If you want to avoid aggressive salesman but still hit up a traditional market, head to Misir Bazaar (Egyptian Spice Market) in Eminonu. The market has been around since 1597 and sells everything you can think of: Spices (hence the name), sweets, shawls, trinkets, kitchen appliances – literally everything but the kitchen sink. I found these sales people weren’t aggressive at all, but also weren’t as apt to negotiate. It’s still a much more pleasant experience than the Grand Bazaar.
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If you’re wondering whether a trip report on the Grand Bazaar is underway, I’m sorry to disappoint.
My experience at the Grand Bazaar consisted of walking in, being greeted by a snake oil salesman who jumped right at me (and by the looks of it, he was wearing the snake oil in his hair) and gave me the following spiel: “Hello! Do you speak English? I do too! Actually, I speak English better than Turkish.” I turned around and walked out. My mom later told me one salesman was so aggressive, he told her, “I’m going to show you a scarf. If you don’t like this, I’m going to kill myself.” I read somewhere that the vendors pay their rent annually in gold, which explains their aggressive tactics and higher prices.
The Egyptian Spice Market has both an indoor and outdoor area. It was pretty crowded the day we went, but it was much more relaxed. The vendors weren’t pushy at all and let us browse at our leisure.
At one point my mom and sister were looking at some merchandise while my dad and I stood to the side. The vendor struck up a conversation with my dad. The interaction went like this:
Vendor: “Where are you from?”
Vendor: “I give the best price to people from Afghanistan.”
Dad: “What about American?”
Vendor: Pause. With a straight face, “Regular price.”
Once my dad and I got the gist of it, we decided to venture away. We stopped by the Eminonu/New Mosque next door.
Outside the mosque, you’ll find stands selling bird feed. Kind of like in Mary Poppins, except way less depressing. I meant to buy some to live out my childhood fantasy, but it completely slipped my mind.
I was wearing a t-shirt and couldn’t get into the Mosque without a scarf, so I stayed behind. It didn’t look that different from the Blue Mosque though…
Stepping out of the premises, you’ll encounter this scene, which in my opinion can’t be more perfect…
The weather was nice, so we took a very touristy Bosphorous cruise. It was actually kind of fun. After the tour, we hopped on a boat to the Asian side, where my cousin lives. The Asian side is much greener and less developed than the European side. We didn’t spend much time outside of my cousin’s house, but things appeared much cheaper. It also seems to be somewhat of an oasis from the congestion and tourism of Europe. The residents of this city really do have the best of both worlds…
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