The Monument That Tells It’s Story

As far as I know, the idiom “going out to the bazaar” is only used in Turkish and Persian. When the verb “going out” comes together with bazaar, that is peculiar to Eastern civilizations, the scope of the concept expands; it includes other meanings like sightseeing, walking around, having a great time, learning and shopping. The Western world could understand this logic of an integrated structure, which we call bedestan, as Iate as the 20th century. The construction of giant shopping centers, in which many stores are presented less than one roof, can be considered as the “invention of the East” due to its function and architectural understanding. From this perspective, it would be a mistake to see almost all the famous shopping centers in Turkey, which were built as copies of the Grand Bazaar with their stores, alleys, resting places, and restaurants, as a result of a foreign culture or an adaptation to the rest of the world. For sure, the Grand Bazaar was not only a place that consist of cabinets-that is what the small shops were called before they got combined and turned into big stores- and goods for sale for the people of İstanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. For instance, the Grand Bazaar was sort of a news agent, a newspaper. It was the place where a lot of news on the circumstances in the world was brought with merchandises of the tradesmen who came from Asia and Europe. The Ottoman archives and chronicle records are full of notes of information on the foreign palaces, brought by especially the tradesmen who sold raw, valuable stones and decorated jewelry. It is not a seeret that inviting these people to the palace and the well treatment towards them was found politically important. As a matter of fact, by this way, there were tradesmen who became well-known and even came to the fore in the palace.

On the other hand, Grand Bazaar was the only bank of “The Gate of Happiness”, İstanbul, for centuries. Many people from those who avoid keeping their money and valuable belongings at home for the risk of robbery to the palace officials who wanted to hide their bribe money in a secure place, were benefiting from the safe deposit boxes in the Grand Bazaar. These people used to go into the private divisions with a key and a special seal in their hands, escorted by private officials, get what they need from the box/trunk or add something in, lock the trunk, stamp it, and then leave with the officials again. The tradesmen used to lend money in return of a deposit or a valuable belonging. However, this event sametimes resulted in taking advantage of same customers. The Turkish idiom “spinning the cabinet” comes from the tradesmen who used to deceive their customers, who would need to sell his/her belonging, by taking him/her to each and every cabinet (that is what shops were called back then), pretending like they  were trying to sell it for the best price, and at the end would buy it from the customer for much lower than its value. Complaints on this issue can be seen in many edicts. In fact, it was even possible to obtain information about the economy in the world and the Empire by only wandering in the Grand Bazaar without doing any shop- ping, and by checking the prices of goods. You would think differently if the goods were a lot in number and came from many different countries or if it was less and came only from certain places. “So, the war between Austria and France is not finished!” “I guess Persians blocked the way. Or else silk would be a lot in this season.” It was also possible to make similar assumptions by looking at the changes of the prices of certain goods. Why would not the fabrics made in France or Yenice come if there was not any war? News of almost the entire pirate attacks in the Mediterranean, the fights for the throne and the epidemic invasions would come to the Bazaar first, and then spread to the city in waves. The information about the Duke of Venice, who confiscated the jewels of the former French Emperor’s mather because of unpaid depts and the sale of those stones; the news of the debaucheries of the King of Spain and the fact that some worthless beads gained value because of his interest of giving gifts to his lovers, was probably heard in the Bazaar at the same time with the people of those countries. I think this was not a one sided relationship. Most probably, some news about the Ottoman Empire was also carried to other places by the same people .

If this was not the case, how could the western tradesmen raise their merchandise prices up to its exact value, if they hadn’t heard about the “secret reduction” of the amount of gold in coin In centuries, Ankara was bom, İstanbul was overshadowed. Galata Tahtakale developed. And everything new took something away from the Grand Bazaar. Its function changed and people became different. However, despite of all these changes, even though it is not the only place where the pulse of the economy is tracked like in old times, it always kept i ts characteristic of being one of the centers of economy. It became the barometer of gold and silver market. Because of the lighting problem (before the use of electricity, any light source that may because fire was prohibited in the Bazaar), its opening in the morning and dosing before the sunset became the sign of the tourism sector. Most importantly, before, the Bazaar’s importance came from its function but today, it is a monument that tells its entire past to those who knows how to listen. The Grand Bazaar remained as the focus of information trade until the World War II. During the war years, the Grand Bazaar was the place in which the employees of the German and British news organizations competed ruthlessly with each other.

 Avni Özgürel

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.