I was marching along the plaza from Rustem Pasha Mosque along Uzuncarsi to get to Eminonu ferry port when suddenly it rained and I don’t usually bring an umbrella. Now I have to go through the covered bazaar which I'm avoiding because of the crowd inside and the overpowering smell. But between getting soaked up in the freezing rain and the bazaar, I think I will have to go for the latter.
Standing beside and a part of the whole complex of the mosque in Eminonu is one of the city’s famous covered market, the Spice Bazaar.
Unlike the bigger and more touristy Grand Bazaar where vendors are reportedly hassling, the Spice Bazaar is less intimidating. One can just walk along the high-ceiling passages of the L-shaped market with less annoying bouts with its vendors.
Walking inside will either be a challenge or delight to your senses depending on one’s penchant for sights and smell. It’s a spectacle of assorted colors and scents.
For epicureans, it may well incite rhapsody with a wide range of aroma from sugary Turkish delights, sweet smelling cinnamon sticks, jasmine and other dried flower tea, vanilla, odd-looking dried vegetables, cheese and pickles to the pungent smell of assorted powdered spices. All sorts of sugar-coated candies and gummy bears that are sold in kilos, variety of dates, stacks of soap bars in all colors, concentrated perfumes, lamps, and everything in between.
I used to think that most of the merchants and shops at this bazaar are Egyptians or at least originally from Egypt because some people call it the Egyptian Bazaar (Misr Carsisi), I was wrong. During the 15th century, Egypt was a part of the administrative region of the Ottoman empire and this market was built during the 17th century under the reign of Sultan Mehmed IV out of the taxes collected from Egypt’s capital Cairo where it got its name.
It was originally designed by the chief court architect Koca Kasim Aga, but completed by architect Mustafa Aga in 1660. There are more than 80 shops inside the bazaar which used to be mostly selling spices but today, there are quite a lot of shops selling variety of stuff from souvenir items such as trinkets, shawls, clothing, and jewelries.
The bazaar is open 7 days a week from 9:00am until 7:00pm. When you’re in Istanbul on a Sunday and the Grand Bazaar is closed, you might instead go to the Spice Bazaar, it’s open from 10:00am until 6:00pm on Sundays.
To get there, take the tramvay and get off at Eminonu station, look for the Yeni Mosque, it’s just beside it.