A place, not affected by the advance of shopping centers built to cater to the requirements of the modern age, the Grand Bazaar.
Fatih (Conqueror in Turkish)) Sultan Mehmet, after conquering Istanbul, ordered in 1461 the construction of the Bazaar to secure a steady income for the Hagia Sophia Mosque. The result was the two still intact Cevahir and Sandal Bedestans. During the reign of his great grandson, Suleiman the Magnificent, wooden stores were added and the place became to be known as Çarşu-ı Kebir, literally the Grand Bazaar.
The first fire to destroy the Bazaar was in November 20, 1651 during the reign of Mehmet IV. Followed by over 200 other fires and earthquakes, the Bazaar was finally restored to its current state after the last fire disaster of November 26, 1954.
After the conquest, in line with the Ottoman tradition, Mehmet the Conqueror built bazaars, shops, inns, baths, houses and mosques in many different areas of his capital. Bedestans were vibrant shopping centers booming with all the riches (fabrics, carpets, jewels, gold, silver, etc.) brought from different parts of the world. They also served as bank vaults where rich merchants could store their gold, silver, jewelry and other precious belongings for a small fee. Merchants of the Bedestans were among the richest of the empire.
Artisans and merchants living in Anatolia as early as in Seljuk Empire times were organized in various trade guilds. The guilds not only served as schools where new talent met the masters of the profession, but also provided moral guidance, trade guidelines and a social network for its members. They were the strongholds of Anatolian Sufism/Mysticism preaching work ethics, piety and the importance of a virtuous life.
The hustle and bustle of the Bazaar may at first glance obscure the effects of Anatolian teachings and way-of-life. But more careful eyes will notice that many streets are named after certain, long forgotten crafts and trades, Kalpakçılar, Fesçiler, Feraceciler, etc. (kalpak, fez, womens dress producers, resp.) Both the Bazaar and adjacent khans still provide an environment for young aspirants to work as apprentices and learn different trades, crafts and work ethics. It is not uncommon for parents to come to the Bazaar looking for temporary jobs for their children, believing the experience will help them to make the transition to maturity.
Even today, the Bazaar serves as a melting pot for all merchants and artisans from different social, ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds to come together to trade following unwritten rules deeply rooted in tradition, carefully away from impersonal and crass commercialism.
As the world's oldest bank and shopping mall, The Grand Bazaar continues to welcome visitors from far and wide into this mysterious and imposing structure with its shops, cafes and restaurants, post office, bank branches, private fire brigade, health care unit and police station to explore and enjoy.
The Grand Bazaar with its 16 adjacent khans houses 3.600 shops, 2 Bedestans and 64 streets. It can be accessed through 22 gates. Approximately 20.000 people work to serve an average of 300-500 thousand daily visitors.
The nine thousand years of history of Istanbul wanders within the few miles around the Grand Bazaar, humbly known to locals as Kapalıçarşı, the Covered Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar seems to be destined to continue its unique existence in this ever changing world.