7-8 years ago when I interviewed him for an article for The Guide Istanbul (I was the General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of the English language magazine from 2001-2010).
Back then, this shop was just a simple workshop where this AMAZING jewelry designer created the most beautiful and one of a kind and unique rings that you can imagine! We just warmed up to each other then and although we rarely get a chance to see each other, I know we both have warm feelings towards each other!
Sevan is a worldclass jewelry designer (and known internationally) and unfortunately many designers have tried to copy his designs, but to no avail! Sure, some of the pieces might look the same, but the workmanship and products used are no where near the quality of his work! Never forget, nothing is like the original!
|Sevan Bıçakçı rings|
|Sevan Bıçakçı ring|
|Sevan Bıçakçı Necklace|
We had a lovely time with Sevan...
|Sevan Bıçakçı (left), me (right)|
Sevan also has a boutique on Akaretler Row right next door to the W Hotel, so if you don't get a chance to go to the Grand Bazaar, you can visit his shop in Akaretler.
My next stop after Sevan's store was the Grand Bazaar itself. I aimlessly walked around a bit to see if anything was different and yes... I noticed two stores that were not their before (I bet there are much more, but these two shops are on the main street as you enter the bazaar on Kalpakçılar Caddesi, so they're hard to miss and a little different from the "normal" shops!)
First, I was shocked to see a branch of MAC, a cosmetics brand - so much so that I didn't take a picture. I just couldn't imagine a shop selling makeup, eyeliners, lipstick, etc at the Grand Bazaar.
The second shop was Vakko Scarves and Ties (www.vakko.com.tr)...
|Vakko Scarves & Ties|
I also stopped by two other stores on my first visit. The first was my long time jeweler Orient Jewellery, also on Kalpakçılar Street at No. 126. I met Burhan Alkaç, the owner of this shop about 20 years ago!
|Burhan Alkaç (Orient Jewellery)|
The last shop I visited at the Grand Bazaar was Abdulla Natural Products (www.abdulla.com) located on Halıcılar Caddesi No. 58/60. As its name suggests, all of their textiles (blankets, towels, etc.), soaps, etc are produced with natural materials.
|Abdulla Natural Products|
Abdulla's "sister" store is Fes Cafe which is right next door... And, I did stop by Fes Cafe both times, but their other branch on Ali Bey Türbesi Street No. 25/27 which is a block off of Nuruosmaniye Street...
To reach Fes Cafe, hang a right on the corner where Sofa Arts & Antiques (www.kashifsofa.com) is when coming from the Grand Bazaar side, or left if coming from the other side...
|Sofa Arts & Antiques|
If you want to enjoy a "typical" Turkish homestyle meal, one of the best places in the area is Aslan Lokantası...
Aslan Restaurant is on Vezirhan Street at No. 70. Again, very easy to reach because this street runs parallel to Nuruosmaniye Street ... so if heading towards the Grand Bazaar, hang a left before entering the first entrance to the Grand Bazaar at the end of Nuruosmaniye Street, or a right after you exit the Grand Bazaar and walk through the Nuruosmaniye Mosque.
The restaurant has been around since 1988, it is open Monday-Saturday from 11:30am to 3:00pm, alcohol is not served, but major credit cards (except American Express) are accepted.
The last place I visited on my "mini" Grand Bazaar tour on my second visit was Nick's Calligraphy Corner (www.lordoftheleaves.com).
|Nick's Calligraphy Corner|
|Nick's Calligraphy Corner|
The Grand Bazaar and its surroundings are truly an amazing and mystical place! There's a lot of "old", with a mix of some "new"! In fact, you can say it's the first shopping mall in the world. It has around 5,000 shops spread out on 60 streets and alleys offering anything and everything from souvenirs, leather, copper, gold, jewelry, textiles, antiques, carpets and so much more! It was built between 1455-1461 and commissioned by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. It was further enlarged in the 16th century by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and renovated in 1894 after an earthquake. It is an experience that you will find like in no other place!
If you want to take a trip down "historical" lane, use your imagination as you walk around this wonderful site created by the Sultans and Ottomans!