While this city is transforming at a fast pace, these structures remain the same. They also keep the door of the world of surprises open to both Istanbulites and foreigners at all times. Istanbul is as much a city of action and abundance as it is a city of history and culture. At every step you take, you listen to a different rhythm of Istanbul life. It is colorful, crowded, and chaotic.

You can understand this better if you are wandering around Eminönü, Mahmutpaşa or Beyazıt. This region preserves its bonds with history thanks to the old inns that are intertwined with daily life. It also has an important role in the development of Istanbul as a result of its commercial mobility.

This region, which is the center for inns and bazaars due to its proximity to the Golden Horn port, is like an open market that has met all kinds of requirement of people over hundreds of years. Although the form of commerce has changed recently and gigantic malls have been built throughout the city, these old inns are still standing as witnesses to time and commerce. We took the opportunity provided by the tour called “Inns and Bazaars of Istanbul” (Wouldn’t a walking tour in Grand Bazaar be fun? and took a journey with the guidance of art historian Deniz Esemenli. We met in front of Mısır Çarşısı (the Egyptian Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar).

There is a small mosque ahead of the Spice Bazaar: the Ahi Çelebi Mosque. What Evliya Çelebi says about this mosque, which was built in the 16th century, is quite interesting. The famous traveler sees himself as an itinerant in his dream. In his dream, while he is praying in this mosque, angels appear, followed by the Prophet. The Prophet asks if he has any wishes. Evliya Çelebi tries to say ‘sefaat’ (intercession), but he gets so excited that he says ‘seyahat’ (travel). The Prophet tells him that he is going to be an itinerant and thus Evliya Çelebi finds himself on the road.

Our first stop is the Spice Bazaar

Istanbul’s bazaars are known to be places where guilds and tradesmen selling the same kind of goods generally gather. The Spice Bazaar was a place where spice and cotton sellers gathered. Once you step inside the bazaar, the smell of spices welcome you. This bazaar is ‘a passage that carries the smells of the East to the West’.

Being the second biggest covered market in Istanbul, the Spice Bazaar was built in 1663-64, as a part of the complex of buildings adjacent to the New Mosque in Eminönü. In its first years, it was called the “Valide Çarşısı” (the Mother’s Bazaar) and “Yeni Çarşı” (the New Bazaar), but from the mid-18th century onwards, it began to be known as the Egyptian Bazaar, for the goods sold in its shops came from Egypt. (Why not visit Egypt after your trip to Istanbul?)

The Egyptian Bazaar, or the Spice Bazaar, was at first given over solely to spice sellers, cotton sellers and quilt makers, but beginning in the 1970s, spice sellers were replaced by jewelry shops, butchers, dried fruit shops, dry goods stores and shoemakers. Today it is still famous for its spice sellers and is a favorite of Istanbulites and foreign visitors who are interested in herbs.

After the Spice Bazaar, we move forward to Tahtakale Hamam (the Turkish Bath of Tahtakale) opposite the Rüstem Pasha Mosque on Uzunçarşı Street. This building, which was a Turkish bath before, now serves as a bazaar. Built in the period of Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer, it is known to be one of the oldest Ottoman buildings in the city. Its original architectural structure was very well preserved until the beginning of the 20th century, when it was turned into a warehouse. We leave Tahtakale Hamam behind and walk towards Balkapanı (the Honey Scales). This region is quite crowded, with its daily rush. We walk as a group trying not to lose each other or to overlook anything.