Istanbul: Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar Istanbul
The Grand Bazaar Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar is the largest covered bazaar in the world. With about 4 thousand shops selling everything from gold, precious jewels, antiques, fabrics and carpets, to spices, tea merchants, faux designer merchandise and Viagra, this place has it all and every merchant is approaching you to come into their shop to buy.

A Fez of enormous proportions
A Fez of enormous proportions

It’s absolutely enormous going in 4 directions at once. There are diagrams of the bazaar with its defined areas for carpets, or antiques, gold, etc. Still, it is so large you find yourself wandering randomly up and down large aisles and tiny winding walkways filled with treasures of all sorts.

The Grand Bazaar is legendary for its high end antique carpet, jewels and gold business. Deep within the bazaar is the Old Bazaar where many of these dealers still have the same shops for the past 100 years or more. These merchants are often much older men and others are run by their successive sons and family. It feels like stepping back in time with men and boys carrying trays of piping hot apple tea and traditional Turkish tea.

Stacks of kilim designs
Stacks of kilim designs

There weren’t crushes of people making it comfortable to move freely about. There was a sense of anxiety that with a hard hit tourist industry the opportunities to sell were greatly impacted. As annoying as the merchants could be aggressively asking you to come and look at their wares, or questions just to engage you and then hopefully draw you in, all of this was at times exhausting. Still you had to sympathize with their plight.

Degrade silk carpet at Dhoku
Degradé silk carpet at Dhoku

With the hundreds of rug merchants throughout the Bazaar we did stumble across one hot little corner of brilliant carpet design. The firm Dhoku and its sister store across the way EthniCon have the corner on contemporary carpet design. Their silk carpets are abstractions of traditional Kilim and Oriental carpets. Like canvases of a modernist painter some of these rugs were so beautiful it was hard to imagine them under foot. They collect Kilims and other styles from all over Anatolia and make patchwork carpets incorporating a mix of patterns and colors. The cross pollination of the east and west was obvious standing in the center of this huge bazaar. Looking through the pages of shelter magazines and exploring the carpet showrooms in the D&D Building on Lexington Avenue and downtown, you see influences that inform some of the most exciting carpet designers in the international Interior Design business.

Silk carpet from Dhoku
Silk carpet from Dhoku

With no particular goal in mind we walked until we found ourselves in the antique jewelry section. Tiny shops barely large enough to stand in were laced like beads up and down tiny winding walkways. Each held small cases displaying rings, bracelets and necklaces for men and women. From carved intaglio rings for men to antique diamond and other precious stones set in earrings and necklaces for women, it was like an enormous jewel case open for your inspection.

silver woven chain bracelets
silver woven chain bracelets

We were fascinated by silver and oxydized silver interwoven chain bracelets. Never having seen them quite like these we were eventually persuaded to get them. Each is different but of the same concept.

Meeting jeweler Sevan Bicakci at his studio showroom
Meeting jeweler Sevan Bicakci at his studio showroom

The day ended on a high note when Anton and I found the headquarters of Sevan Bicakci, one of the world’s most extraordinary jewelers. We were shown incredible pieces and met him by chance. He’s a warm, friendly bear of a man with a passion for intricate and exceptional jewels.

Sevan Bicakci micro mosaic jeweled cuff
Sevan Bicakci micro mosaic jeweled cuff
The Last Supper by Sevan Bicakci
The Last Supper by Sevan Bicakci

 

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