Anatolian Bazaars

With their local flavors, bustling markets, historic hans and guild traditions, Anatolian bazaars are a vibrant world bursting with surprises at every step.

Steeped in a rich tradition of diverse cultures, Anatolia’s bustling bazaars are just one of the many dazzling treasures that enhance the value of these lands. Every corner of Anatolia, whose legendary markets were linked on the historic Silk Road, promises a different kind of shopping pleasure. We take a look at those bazaars which offer visitors the riches of Abraham with their thousand-and-one varieties of food, their colorful textiles, their wood and copper wares, and their slowly dying handicrafts.

“Dear God, save me from cheating and being cheated.” The prayer resounded through the streets from the town loudspeakers. The market of Tire opens with this prayer in the early morning hours. It covers a large area, including most of the town’s streets, and on the day it is set up Yıldız Square and its environs are closed to vehicular traffic. The fruit and vegetable market set up on Fridays is far more modest. Just about everything is sold at this market, set up by people from the neighboring mountain and lowland villages! Everything from live animals and the area’s thousand and one varieties of aromatic Aegean herbs to antiques and fine lace. And the fresh eggs, cheeses, fresh walnuts, dried figs and fruits and vegetables straight from the vine that are sold by the village women cost far less than in big cities. Besides traditional handicrafts like clogs, saddles, felt and quilts, which are slowly dying out in the 600-year-old markets of this historic town 80 kilometers from Izmir, you can also watch a ‘kabak kemane’ (a bowed Turkish folk instrument) being made. Guide services in English and German are provided by the Tire Municipality for groups of tourists who come in summer to visit the market, which also attracts the interest of the neighboring towns with its size and variety. After Tire, we head for Cumalıkızık, a village harboring Ottoman secrets in the foothills of Mount Uludağ. Growing raspberries is an ongoing tradition in this historic village which was known for centuries as Bursa’s raspberry patch. If you happen to come here in spring you can find fresh raspberries; if not, raspberry jam is available year-round. Meanwhile local specialties such as chestnut flowers, linden, homemade noodles, ‘tarhana’ with nettles, potato bread and country cheeses are sold at the tiny village market set up in front of the centuries-old pastel-painted houses on weekends.

The backyard of the nation’s capital, Beypazarı has been famous for its markets since 1570. The market, which began to be set up in the present-day quarter of Beytepe in the Ottoman period, was transformed in the early years of the Republic into Ankara’s mohair and angora wool market. This area, where production of male goats for breeding is carried out today, boasts one of Central Anatolia’s most colorful bazaars.  Gutted by fire in 1884, the market buildings were rebuilt in stone on a grid plan. The raising of silk worms was a major source of income in Beypazarı until just ten years ago. In the old days there were more than fifty looms in the weavers’ market. Now only a handful remain. As you stroll through the market, which is set up on Wednesdays, be sure to stop at one of the many barber shops. There must be one for every resident of the town! A kind of bread known as ‘kuru’ (dry) and resembling a brittle round of dough known as a ‘peksimet’ is unique to the region; you’ll encounter it often in Beypazarı’s bakeries and pastry shops. Another product of this township which is famous for its therapeutic mineral springs is carrot, and carrot juice, ice cream, soap, pudding, lokum and even sausage are made in Beypazarı, which supplies the major part of Turkey’s carrot production.

A small coastal town on historic peninsula, Amasra has one of the loveliest markets on the Black Sea. The Hammersmiths’ Market is on one of Amasra’s most colorful and congested streets. When you enter this market with its vast array of wood-carved items, you won’t know where to look or what to buy. Knickknacks, bowls, wooden spoons, kitchen accessories, tiny model Black Sea sailboats are all crafted in a labor of love. Meanwhile the Women’s Market, set up at the Small Harbor on Tuesdays and Fridays, not only offers the blessings of Black Sea cuisine with a host of local dishes but also sells handwork made by the ladies of Amasra in the form of lace, crocheting and embroidery in a variety of techniques.

From Amasra we branch out into southern Anatolia. Adana is a southern city with a vibrant market tradition that blends the cultures of east and west and, above all, a decided taste for kebab. There is a rooted market tradition in the city, which is enriched by kebab-makers, itinerant fruit vendors, stalls selling dark red turnip juice, confectioners, vendors of pickled fruits and vegetables, and working class restaurants. Each one of the streets around the 32-meter Great Clock Tower, one of the city’s loveliest Ottoman structures, opens onto a bustling market. One of the most colorful aspects of the giant, Adana-style market labyrinth created by street vendors, market stalls, historic bazaars and nostalgic shops on the one hand and luxurious modern shopping centers on the other is the Kazancılar or Cauldron-makers’ Market. This historic market in the quarter of Sarı Yakup in the city center consists of shops where cauldrons and kettles were once sold. Today it is a ‘taste’ market whose restaurants and kebab and turnip juice stalls ring with the strains of local band consisting of clarinet, fiddle, saz and drum.

We are stopping this time at the markets of Antep, which offers an extraordinary synthesis of Mediterranean, Anatolian and Middle Eastern shopping traditions. At Gaziantep with its local bazaars, its squares lined with alluring shops, and its markets thronged with groups of well-dressed men and women, shopping and dining appear to be a way of life. Both sides of İstasyon Caddesi are jammed with shops selling baklava and other pastries. But the high point of any market tour in Antep is, of course, kebab, made with garlic, damson plums, sour cherries or the local pistachios... Rumor has it that 80 varieties of kebab are made in Antep. And the Uzun Çarşı, the city’s oldest shopping center, famous for its century-old kebab shops, is a virtual repository of sounds, colors and aromas. Another surprise of this market, which reflects the region’s richness from a dizzying variety of spices and dried fruits and vegetables to mother-of-pearl inlaid woodwork and burnished copper wares, are ‘kutnu’ and ‘yemeni’. ‘Kutnu’, with its vibrant colors and shiny satin texture, we know from the kaftans of the sultans, and ‘yemeni’ are the traditional flat-heeled leather slippers. Both continue to resist time in the hands of the Antep Bazaar master-craftsmen. Anatolia likes a big bazaar. You will too.

“We are keeping the craft of ‘yemeni’ making alive in a tiny 10-square-meter shop in the 200-year-old Mecidiye Han. I represent the fourth generation of the craft, which was started by my great-grandfather Abu Usta in 1870. I have been doing this work for thirty some years. We produce sixty kinds of slippers in 14 different colors, mainly the classic red and black. The brighter colors like pink and purple are preferred more by women whereas the men go for the darker shades. World cinema discovered the slippers I make before Turkey did. We got an order for the film, ‘Troy’, and produced and delivered 500 pairs in three months. Brad Pitt really liked our ‘yemeni’ and sent me a signed photograph in gratitude. The minute I hung it in my shop, I was dubbed ‘supplier of slippers to Brad Pitt!”

Turkish Airlines flies daily from Istanbul and Ankara to the cities of Izmir (Tire), Ankara (Beypazarı), Adana, Gaziantep and Van whose markets are featured here.
Tel: +90 212 444 0 849