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Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar (or Covered Bazaar, Kapalıçarşı in Turkish) in Istanbul (close to Eminonu district) is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops, and has between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is well known for its jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather coats, gold jewelry and the like. The bazaar contains two bedestans, or domed masonry structures built for storage and safe keeping, the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan grand bazaarMehmed 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.

Technically, the correct translation of the Turkish name Kapalıçarşı is "Covered Bazaar" and not "Grand Bazaar", simply because the Turks do not call it "Grand Bazaar". In Turkish kapalı means "covered" and çarşı means "market" or "bazaar" (as in the Persian 'bazar', where the word originates from and in English spelled "bazaar".)

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.

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. Prices vary and bargaining is customary in these rather small shops.

Although the bazaar retains its former charm and allure, since the 1970's the modern and large enterprises near the main entrance offer better shopping opportunities for the tourist groups visiting Istanbul.

The covered bazaar is crowded and bustling the whole day. Shop owners insistently invite the visitors to their shops. In the large and comfortable shops at the entrance one can find examples of all the hand-made articles produced in Turkey.

The handmade carpets and jewelry sold here are the finest examples of traditional Turkish art. Every item on sale carries its tag of authen-ticity and it can be shipped to anywhere in the world.

Along with the carpets and jewelry, these shops offer a wide collection of high-quality Turkish silverware, copper and bronze souvenirs and decorative objects, ceramics, and onyx and leather goods.

The Spice Bazaar is another covered market place on a smaller scale. A small 15th century covered bazaar in Galata is still in use.

Major sections

Inner Bedesten: It was the first building to rise in Kapalıçarşı, actually it is the Old Bedestan which forms the backbone of the bazaar. The names of the gates are: Bouquinistes, Hat Shops, Jewelry Shops and Costume Shops.

Sandal Bedesten: It has the most number of domes in Kapalıçarşı. At present it can be accessed through two gates, one is through the main gate and the other is through the Nuruosmaniye district.

Other sections of the Grand Bazaar: The architectural design of the roads making up other sections apart from the two bedestens is not symmetrical and geometrical; it has a scattered nature due to its formation which took many centuries with new parts being added. In this way, it stays away from the closed bazaar style of the West and has a character of an Oriental bazaar. This laid back settlement and scattered nature prevents the bazaar from being dull, and at the same time gives it a romantic flavor. Such a complicated structure and settlement not only maintains the monumental state of the bazaar, but also makes it a palace for shopping. - 2007