Mysyr-charshysy: Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul

Forever remains in your memory as one of the most vivid impressions of the East...

EThe Egyptian Bazaar, also called the Egyptian Spice Market, is Mısır Çarşısı in Turkish. In Turkish the word MIsIr means Egypt. This is no coincidence, because it was from Egypt in the old days that cereals, spices, and spices were brought to Turkey. These goods arrived at the port of Istanbul and were then sold at the Egyptian Bazaar. And today Spice Bazaar remains the star of Istanbul, which attracts thousands of tourists. What interesting things can you buy at the bazaar, where is it located, how and when does it work?

Spice Market - 370 years of history

The Egyptian Bazaar has a very long tradition in the trade of spices and spices, as it was built in the sixties of the seventeenth century, as part of the New Mosque (Yeni Kami) complex. One should not be surprised at such a strange combination of a bazaar and a mosque in one architectural complex. The fact is that the rent payments received from the merchants were used for the construction and maintenance of the mosque, as well as for charity.

Egyptian market in the 18th century
This is what the Egyptian Bazaar looked like at the end of the 18th century

Appearing on the map of Istanbul back in 1648, it was completely wooden. Later, after the first major fire, it was rebuilt from stone and brick. The bazaar was built according to the design of the master of architecture Kazim Aga, who left a noticeable mark on Turkish architecture.

Market facade
One of the entrances to the complex

In those days, most of the merchants on it were Egyptians. They traded in Indian and Chinese spices supplied to Egypt, and from there across the Mediterranean to Istanbul. Nowadays, the Spice Market is a huge building with six gates and a domed roof, under the arches of which there are more than eighty shops and shops.

Egyptian market today
Thousands of people visit the market complex every day

Today, the Egyptian Bazaar is visited by tourists looking for an exotic twist on the charm of Istanbul or those who are tired of the huge Grand Bazaar.

As the bazaar has become an increasingly popular tourist attraction and, to a lesser extent, a general retail outlet, the number of souvenir shops and similar products has increased year after year.

The market itself is built in the shape of an "L", and the interior design is a system of eyvans - large vaulted rooms leading to the courtyard. The market received its modern look after restoration in 1943.

Five myths about the Egyptian Bazaar

During its almost four-century history, Spice Bazaar has become legendary not only in Turkey, but throughout the world. Each era gave rise to its own myths and just stable ideas about him and his sellers. Our 21st century has also not lagged behind in this matter and has created stamps that are common among modern tourists. Which of them is true and which is fiction? Here are some of them.

Myth 1: "These fragrances will cloud your mind"

Guidebooks unanimously say that the Spice Market is impossible to miss, because all the mysteries of the East are collected here and this is the territory of aromas and tastes.

Spices previously held a leading position in terms of sales

In support of this statement, it will be interesting to read one of the first "not the Internet" market feedback, made back in 1874 by an Italian writer, poet and journalist Edmondo De Amicis:

..“Getting inside, you immediately smell such a strong smell that it can easily knock you off your feet: this is an Egyptian bazaar where goods from India, Syria, Egypt and Arabia are sold, which are subsequently turned into essences, lozenges, powders and ointments and serve to color hands and faces, create perfume compositions, take baths, freshen breath and bring new flavors to familiar food; they revive worn-out womanizers, dull the senses of unfortunate married people, stun smokers and give dreams, oblivion and insensibility to the entire vast city.

After walking even a short distance, your senses become dull and your head becomes heavy, and you strive to get out into the fresh air as quickly as possible. But the effect of this hot, physically felt close atmosphere and these deeply penetrating smells clings to your clothes for a long time and remains forever in your memory as one of the most vivid and characteristic impressions of the East "...

I would argue with them. I mean guidebooks and Signor Edmondo De Amicis, but unfortunately this is absolutely not feasible. Arguing with a guide is strange in itself, but unfortunately it is no longer possible to talk with Signor Edmondo. For, as Professor Woland said from The Master and Margarita, “He has been living in places much more remote than Solovki for more than a hundred years, and there is no way to extract him from there ...

In a word, either my nose works for a triple, or after the fish markets I’m not afraid of anything, but one thing is for sure - the Market smells just good and pleasant, varied, but no one will faint from smells. The only problem for tourists prone to allergies can be a huge amount and variety of spices and seasonings.

Myth 2: “You can buy everything in the market”

Controversial question. In my opinion, this is a beautiful marketing ploy. In general, I have never met such a market where everything that even the most demanding soul desires would be sold. Although Flea market in Anjuna, Goa, India pretty close to that definition in my opinion. But mine :)) usually doesn’t find something.

Oriental sweets
Sweets of the East by weight

But here you can definitely buy spices of all kinds and varieties, admire the mountains of Istanbul Turkish delight, tea of various varieties, fragrant coffee, sweet baklava.

Dried fruits
Dried fruits of the East are an obligatory attribute of trade in Istanbul

You can buy cheese, meat, nuts, dairy products and dried fruits in a huge variety, and all this can be tasted. Shelves with haberdashery, henna, handmade washcloths, oils, jam, honey and various oriental sweets - just a lot and beautiful.

Souvenir products

In addition, a fairly large space of the complex is occupied by shops with souvenirs and products of local craftsmen - leather, ceramics, metal, wood. Not all of the presented products are of interest to the picky buyer-tourist. And what really attracts is worth according to the quality of the product.

Myth 3: “The market is noisy and crowded”

Someone, going to the market for the first time, imagines something like an old oriental bazaar, including a crowded solid crowd and the fabulous Khoja Nasreddin next to a camel. Of course not, although everything here is saturated with the flavor of the East. Naturally, not the deserted steppe, but clearly not the Cherkizovsky market. Definitely not him. Everything is very beautiful, authentic, clean, neat and tasty.

The photo gives the impression of a huge density among people, but in fact it is not quite so.

Sometimes even the prices are good. In the bazaar there are inevitably people and they also want to choose good and as cheap as possible. Be calm and don't let anyone annoy you. None of us are perfect.

The market is not very noisy, I didn’t have enough groovy Turkish music at all. The bazaar makes a bright and positive impression - a colorful corner where life is in full swing.

Myth 4: "Sellers pester and grab hands"

There is an opinion that the sellers of the East and Istanbul are extremely sticky and, how to say, “sticky” or something. If you ask them something, you won’t get off just like that, but if you leave, they will be offended. Yeah. And grabbing your hand, they call you Natasha and immediately pull you down the aisle. Only this way and nothing else.

Seller in the market
Seller in a shop at the Istanbul spice market

No, this is not the case in Turkey. No one will grab you by the arms, legs, wallets and other protruding parts of the body and will not force you to buy goods either. Tested personally on myself, and not only in this complex.

Myth 5: “The prices here are very high”

Initially, yes. What did you expect? If you have been to the markets of Thailand, India or Egypt, you should have already gotten used to the idea that sellers significantly inflate the price, sometimes two or three times!

So bargain. Do it firmly, but without impudence, preferably with a charming smile. As a result, the initial price can be significantly brought down. When the seller loses interest in you and stops persuading you to make a purchase, you must understand that this is the lowest possible price and it will not be cheaper. Although I have already met salespeople who have mastered the art of "trading jiu-jitsu" and the ostentatious loss of interest in the buyer is just skillful acting.

What can you buy at the Egyptian Bazaar?

A little higher, I already listed everything that the market complex is rich in. And just below I will write about what interested or may interest me personally.

istanbul spices
Bright colors and a variety of smells attract buyers

My mom would recommend to everyone spices. They can be bought in factory packaging or by weight from the counter. But I cannot advise and recommend spices to you for two reasons. Firstly, I have not exhausted the Dubai ones yet. And secondly, I don’t particularly like them, I rarely add them to food and recognize only basil, herbs of Provence, a freshly ground mixture of peppers, sea salt and dry garlic. I once took expensive saffron for a sample - it’s just lying around in the closet, we weren’t imbued with it.

Tea on the counter
Tea is a product worth paying attention to.

I would recommend everyone to buy jasmine and rose tea. Here is a dream! It is usually served only in the best restaurants and always in glass teapots, otherwise one cannot see the beauty of the flower. One flower for one teapot with a volume of 1-1.5 liters and a sincere evening with a fragrant drink is guaranteed to you.

In our restaurants, a teapot of such tea costs from 5 dollars, and it is problematic to buy tea of decent quality. Therefore, take more in Turkey. But in Turkey, the price of this tea is high. The cheapest we managed to bargain for was $50 per kilo. The flowers are also heavy.

Dried fruits
Dried fruits - try, choose, and then buy

Buy it, but if you don't want to, just try it dried fruits. There are quite interesting tastes, not cloyingly sweet, with sourness. A little for a change, you can, besides, tea will be just right.

Woven handmade washcloths "Kese" are a useful thing and a good inexpensive souvenir

I like it Handmade soap - there is a lot of it, it is of excellent quality and at an affordable price. pay attention to handmade woven washcloths called "kese" - they are ideal for exfoliating dead cells on the body, pleasant to the touch.

Manual pepper mills - color and practicality

small manual pepper shakers - they are amazing. They cost something around 3-5 liras (it all depends on the level of your "trading jiu-jitsu"), the quality is excellent and freshly ground pepper is always at hand.

souvenir plates
Painted souvenir plates with Turkish ornaments

Souvenir products and souvenir ceramics - that's what else you can pay attention to the demanding tourist. Usually, travel is not complete without the purchase of such products, especially if this is the first visit to the country. Don’t expect special cheapness, but the choice is decent, and no one has yet canceled bargaining ...

Turkish souvenir pottery

And what not to buy...

There is a category of goods that I would not recommend purchasing in this complex for obvious reasons, but it's up to you.

Turkish Delight
This sweet is cheaper in the market than in specialized stores

I would not recommend buying Turkish delight and baklava, I liked them more in Koska stores - a network throughout Istanbul. But, the Bazaar is cheaper. Here you can choose for yourself.

Gold items
The jewelry store offers to buy jewelry made of gold

Do not buy jewelry - small, expensive and nothing to look at. In Turkey, jewelry is generally expensive if it is of high quality. And so the usual shop gold is lemon yellow and looks unusual. Has a tendency to break. And of the pluses, only the stylish design of individual products.

Six Rules for Visiting the Egyptian Market

Actually, I have seven of them, but I put one of the most important and universal ones forward separately. So: don't forget to look after your wallet! Just repeat like a mantra. And keep an eye on your bag, camera and phone. At the same time. And for a sense of reality - do not buy too much! To summarize: keep an eye on valuables and do not shove them anywhere in public.

By the way, I usually carry a heavy DSLR just in my hand, I don’t even wind the strap around the brush. Fortunately, years of training in the gym do not pass without a trace. But once in Georgia, a colleague explained that, walking around the haunted places in this way, I am a tasty morsel for any thief.

He then followed me like a vigilant falcon, so that I wore a camera around my neck or over my shoulder. She did so there. But now I still forget because for me there is nothing worse than a shot with a camera around my neck. Well, I'm sorry, but my sense of beauty at such moments groans.

Rules for tourists (not mandatory, but desirable to use):

  • Try. Turkish delight, baklava, cheese, basturma. With the right approach to gastronomic offers, you simply have no chance of leaving the Bazaar hungry;
  • bargain. Trade and trade again! Actively show interest in the products you like;
  • Buy now. It has been verified that after 5 minutes you run the risk of not finding this or that shop;
  • Calculate the time. By our standards, the Bazaar closes early, around 19.30;
  • Plan your visit. Allocate at least two hours for a general inspection. That is how much time is needed to go through everything and linger at least near a few shops;
  • Do not combine your visit. You should not combine a walk through the Egyptian and Grand Bazaars in one day. It's just that your head will spin and a lot will pass you by.
Sweets of the East
All sweets are offered for tasting before purchase.


In general, it was interesting for me to draw parallels and, thanks to my visits to the Spice Gardens and Plantations in Sri Lanka and India, to remember how the spices that I now see in front of me grow.

How to get to the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul

The market is located in the historical center of Istanbul - in the Eminonu quarter behind the Yeni Mosque or, in other words, the New Mosque, behind the Galata Bridge.

Official address and contact details of the Egyptian Bazaar:

Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Erzak Ambarı Sok. No:92, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey;

tel: +90 212 513 65 97 fax: +90 212 513 69 90

Opening hours of the market complex

Opening hours: Opening: 08.00 Closing: 19:30

Schedule: Daily, except Sunday, October 29 and all religious holidays.

How to combine a visit to the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul:

  • It is convenient to combine with a tour of the Sultanahmet area: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, a walk through the historical center and the Bazaar for a snack;
  • If you go from the other side and the Istyaklal area, then cross the Galata Bridge, go to the New Mosque and visit Mısır Çarşısı;
  • Whichever way you go, don't forget to taste balyk ekmek at the Eminenu pier - this is a local delicacy that is sold from huge boats with canopies right at the waterfront.

The so-called "fish shawarma" is a large slice of bread with salad and fish fried in front of you. By the way, all the catch today. Pickled cabbage and cucumbers are also sold here, as well as fiery Turkish tea.

Bazaar area
The dish "Balyk ekmek" is not related to dried meat, if literally it is "fish with bread"

Balyk ekmek was not liked by everyone in our company, but it is definitely worth a try. Grilled fish is quite bland, but there is lemon juice and salt on the tables - you can safely improve the dish to your taste.

Short video about Spice Bazaar

That's all. Our trip to "Mysyr-charshysy" is over. This place is very colorful and the charm of the East is still preserved here. Visit the market even if you are not going to buy anything!

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