Not Buying in the Grand Bazaar

IMG_3138Shopping is not something that I would ever regard as a leisure activity, but on trips to new places it is always fascinating to see what is on offer, for the insights it affords to the life of the country I’m visiting.  It’s therefore usually more interesting to look at the stock in a supermarket or a local food shop, than to check out all the souvenir stalls in the world.

But sometimes it just feels like a duty to try to play the dedicated tourist and look at the cornucopia of brightly coloured knick-knackery and assorted stuff, the cheap reproductions of the country’s cultural and historic highlights that are laid out to tempt us into making a direct and generous contribution to the local economy.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is on every self respecting tourist guidebook’s list of the ‘must see’, and, as it was within walking distance of our hotel, there was no real excuse not comply and go and look.  And there-in lies the rub.  It’s impossible just to look in the Bazaar.  As soon as your pace slows when a particularly bright geegaw catches your eye, up jumps the stall holder to ‘just ask you a question’, or point out each of the twenty five colours in which the bibelot can be bought, as if you couldn’t already see each and every one for yourself.

It’s a cultural difference, I acknowledge that.  I’m a standoffish Brit, who wants to look at the merchandise quietly, know how much it will cost, and only engage in the the briefest of conversations.  The surest way to guarantee that I won’t buy anything is for the stall holder to bombard me with a deluge of words, a litany of goods on display,  to demand that I come into his shop, or to fire questions at me.  You’ll understand then that my purchases were very modest, and only from a man who stood beside me in silence while I looked.  And his silence paid off, because after the first round of negotiation on price, I gave in, because haggling over money doesn’t appear anywhere on my list of pleasant things to do.

The Grand Bazaar was, however, well worth the visit, as the guidebooks might say, for its sheer size and the abundance of merchandise on  display; for the arches and domes in its construction and for the brilliance of the blue tiling, and the bright colours and intricate arrangements in many of the stalls.

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2 Comments

  1. Its funny, seeing this picture brought my recent trip to Turkey flooding back to me. It was the place I was called ‘Obama’ and also where I was because not being stick thin considered wealthy. Men randomly offered to meet me at my hotel! Well the bazaar, where the US dollar or Euro not Turkish money was considered a platform of productive haggling!

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m pleased the photo evoked memories of time and place. I think those Bazaar stallholders would try nearly any conversational tactic to get you to buy something from them.

      Reply

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