The Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı), otherwise known as the Spice Bazaar, is the place to be to lay in a fresh supply of spices, nuts, honeycomb, Turkish delight, dried figs, caviar and mature hard Turkish cheese.
The Spice Bazaar was built in 1664 as an extension of the New Mosque (Yeni Camii) complex, and its revenues helped support the upkeep of the mosque and its philanthropic institutions such as a school, a hospital and several baths.
The market was called Mısır Çarşısı (literally translated Egyptian Market) because the story goes that it was built with money paid as duty on Egyptian imports. The annual ‘Cairo caravan’ would bring along spices from Egypt, just like Istanbul located on the trade route between the East and Europe.
The main entrance to the Spice Bazaar is via a high brick arch on the pigeon infested plaza next to the New Mosque in Eminönü.
Spices, nuts, Turkish delight, caviar and trinkets
Upon entering the L-shaped market, your nostrils will immediately pick up the overwhelming scent coming from the hundreds of spices on sale. Where the stalls in the bazaar originally only stocked spices (baharat) and herbs, over the years other edibles were added, such as nuts (kuruyemiş), honeycomb (petekbal), Turkish delight (lokum), dried fruit and vegetables (kuru meyve ve sebze), mature hard Turkish cheese (eski kaşar), caviar (make sure you get the Iranian variety) and smoked or dried beef (pastırma).
Today a fair amount of the over 90 shops unfortunately swopped their spices and offer the typical tourist trinkets such as low quality scarves, kids costumes and gold.
On the side
On both sides of the Spice Bazaar, there are some more bargains to be made. Outdoors, on the west side of the bazaar, you’ll find more stalls with fresh food. If you’re a caffeine connoisseur, don’t forget to pay Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi a visit. This famous coffee shop has been supplying the locals with their own-brand beans for over 100 years.