A guiding light in the Grand Bazaar
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: es[email protected]
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