The Turkey Letters: Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Fatih, Istanbul

For all of you just tuning in, here’s the second of the “Turkey Letters”: post-trip insights via letters between friends and family. If you didn’t read the first, read “The Turkey Letters: The lesson of the Charity Crow”.

This week’s epistle goes to a certain rapscallion currently, like, studying philosophy in Greece (scoff *whimper*). Enjoy!

To my dear friend about to take a trip for fun (DANG YOU, MISCREANT) to the greatest city in the world,

You don’t know how jealous I am of you. You’re a sponge. So there. With that, I want to tell you all about my experience there.

I walk fast.

I’m five feet tall and it’s my bushy hair that makes up for 75% of my body weight. Normally this shouldn’t be anything to fear. Except…for the days when I have been known to walk and, dear me, annotate books.

Suddenly 110 pounds of unaware fuzz coming directly at your shins, at 15 miles per hour with, good heavens, writing sticks doesn’t sound so good. And with that, such is life. I CHANGE FOR NO ONE. Ahem, I’m going somewhere with this. You probably want to know where you should visit during your blissful weekend right? Places you should go?

Well. Lemme tell you where you should not go.

Bazaars are not places you should be eager to visit when you are:

1. Hungry

2. More of a carnivorous plant person than a people person

I flew by the Egyptian Bazaar in a second (hear me out here).

Egyptian Spice Bazaar Istanbul Turkey 2013 Edit (2)

For all of the coverage that Rick Steves gives it (actually a handy book that you should read before you leave, don’t take guidebooks) — I went through the thing in five minutes flat.

Too many shops, too much yelling, too many of the same scarves and teas and baubles.

Egyptian Spice Bazaar Istanbul Turkey 2013 (11)

Immediately overtaken by the hubbub and mayhem, I scurried off to breathe in the “heady mix of spices and herbs” recommended by Lonely Planet. I had to experience it. And yet, agitated and peckish I only stopped to look at anything when a tricky, tricky Turkish merchant yelled, “You dropped something!” He knowingly smiled when he caught me being able to understand English (the advantages of ethnic ambiguity are faking accents and feigning linguistic ignorance in uncomfortable circumstances).

I sped on, frustrated by the “experience.”

As I ruminate on that day I am a little blue because I could have done without the experience (I know, what a spoiled snot who got to see wonders of the world). Tourist as I was, as I think about all the memories that make such a “landmark destination” pale in comparison, I’m a little regretful, of time wasted in getting to all the sites.

So I’m not saying don’t go to the bazaar. But just…

Seriously, you have a weekend, make it one, or rather live it in a way, that you could not bear to not go back to Turkey and see everything.

Bosphorus Sea Shore Istanbul Turkey 2013 (5)

Located in Fatih, the Egyptian Bazaar is certainly a sight with a beautiful dome and bit of history and I think maybe some great hidden treasures for spices and treats. It’s one of those pivotal tourist destinations. A must-see. But to me, Istanbul was so much more than the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. Honestly, if I have to make a recommendation, I’d say skip it (there’s the Grand Bazaar, which I don’t recommend for shopping anyway).

Live Istanbul through its people.

Eminonu Istanbul Turkey 2013 (1)

Like a gentle stranger ruminating on baked goods

Gah. I fall in love with people and places too easily,

I didn’t bring a thing back from Turkey, I didn’t capture enough in by writings about Turkey, I didn’t take a single photo that even comes close to capturing the feelings and memories of the people of Turkey. I cannot comprehend. And everything comes to this quote by Dostoyevsky, that I just am beginning to realize:

“During these three months I have gone through much; I mean, I have gone through much in myself; and now there are the things I am going to see and go through. There will be much to be written.” 

My life in Istanbul didn’t come down to how busy I could make myself, by how many sights I could see

but by the little Turkish sweet shop keeper who gave me tarts for free,

by the guy who sold the trinkets on the Üsküdar ferry terminal,

by the woman on the bus who gave me half of her bread so much love,

by my temporary flatmates who gave me everything they had,

by other expats who called me weird

by the kids at the Bahçeşehir Üniversitesi International office who bought me lunches and taught me about the world,

by the LDS branch who were my family,

by every freaking merchant who yelled “BUYRUN” at me.

Eminonu Istanbul Turkey 2013 (3)

Gosh. I love that. Did I ever tell you about that? Buyrun?

The Turkish word, “Buyrun”, is literally translated into an invitation to come and be welcome.

I love that.

Most of the time you’ll hear it from merchants who want to sell you stuff, but seriously, it’s the most welcome sound after all this time. Because “buyrun” is pretty much what Turkey was for me:

The Turks are welcome, hospitable, and loving people.

Instead of sulking through the bazaar I wish I had taken that day and gone to my favorite bakery and practiced my Turkish, or even down to the bus stop away from Fatih and chatted with an older Turk about the charms of life.

If you click on the links you’ll find some sound advice, but take this last one too:

Don’t walk too fast

(You cotton headed ninny muggins).

your friend,


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