Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı)

Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar or Misir Carsisi. This is one of the oldest and precious bazaar in Istanbul even in Turkey. It was built in 17th century, located in the Eminonu quarter of the Fatih district.

Spice Bazaar is a very popular market both for locals and foreigners because of being second covered shopping complex in the city.

It seemed most stalls did not sell spices but this bazaar was and is still considered the center for spice trade in Istanbul. The stalls that did have spices had neat cones of colorful spices (chili, saffron, turmeric, etc.). Those same stalls usually sold several kinds of tea as well. Some of the most interesting stalls sold Turkish sweets, honey, nuts and dried fruits. Many stalls sold belly dancing outfits, clothes, household goods, and souvenirs.

The layout of the bazaar is an L-shape with 88 vaulted rooms. The narrow lanes are very crowded and it is easy to get swept out of the Spice Bazaar into the local markets (outside) surrounding the bazaar. (We walked around there for a while and it was interesting to note that the market was set up in sections: clothes, hardware, stationary/packing, wedding dresses, etc.)

Its real name might be the Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı), but the Spice Bazaar is how everyone refers to it, and gives a better indication of what to expect inside. Found next to the Yeni Camii near the Golden Horn, this ancient covered market dates from 1660 and is Istanbul’s second biggest bazaar.

I hadn’t necessarily been anticipating turbaned merchants in the Spice Market, sitting atop piles of cinnamon and mirthfully counting out their golden coins, but perhaps something a little more genuine than the tourist trap it has become. There was still spice, and plenty of it, but every stand had the same selection and the same prices. The same hawkers perched outside, entreating you to examine their teas and aphrodisiacs. A lot of stands were dedicated wholly to souvenirs. It’s definitely not the place locals come to fill their spicing needs, and the inauthenticity ruins the experience.

Just outside, though, in the nook of the building’s L-shape, is a place where locals do shop: the outdoor Pet and Gardening Market, with hundreds of caged birds, fish, some dogs, and boxes full of clucking chicks. We enjoyed the atmosphere here a lot more than inside the Spice Market. One of the more interesting aspects was a row of Leech Doctors with buckets full of the blood suckers to be applied to feet or even the face. We had hoped to get a picture of the doctors plying their trade, but unfortunately, none of them had clients. And despite Jürgen’s pleading, I wasn’t about to sit down.

The Spice Bazaar was very similar to the Grand Bazaar, but on a much smaller scale and included more tea, nut, and spice vendors than souvenir peddlers. D and I enjoyed the Spice Bazaar much more than the Grand Bazaar, partially because it was less crowded, but also because the vendors were friendlier and the prices were lower. You seemed to get more individualized treatment in the Spice Bazaar. D and I got to sample a wide variety of pistachios (I had no idea there were so many kinds!), traditional Turkish Apple Tea (brought a box of it home, too), and ate our weight in Turkish Delights made with real organic honey instead of sugar like the stuff sold in the Grand Bazaar. Much, much tastier! Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Bazaar is still something to be experienced, but save your Lira and belly for the treasures of the Spice Bazaar.