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SHOPPING IN ISTANBUL

Shops are usually open between 8:30­19:00 and normally closed on Sunday.

Turkey, as a result of its geographical location, is a treasure-house of hand-made products. These range from carpets and kilims, to gold and silver jewelry, ceramics, leather and suede clothing, ornaments fashioned from alabaster, onyx, copper, and meerschaum.

When purchasing carpets, jewelry or leather products, it is advisable to consult your guide or do your shopping at a reputable store rather than in the street from vendors.

One could visit Istanbul for the shopping alone. The Kapali Çarsi, or Covered Bazaar, in the old city is the logical place to start. This labyrinth of streets and passages houses more than 4,000 shops. The names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter: Goldsmiths' street, Carpet sellers' street, Skullcap makers. Still the commercial center of the old city, the bazaar is the original shopping mall with something to suit every taste and pocket

 

Turkish crafts, the world-renowned carpets, brilliant hand painted ceramics, copper, brassware, and meerschaum pipes make charming souvenirs and gifts. The gold jewelry in brilliantly lit cases blinds passersby. Leather and suede goods of excellent quality make a relatively inexpensive purchase. The Old Bedesten, in the heart of the bazaar, offers a curious assortment of antiques. It is worth poking through the clutter of decades in the hope of finding a treasure.

The Misir Çarsisi or Spice Bazaar, next to Yeni Mosque in Eminönü, transports you to fantasies of the mystical East. The enticing aromas of cinnamon, caraway, saffron, mint, thyme and every other conceivable herb and spice fill the air. Sultanahmet has become another shopping mecca in the old city. The Istanbul Sanatlari Çarsisi (Bazaar of Istanbul Arts) in the l8th century Mehmet Efendi Medresesi, and the nearby l6th century Caferaga Medrese, built by Sinan, offer a chance to see craftsmen at work and to purchase their wares. In the Arasta (old bazaar) of the Sultanahmet Mosque, a thriving shopping arcade makes shopping and sightseeing very convenient.

The sophisticated shops of the Taksim-Nisantasi-Sisli districts contrast with the chaos of the bazaars. On Istiklal Avenue, Cumhuriyet Avenue and Rumeli Avenue, you can browse peacefully in the most fashionable shops that sell elegant fashions made from Turkey's high quality textiles. Exquisite jewelry as well as finely designed handbags and shoes can also be found. The Ataköy Galleria Mall in Ataköy and Akmerkez Mall in Etiler have branches of Istanbul's most elegant shops. Bahariye Avenue, Bagdat Avenue, and Capitol Mall on the Asian side, offer the same goods.

In Istanbul's busy flea markets you can find an astonishing assortment of goods, both old and new. Everyday offers a new opportunity to poke about the Sahaflar Çarsisi and Çinaralti in the Beyazit district. On Sundays, in a flea market between the Sahaflar and the Covered Bazaar, vendors uncover their wares on carts and blankets. The Horhor Çarsisi is a collection of shops that sell furniture of varying age and quality. The flea market in the Topkapi district, on Çukurcuma Sokak in Cihangir, on Büyük Hamam Sokak in Üsküdar, in the Kadiköy Çarsi Duragi area, and between Eminönü and Tahtakale, are open daily. After a Sunday drive up the Bosphorus, stop between Büyükdere and Sariyer to wander through another lively market.

 

Leather

Leather processing is a traditional handicraft in Turkey and was developed greatly during the Ottoman period. Istanbul's traditional leather manufacturing industry was concentrated in the district of Kazlicesme, where Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror had 360 tannery shops built to be rented out to leather craftsmen. Over the next 500 years Kazlicesme became a notorious eyesore which could be smelt long before it came into sight and the hundreds of small manufacturers have now been moved to a spacious modern industrial estate in Pendik.

Although it is a big industry, leather-wear is still very dependent on personal appeal and touch. It is also risky, time-consuming, laborious and therefore costly. It takes about 45 days to transform a skin into leather ready for dying and nearly 60 days from skinning to the finished garment. Also the volume of livestock in Turkey is not increasing at a sufficiently high rate to keep up with the industry's demand.

Despite all these difficulties, the leather sector comes after textiles in terms of export figures. The principal markets for Turkish leather goods today are the European Union countries led by Germany and then France.

When purchasing leather goods, one should be aware of the very wide range of products; different animal skins, baby lamb, lamb, suede, nubuk, pelluria, etc. and their differing qualities and prices

 

Carpet

A carpet is more a work of art than an article which people step on for everyday use.

70% of the tourists coming to Turkey return to their homes with carpets because Turkey is a treasure-house of carpets.

To understand how valuable Turkish carpets are, it is better to go back to their origin. For a nomad who lived in a tent, home was a simple place; a combination of walls, roof and floor. The floor was not usually an elaborate structure, just a simple carpet laid directly onto the earth. The carpet was a bug-excluder, soil leveler, temperature controller and comfort provider all in one.

The texture of the material beneath one's feet was sensual proof that this was home and not the wild.

As for the history of the carpet, various fragments exist from the 5­6C AD, but it is only from the Seljuk period in Anatolia that many more pieces have survived. Marco Polo, during his journey through Seljuk lands towards the end of the 13C reported that the best and finest carpets were produced in Konya.

Since a carpet is more of a work of art, the deeper meanings of each design cannot be neglected. A carpet can be likened to a poem; neither can tolerate any extra element which does not contribute to its wholeness and value. Therefore, just like in a poem, each pattern of a carpet is chosen for its beauty and motifs are carefully arranged to form rhymes.

Turkish carpets carry a wide range of symbols. For many centuries, Anatolian women have been expressing their wishes, fears, interests, fidelity and love through the artistic medium of carpets. Even so, there are typical repeated motifs changing from region to region; geometric designs, tree of life, the central medallion design, the prayer niches in prayer rugs, etc.

Turkish carpets are made of silk, wool or cotton. A silk pile gives a carpet the great brilliance. Cotton-warped carpets almost always have a more rigid and mechanical appearance than woolen-warped. Yarns have been used in their natural colors or colored with dyes extracted from flowers, roots and insects.

Carpets are made on vertical looms strung with 3 to 24 warp (vertical) threads per cm (8 to 60 per in) of width. Working from bottom to top, the carpet maker either weaves the rug with a flat surface or knots it for a pile texture. Pile rugs use 5­7.5 cm / 2­3 in lengths of yarn tied in Turkish (Gordes) or Persian (Sehna) knots with rows of horizontal weft yarn laced over and under the vertical warp threads for strength. After the carpet is completely knotted, its pile is sheared and the warp threads at each end are tied into a fringe. The finer the yarn and the closer the warp threads are strung together, the denser the weave and, usually, the finer the quality.

The best-known flat-woven rug is the kilim which is lighter in weight and less bulky than pile rugs. It has a plain weave made by shooting the weft yarn over and under the warp threads in one row, then alternating the weft in the next row. The sumak type is woven in a herringbone pattern by wrapping a continuous weft around pairs of warp threads.

Taking a tour of a carpet production center is highly recommended in order to have firsthand experience of this art and to see a full range of the different designs exhibited


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