A guiding light in the Grand Bazaar

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

HOW much fun is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul? Af­ter sev­eral days of dip­ping in and out of its labyrinthine pas­sages, cir­cling and get­ting com­pre­hen­sively lost, I de­cide I would like to just wheel in a bed and take up res­i­dence.

It’s not just the shop­ping but the sheer scale and scope, the in­dus­tri­ous­ness of its shop­keep­ers and the in­ven­tive­ness of their wily ways. Never have I been so flat­tered and ca­joled by car­pet-sell­ing chaps, so ad­mired for my lus­trous hair and child-bear­ing hips, so com­pared to god­desses and movie stars and (more real­is­ti­cally) their much-wor­shipped moth­ers. In In­dia, long ago, a shop­keeper in Ra­jasthan set eyes upon me and asked in a voice choked with mock emo­tion, “Which coun­try is griev­ing in your ab­sence?”

In Istanbul, an open­ing gam­bit by a pur­veyor of gold and pre­cious stones is just as charm­ingly ridicu­lous. “And so, princess lady, where are your ser­vants and your smit­ten ad­mir­ers?”

My “ser­vant”, in this case, is my long-suf­fer­ing guide Eser Sedef who, at this mo­ment, has all but dis­ap­peared be­hind a bouncy stash of the loveli­est and soft­est Turk­ish hamam tow­els we have re­cently pro­cured, af­ter the usual rit­ual of flo­ral tea and bar­gain­ing, in a lit­tle nook of a store she rec­om­mends called Egin Tek­stil.

The lovely Eser ne­go­ti­ates the ar­cades of the Grand Bazaar with the sure step of a lo­cal and soon works out which shops will ap­peal to me most and those I will dis­miss with a princess pout and wave of the hand.

Eser shows me how to buy an Is­tan­bulkart trans­port ticket and sends me off on fer­ries across the Golden Horn, wav­ing like an ap­prov­ing mother at me as I sail away to who knows where; later we con­vene for coloured drinks at a rooftop bar over­look­ing the Galata Bridge and re­cap our days. We have been naked to­gether in a tra­di­tional hamam (although some­what veiled in suds), we have walked and walked and shopped and shopped. If you de­cide to book the best guide in Istanbul, give Eser my love: es­ersedef@gmail.com

Fol­low on Instagram: su­sankuro­sawa

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