Commerce is an ancient economic system that enables the establishment of legal and ethical foundations, strengthens social ties, improves cultural relationships, and facilitates the trading of values and technology as well as goods along secure and safe routes. Starting in antiquity, and up to the discovery of the New World and the development of railroads, the Silk Road was once the most important route of commerce. It was a statement of a continuous journey of human knowledge, philosophy, religion, art and architecture, mathematics, science and technology, which had an undeniable influence on the great civilizations of the Yellow River of China, Japan, Indus Valley in India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, the Ottomans, and ultimately the Romans.
Extending over 8,000 km, the Silk Road developed interconnected networks linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, missionaries, soldiers, nomads, urban dwellers and intellectuals from East, South and Western Asia to the Mediterranean World, including North Africa and Europe, for thousands of years. Similar to the plazas of pre-industrial European cities, bazaars were also the homes of social, political, cultural and civic activities, similar to the forums or agoras of the ancient world. Due to climatic factors and the quality of goods stored in them, they were often covered, or covered over time. Although there may be pre-designed grid or crisscross exceptions, traditional Islamic bazaars were generally built organically, in line with the city and street layouts. No matter who built them, bazaars were always connected to important and prestigious religious, governmental or public buildings, and they defined the major streets of the urban fabric, connecting two major entrances, especially in small cities.
Aside from being a place for shopping or socializing, bazaars were formed according to a hierarchical guild system. This system was composed of an apprentice-master relationship and guilds of various artisans and craftsmen. The location of manufacturers, merchants, and the like were in a horizontal line. In Turkish society, covered bazaars were usually part of a larger complex, including hamams, soup kitchens, and so on. These complexes were a source of income for mosques, religious trusts, and charitable trusts known as vakıfs, where the money could not be given to individuals or organizations. The bazaars of the Eastern Islamic world are comparable to plazas in pre-industrial European cities, or to forums and agoras in ancient Greek and Roman cities. They served as a place for social, political, cultural, and civic activities. Modern shopping centres also offer similar facilities, though bazaars differ in their enclosed, covered structure and their linear organization. This is mainly due to the climatic, cultural, and economic conditions of the region.
In the Turkish system, the bedesten, which is the enclosed and covered core building where the most valuable and expensive goods are exchanged, determines the formation of the entire bazaar, as seen in the covered bazaars of Bursa, Edirne and Istanbul. Unlike typical timber-framed shops, the bedesten and arastas of Turkish bazaars are designed and built in a single session without future expansion. As previously mentioned, ownership of these bazaars belongs to the vakıfs, so as long as there is demand and the vakıfs have enough capital, shop strips are constructed over time and the bazaar continues to expand horizontally.
The Grand Bazaar was founded in 1461 by Fatih Sultan Mehmet upon his conquest of Constantinople in 1453, forming the end point of the Silk Road. It was established on a site where a Byzantine market was supposedly located before, likely around the Old (Inner) Bedesten. Initially, two Bedestens formed the nucleus of the Bazaar: the Inner Bedesten and the Sandal Bedesteni. The Bazaar was encircled by hans, each of which made up a separate unit in and of itself. It was further improved and enlarged by Fatih’s successor Suleyman the Magnificent. Throughout its history, the Grand Bazaar has suffered extensive damage due to multiple fires in 1631, 1701, and 1954, as well as an earthquake in 1894. Its contemporary plan emerged in 1701, comprising 64 covered streets, eleven gates, and an area of 200,000 m². The structure of the Grand Bazaar is a grid-based system, with intersecting streets of various lengths and widths.
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarsi) is one of the largest and most renowned covered markets in the world, attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors per day. Spanning 60 streets and encompassing 5,000 shops, it is renowned for its selection of jewelery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antique shops, which are often organised according to type of goods. The bazaar has been a significant trading hub since 1461 and is home to two bedestens (domed buildings), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by Sultan Mehmed.
The complex boasts two mosques, four fountains, two hamams, and multiple cafes and restaurants. At its core lies the Cevahir Bedesten, an ornately domed hall that was, and still is, home to some of the most valuable antiques, such as furniture, copperware, amber prayer beads, inlaid weapons, icons, mother-of-pearl mirrors, water pipes, watches and clocks, candlesticks, old coins, and silver and gold jewellery set with coral and turquoise. The Grand Bazaar has four main gates situated at the ends of its two major streets which intersect near the southwestern corner.
As one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a must-see for any traveler. Not only is it a place to shop for traditional Turkish goods, but it is also a testament to the rich history and culture of the region. Tour Maker Turkey offers a variety of tours that take you through the Grand Bazaar and other historical sites in Istanbul, giving you an in-depth look at the city’s past and present. We invite you to join us on one of our tours and experience the grandeur of the Grand Bazaar for yourself. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to explore one of the world’s most famous bazaars and book your tour with Tour Maker Turkey today!
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