Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

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The Grand Bazaar (Template:Lang-tr, meaning ‘Covered Bazaar’; also Template:Lang, meaning ‘Grand Bazaar’<ref name=mw345>Müller-Wiener (1977), p. 345.</ref>) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops <ref name=mw349>Müller-Wiener (1977), p. 349.</ref> which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.<ref name=gba>Template:Cite web</ref>


The Grand Bazaar is located inside the walled city of Istanbul, in the district of Fatih and in the neighbourhood (Template:Lang) bearing the same name (Template:Lang). It stretches roughly from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and of Nuruosmaniye. The Bazaar can easily be reached from Sultanahmet and Sirkeci by trams (Beyaz?t-Kapal?çar?? stop).


The construction of the future Grand Bazaar's core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles.<ref name=mw345/><ref name=ey26>Eyice (1955), p. 26.</ref> It was named Template:Lang (‘Bedesten of Gems’) and was also known as Template:Lang (‘New Bedesten’) in Ottoman Turkish. The word Template:Lang is adapted from the Persian word bezestan, derived from bez ("cloth"), and means "bazaar of the cloth sellers".<ref name=man177>Mantran (1998), p. 177</ref> The building – named alternately in Turkish Template:Lang (‘Internal’’), Template:Lang (‘Ancien’), or Template:Lang (‘Old’) Bedesten – lies on the slope of the third hill of Istanbul, between the ancient Fora of Constantine and of Theodosius. It was also near the first sultan's palace, the Old Palace (Template:Lang), which was also in construction in those same years, and not far from the Artopoléia (Template:Lang) quarter, a location already occupied in Byzantine times by the bakers.<ref name=ja95>Janin (1964), p. 95.</ref>

The construction of the Bedesten ended in the winter of 1460/61, and the building was endowed to the waqf of the Aya Sofya Mosque. Analysis of the brickwork shows that most of the structure originates from the second half of the 15th century, although a Byzantine relief representing a Comnenian eagle, still enclosed on the top of the East Gate (Template:Lang) of the Bedesten has been used by several scholars as proof that the edifice was a Byzantine structure.<ref name=mw345/>

File:Istanbul-Grand Bazaar Sebah.jpg
The interior of the Grand Bazaar in the 1890s, by Ottoman photographer Sébah.

In a market near the Bedesten, named in Turkish Template:Lang, the slave trade was active in this zone also during the Byzantine Empire.<ref name=mw346/> Other important markets in the vicinity were the second-hand market (Template:Lang-tr),<ref name=man177/> the "Long Market" (Template:Lang), corresponding to the Greek Makrós Émbolos (Template:Lang ‘Long Arcade’), a long porticoed mall stretching downhill from the Forum of Constantine to the Golden Horn, which was one of the main market areas of the city), while the old book market (Template:Lang) was moved from the Bazaar to the present picturesque location near the Beyazid Mosque only after the earthquake of 1894.

Some years later<ref name=gul8>Gülersoy (1980), p. 8</ref>—according to other sources,<ref name=mw346>Müller-Wiener (1977), p. 346.</ref> this occurred in 1545 under Sultan Suleyman I—Mehmet II had another covered market built, the ‘Sandal Bedesten’ (the name comes from a kind of thread woven in Bursa, which had the colour of sandalwood<ref name=gul29>Gülersoy (1980) p. 29</ref>), also named Template:Lang (‘Little’), Template:Lang or Template:Lang (both words meaning ‘New’) Bedesten, which lay north of the first. After the erection of the Sandal Bedesten the trade in textiles moved there, while the Template:Lang was reserved for the trade in luxury goods. At the beginning the two buildings were isolated. According to the 16th-century French traveller Pierre Gilles, between them and the Mosque of Beyazid stood the ruins of churches and a large cistern;.<ref name=mw346/> However, soon many sellers opened their shops between and around them, so that a whole quarter was born, devoted exclusively to commerce.

At the beginning of the 17th century the Grand Bazaar had already achieved its final shape. The enormous extent of the Ottoman Empire in three continents, and the total control of road communication between Asia and Europe, rendered the Bazaar and the surrounding hans or caravanserais, the hub of the Mediterranean trade. According to several European travelers, at that time, and until the first half of the 19th century, the market was unrivaled in Europe with regards to the abundance, variety and quality of the goods on sale. At that time we know from European travelers that the Grand Bazaar had a square plan, with two perpendicular main roads crossing in the middle and a third road running along the outer perimeter.<ref name=man177/> In the Bazaar there were 67 roads (each bearing the name of the sellers of a particular good), several squares used for the daily prayers, 5 mosques, 7 fountains, 18 gates which were opened each day in the morning and closed in the evening (from these comes the modern name of the Market, "Closed Market" (Template:Lang).<ref name=man177/> Around 1638 Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi gave us the most important historical description of the Bazaar and of its customs. The number of shops amounted to 3,000, plus 300 located in the surrounding hans, large Caravanserais with two or three storeys round a porticoed inner courtyard, where goods could be stored and merchants could be lodged.<ref name=gul17>Gülersoy (1980) p. 17</ref> In that period one tenth of the shops of the city were concentrated in the market and around it.<ref name=man177/> For all that, at that time the market was not yet covered.

Recurrent calamities, fires and earthquakes hit the Grand Bazaar. The first fire occurred in 1515; another in 1548.<ref name=mw346/> Other fires ravaged the complex in 1588, 1618 (when the Template:Lang was destroyed), 1645, 1652, 1658, 1660 (on that occasion the whole city was devastated), 1687, 1688 (great damage occurred to the Template:Lang) 1695, 1701.<ref name=mw348>Müller-Wiener (1977), p. 348.</ref> The fire of 1701 was particularly fierce, forcing in 1730-31 Grand Vizier Nev?ehirli Damad Ibrahim Pasha to rebuild several parts of the complex. In 1738 the Kizlar A?asi Be?ir A?a endowed the Fountain (still existing) near Mercan Kapi.

In this period, because of the new law against fires issued in 1696, several parts of the market which lied between the two Bedesten were covered with vaults.<ref name=mw346/> Despite that, other fires ravaged the complex in 1750 and 1791. The quake of 1766 caused more damages, which were repaired by the Court Chief Architect (Template:Lang) Ahmet a year later.<ref name=mw348/>

The 19th-century growth of the textile industry in western Europe, introduction of mass production methods, capitulations signed between the Empire and many European countries, and the forestalling - always by European merchants - of the raw materials needed to produce goods in the Empire's closed economy were factors which all provoked the decadence of the Market.<ref name=gul31>Gülersoy (1980), p. 31</ref> By 1850, rents in Bedesten were ten times lower than two to three decades before.<ref name=gul30>Gülersoy (1980), p. 30</ref> Moreover, the birth of a West-oriented bourgeoisie and the commercial success of the Western products pushed the merchants belonging to the minorities (Greek, Armenian, Jewish) for moving out of th Bazaar, perceived as antiquated, and for opening new shops in quarters frequented by Europeans, as Pera and Galata.<ref name=gul41>Gülersoy (1980) p. 41</ref>

According to an 1890 survey, in the Bazaar were 4,399 active shops, 2 bedesten, 2195 rooms, 1 hamam, one mosque, 10 medrese, 19 fountains (among them two ?ad?rvan and one sebil), one mausoleum and 24 han.<ref name=ey27/> In the 30.7 hectares of the complex, protected by 18 gates, there are 3,000 shops along 61 streets, the 2 bedesten, 13 han (plus several more outside).<ref name=mw349/>

The last major catastrophe happened in 1894: a strong earthquake that rocked Istanbul.<ref name=mw348/> The Minister of Public Works, Mahmud Celaleddin Pa?a, supervised the repair of the damaged Bazaar until 1898, and on this occasion the complex was reduced in area. To the west, the Bit Pazar? was left outside the new perimeter and became an open-sky road, named Çadircilar Caddesi (‘Tentmaker Road’), while the old gate and the Kütkculer Kapi were demolished. Among all the hans which belonged to the Market, many were left outside, and only nine remained enclosed in the structure.

In 1914 the Sandal Bedesten, whose handlers of textile goods had been ruined by the European competition, was acquired by the city of Istanbul and, starting one year later, was used as an auction house, mainly for carpets. In 1927 the individual parts of the bazaar and the streets got official names. The last fires of bazaar happened in 1943 and 1954, and the related restorations were finished on 28 July 1959.<ref name=gul13>Gülersoy (1980) p. 13</ref>

The last restoration of the complex took place in 1980. In that occasion, advertising posters around the market were also removed.


The Iç Bedesten has a rectangular plan (43.30 m x 29.50 m). Two rows of stone piers, four in each row, sustain three rows of bays, five in each row. Each bay is surmounted by a brick dome with blind drum. In the inner and in the outer walls have been built 44 cellars (Template:Lang-tr), vaulted rooms without external openings. The sunlight in Bedesten comes from rectangular windows placed right under the roof: they can be accessed through a wooden ambulatory. Due to the scarce illumination, the edifice was kept open only some hours each day, and was devoted to the trade of luxury goods, above all textiles.<ref name=mw346/> Moreover, the Bedesten's Mahzen were also used as safes.<ref name=mw346/> The building can be accessed through four gates:

  • “Second-hand Book Sellers’ Gate” (Template:Lang) in the north,
  • “Skullcap Sellers’ Gate” (Template:Lang) in the south,
  • “Jewellers’ Gate” (Template:Lang) in the east, and;
  • “Women’s Clothiers’ Gate” (Template:Lang) in the west.<ref name=gul14>Gülersoy (1980, p. 14</ref>

The Sandal Bedesten has also a rectangular plan (40.20 m × 42.20 m), with 12 stone piers bearing 20 bays surmounted by brick domes with blind drum. In this case shops are carved only in the outer walls.<ref name=ey27>Eyice (1955), p. 27.</ref> In both edifices, each bay is tied to the others through brick arches tied by juniper beams, and masonry is made with rubble. Both buildings were closed by Iron gates.

Aside the Bedesten, originally the Grand Bazaar structures were built with wood, and only after the 1700 fire, they were rebuilt in stone and brickwork, and covered.<ref name=ey27/> All the bazaar edifices, except the fur dealers market (Template:Lang-tr), a later addition which is two-story, are one story.<ref name=gul15>Gülersoy (1980, p. 15</ref> The roofs are mainly covered with tiles, while the part burnt in 1954 uses now tarmac. In the bazaar no artificial light was foreseen, also to prevent fires, and smoking was strictly prohibited. The roads outside the inner Bedesten are roughly parallel to it. Anyway, the damages caused by the many fires and quakes along the centuries, together with the repairs done without a general plan, gave to the market - especially in its western part - a picturesque appearance, with its maze of roads and lanes crossing each other at various angles.

Social history of the Grand Bazaar

Until the restoration following the quake of 1894, the grand Bazaar had no shops as we know them in the western world: along both sides of the roads merchants sat on wooden divans in front of their shelves.<ref name=gul18>Gülersoy (1980) p. 18</ref> Each of them got a space Template:Convert in width, and Template:Convert in depth. The name of this space was in Turkish Template:Lang, meaning ‘stall’.<ref name=gul18/> The most precious merchandise was not on display, but kept in cabinets.<ref name=gul18/> Only clothes were hung in long rows, with a picturesque effect. A prospective client could sit in front of the dealer, talk with him and drink a tea or a turkish coffee, in a totally relaxed way.<ref name=gul18/> At the end of the day, each stall was closed with drapes. Another peculiarity was the totally lack of advertising.<ref name=gul19>Gülersoy (1980) p. 19</ref> Moreover, as everywhere in the East, traders of the same type of good were forcibly concentrated along one road, which got its name from their profession.<ref name=gul23>Gülersoy (1980) p. 23</ref> The inner Bedesten hosted the most precious wares: jewellers, armourers, crystal dealers had their shops there.<ref name=gul23/> The Sandal Bedesten was mainly the center of the silk trade, but also other goods were on sale there.<ref name=gul29/> The most picturesque parts of the market were - aside the two Bedesten - the shoe market (Template:Lang-tr), where thousands of shoes of different colors (Turks were bound to wear only yellow shoes, Greeks blue, Jews black and Armenian red) were on display on high shelves,<ref name=gul33>Gülersoy (1980), p. 33</ref> the spice and herbs market (later concentrated in the Egyptian Bazaar), which stood near the jewellers, the armour and weapon market, the old book market and the flea market.<ref name=gul34>Gülersoy (1980), p. 34</ref>

File:Grand-Bazaar Shop.jpg
One of the 3,000 shops in the bazaar

This kind of organization disappeared gradually, although nowadays a concentration of the same business along certain roads can be observed again:<ref name=gul37>Gülersoy (1980) p. 37</ref>

  • Jewellers and gold bracelets along Kalpakc?lar Caddesi;
  • Gold bracelets along Kuyumcular Cars?s?;
  • Furniture along Divrikli Caddesi;
  • Carpets along Sahaflar Caddesi;
  • Leather goods along Perdahç?lar Caddesi
  • Leather and casual clothes at the Bit Pazar?;

Actually, the main reason of concentrating the trade in one place was to provide the highest security against theft, fire and uprising.<ref name=gul49>Gülersoy (1980) p. 49</ref> The goods in the Bedesten were guaranteed against everything except turmoils.<ref name=gul49/> Gates were always closed at night, and the bazaar was patrolled by guards paid by the merchants' guilds.<ref name=gul50/> In order to access the complex during night hours, an imperial edict was required.<ref name=gul50>Gülersoy (1980) p. 50</ref> The only official night opening during the story of Bazaar occurred during the feast organized for the return of Sultan Abdülaziz from Egypt, when the Sovereign crossed the illuminated market riding an horse among the rejoicing populace.<ref name=gul50/> Despite the immense wealth present in the Bazaar during centuries (still around 1870, according to an English traveler a tour of the inner Bedesten could easily ruin a few Rothschild families),<ref name=gul38>Gülersoy (1980) p. 38</ref> thievery occurred extremely seldom. The most important happened in 1591, when 30,000 gold coins (Template:Lang-tr) were stolen in the old Bedesten.<ref name=gul61>Gülersoy (1980) p. 61</ref> The fact shocked the whole Istanbul. The Bazaar remained closed for two weeks and people were tortured, until the money was found hidden under the floor matting.<ref name=gul61/> The culprit was a young Persian, seller of musk. Thanks to the intercession of the Sultan Murad III he was executed by hanging and not by torture.<ref name=gul62>Gülersoy (1980) p. 62</ref>

File:Constantinople(1878)-New Picture (42).png
A Template:Lang in a drawing of Cesare Biseo, from Edmondo De Amicis's Costantinopoli (1882 edition)

The ethics of trade in the Market until the Tanzimat age (half of the 19th century) was quite different from the modern one: indifference to profit, absence of envy in the successes of other traders and a single and correct price were peculiar traits of the Ottoman bazaar during its golden age.<ref name=gul43>Gülersoy (1980) p. 43</ref> The reason for such behavior lies partly in the ethics of Islam, and partly in the guild system which provided a strong social security net to the merchants.<ref name=gul43/> Afterward, the westernization of the Ottoman society and the influence of the national minorities caused the introduction of the mercantile ethics in the Ottoman society.<ref name=gul45>Gülersoy (1980) p. 45</ref>

Right during the westernization of the Ottoman Society, the Grand Bazaar became an obliged topos of the romantic literature. We owe descriptions of the Bazaar at the middle of 19th century to writers such as Edmondo De Amicis and Théophile Gautier.

Another peculiarity of the market during the Ottoman age was the total lack of restaurants.<ref name=gul36>Gülersoy (1980) p. 36</ref> The absence of women in the social life and the nomadic conventions in the Turkish society made the concept of restaurant alien.<ref name=gul36/> Merchants brought their lunch in a food box called sefertas, and the only food on sale was simple dishes such as doner kebab, tavuk gö?sü (a dessert prepared with chicken breast, milk sugar and rose water sprinkled on it) and Turkish coffee. This simple dishes were prepared and served in small two-story kiosks placed in the middle of a road.<ref name=gul36/> The most famous among these kiosks is the one - still existing but not functioning anymore - placed at the crossing of Hal?c?lar Caddesi and Ac? Çesme Caddesi. It is alleged that Sultan Mahmut II came there often in disguise to eat his pudding.<ref name=gul36/> The Bazaar was in the Ottoman Age the place where the Istanbullu (so are named the inhabitants of the city) could see each other.<ref name=gul52>Gülersoy (1980) p. 52</ref> Not only the market was the only place in town where the ladies could go relatively easily,<ref name=gul53>Gülersoy (1980) p. 53</ref> (and this circumstance made the place especially interesting for the Europeans who visited the city) but - especially from the Tanzimat age - was also the only public place where the average citizen had a chance to meet casually the members of the Harem and of the Court.<ref name=gul53/>

Bazaar's merchants were organized in guilds. In order to establish a new one, it was only necessary to have enough traders of the same good.<ref name=gul47>Gülersoy (1980) p. 47</ref> Afterward, a monopoly was formed and the number of traders and shops was frozen.<ref name=gul47/> One could only be accepted in the guild through cooptation, either as son of a deceased member, or after paying a suitable sum to a member who wanted to retire.<ref name=gul47/> The guild's chef was a public officer called Kethüda. He was paid by the guild but appointed by the Kad? of Istanbul.<ref name=gul47/> Fixation of prices and taxes were matter of the Kethüda. He was joined by a representative of the guild's member, called Yi?itba?? (‘chief of the brave young fellows’).<ref name=gul47/> These two officers were flanked by the assembly of the eldest, non necessarily old in age, but most experienced traders.<ref name=gul47/> Parallel to the guilds, there were purely religious organizations, called fütüvvet tariks . Their members met in Dervish monasteries and performed religious functions. These organizations became less and less important with time due to the increased weight of the Greek, Armenian and Jews merchants in bazaar's trade.<ref name=gul47/> Each guild had a financial department which collected a moderate monthly fee (some silver coins; Template:Lang-tr) from the members and administered it taking care of the needs of each associated person.<ref name=gul47/> The guilds lost increasingly their importance during the Tanzimat period, and were abolished in 1913,<ref name=gul48>Gülersoy (1980) p. 48</ref> being replaced by an association of Bazaar merchants. Nowadays, there are several merchant associations in the Bazaar, but none is representative of the whole seller community.<ref name=gul49>Gülersoy (1980) p. 49</ref>

The Grand Bazaar today

Today the Grand Bazaar is a thriving complex, employing 26,000 people <ref name=dn1>Template:Cite web</ref> visited by between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily, and one of the major landmarks of Istanbul.<ref name=gba/> It must compete with modern shopping malls common in Istanbul, but its beauty and fascination represent a formidable advantage for it. The head of the Grand Bazaar Artisans Association claimed that the complex was in 2011 - the year of its 550th birthday - the most visited monument in the world.<ref name=dn1/> A restoration project starting in 2012 should renew its infrastructure, heating and lighting systems.<ref name=dn1/> Moreover, the hans inside the Market will be renovated and later additions will be demolished.<ref name=dn3>Template:Cite web</ref> This project should finally solve the big problems of the market: for example, in the whole Bazaar there is no proper toilet facility.<ref name=dn2>Template:Cite web</ref> Moreover, the lacks of controls in the past years allowed many dealers to remove columns and skive walls in their shops to gain space: This, together with the substitution of lead (stolen in the last years) with concrete on the market's roof, has created a great hazard when the earthquake expected in Istanbul in the next years will occur.<ref name=dn3/><ref name=dn2/>

The Grand Bazaar is opened each day except Sundays and bank holidays from 9:00 until 19:00.<ref name=gba/>


See also

  • List of streets, hans and gates in Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
  • List of shopping malls in Istanbul




External links

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Template:Coord Template:Proximate landmarks of Istanbul