At the Market

A thousand kilometres across Turkey, and the layout of every Turkish town and city becomes familiar. As you get near, the market gardens providing vegetables, the army barracks. The scruffy outer suburbs littered with plastic bags and bottles. The packed minibus dolmuses. Maybe an out-of-town shopping center near the new smart estates, the sites, with just a token guard at the entrance. The smart avenue leading to the centre of town, often called Atatürk Bulvarı, starting from the smart traffic island with the statue of Atatürk. And there will be İstıklal Caddesi, Independence Street, an Inönü Caddesi, after the second president of the Turkish Republic, and now that the disgraced Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, deposed in a military coup in 1960 and hanged the following year following corruption charges, has been rehabilitated, there are plenty of Adnan Menderes Caddesis.

Along the Atatürk Bulvarı we find the Benettons, clothes boutiques, smart hotels, mobile telephone shops, Starbucks and Mado ice cream parlours. And nearby the tea garden, probably part of the park, maybe leading to the castle, where couples stroll at night, admire the view, drink tea and smoke the nargile water pipe. 

The town council offices, the belediye and the main post office will be central, maybe next to the Archeological Museum, as here in Antakya, formerly Antioch, one of the largest and greatest cities of the Roman Empire, and now a relatively recent addition to Turkey, having been a French protectorate from 1918 till 1939. All have played a central role in the integration of Turkey as a modern state: the belediye to exert control over some remote rural areas; the post office to facilitate communication; and the archeological museums to stress the relation of modern Turkey to the ancient Turkic peoples, the Hittites and Selçuks, emphasizing that the concept of Turkishness has always existed. Many of the museums house Greek and Roman mosaics, as does the Antakya museum.

I have not forgotten the mosques. The central mosque may be called the Ulu Cami, the High or Sublime Mosque, with its courtyards, fountains and disactivated medresse, Islamic school, for such schools have not been allowed in the Turkish Republic. It will usually be near the bazaar, or pazar in Turkish, for it has traditionally earns money by renting out stalls and shops. A few shops near the mosque may sell Islamic souvenirs – Korans, pictures of Mecca, prayer mats and beads, but most will sell cheap clothing, the there will some shops selling conservative Islamic clothing for ladies, shoes, plastic kitchen and bathroom goods, many of which are exported to Russia and the ex-Soviet Republics. Indeed, “sacoleiro” shoppers come to İstanbul on charter flights with a ninety kilo allowance from Uzbekistan and Krgyistan. The traditional Turkish bath, the haman, will also be nearby. To a great extent they are now a thing of the past, or a tourist attraction as nearly all houses now have modern bathrooms. Then we move into the area of taps, bathroom appliances, mobile phones, electrical appliances and tools, then maybe the jewellry district, especially gold and silver.

Fruit, sold from barrows, varies according to the season, and now the stalls are overladen with cherries, peaches, apricots and heavy sweet water-melons. There will be plenty of places to eat: the fluffy börek pastries are made in large pans over heat; as are the sweet and stick baclava sweets. Some shops specıalize in a wide variety of nuts and dried fruits, especially in the east of Turkey. You can see the bakers at work taking freshly cooked flat loaves out of the open ovens. And not to forget the omnipresent kebapcıs, the kebab sellers. And the spice sellers add colour for the photographers with their different shades of dark red paprika, thyme, mint, and brown tea.

There are still a few memories of the crafts of yesteryear. Metal workers hammer out pots and pans in tin and copper. But the Arabic inscribed bowls I buy come all the way from Syria, well, it is just down the road…

At about one fifteen the muezzin calls the faithful to prayers, many of the businesses shut for some twenty minutes, and the old men shuffle over to the mosque for midday prayers from the public garden or the kıraathanesi, the cafe where they spend most of the day drinking tea, playing cards, backgammon and another domino-like game.

But like everywhere else habits are changing. Super and hypermarkets are found in everywhere medium-sized town. The car-owning middle-class prefer its Migros or Carrefours, and there are signs that the downtown market, as in the huge İstanbul Kapalı Charsı will become more of  a tourist attraction and curiosity as serious shopping is done at the out-of-town malls.


10 Responses to “At the Market”

  1. Marsicano Says:

    Fantásticas as cores dos mercados orientais. Caleidoscópio de sabores, perfumes & imagens prismáticas.
    Na Índia encontram-se nos mercados vendas de pigmentos que em cones apresentam verdadeiros acordes policrômicos de pura luz!

  2. Petia Botovchenko Says:

    Veru colourful. One wonders whether local colours will fade with the invasion of Carrefours and Benettons, plastic kitchen and bathroom goods, which seem to be the spearhead of Western consumer society. How much will be gained and how much will be lost.

  3. Viviane Annunciação Says:

    Indeed a extraordinary description, however I do believe the actual sight must have been beyond that.

    The last words, though, have reminded me of a particular interesting part of “The Merchant of Venice” in which Shylock demands Antonio’s flesh: deep down, at the market, we are neither good, nor bad, we long for what we are purchasing. It does not matter if it is a simple good or a expensive commodity: we want them like desperate children in need of care and attention. Even though we behave this way, we end up empty, like a stomach whose fast have been eternal and will remain this way for long years.

    Fabulous words that reveal so much about us. Terrifying words that make us seek after answers for what we praise and wish. After all, are not we for sale?

    Master Shakespeare’s quote:

    “You have among you many a purchased slave
    Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
    You use in abject and in slavish parts
    Because you bought them. Shall I say to you
    ’Let them be free, marry them to your heirs.
    Why sweat they under burdens?. . .
    You will answer
    ’The slaves are ours.’ So do I answer you.
    The pound of flesh which I demand of him
    Is dearly bought. ‘Tis mine, and I will have it.”


  4. Viviane Annunciação Says:

    Sorry “an extraordinary”/ “an expensive”

  5. Marco de Pinto Says:

    Então você está na antiquíssima Antioquia? Creio que vale a pena uma pequena nota histórica para quem se interesse:
    tal cidade foi a antiga capital do reino grego da Síria, fundada em 300 a.C., e era famosa por seu esplendor e riqueza. Nos tempos romanos, foi um importante centro propagador do Cristianismo, como várias passagens do Novo Testamento comprovam e onde, inclusive, os cristãos foram denominados assim pela primeira vez (Atos 11:26). Cf. também Atos 13:1; 14:26; 15:22,30; 18:22 etc.). Após os romanos, ela foi tomada pelo árabes em 637 e pelos cruzados de 1098 até 1268.
    o nome turco da cidade é uma forma arabizada do original grego Antiókheia.
    Ademais, sua descrição foi fantástica, John. Quase me faz sentir os aromas dos pazarlar turcos..

  6. Gleby Says:

    John, where are you?
    I miss you!!!!!!

  7. leda tenorio da motta Says:

    Baudelaire: “Sim, é lá que é preciso respirar, sonhar e prolongar as horas em sensações infinitas. Um músico escreveu O Convite à Valsa; qual haverá de compor O Convite à Viagem…”?
    Bj. Leda.

  8. chris ritchie Says:

    Thank you for taking me to this market. I could almost smell the spices!
    love xx Chris

  9. ibrahim delil Says:

    i love the way you write, i havent thought i could enjoy my country from a tourist’s eye, thank you 🙂

    i’d like to add a few words about “kıraathane”s though, if you’d excuse me 🙂

    “…from the public garden or the kıraathanesi, the cafe where they spend most of the day drinking tea, playing cards, backgammon and another domino-like game…”

    the word “kıraathane” means “the house of reading” actually (kıraat meaning “reading” and hane meaning “house”), and used to serve like that too, in the -not so near- past. but now, its more like a place where all kind of people (mostly 30+) from the town or village gather. we, as Turks are not much into pubs, bars or other western stuff, so, kıraathanes are the main places to be in our spare times (this doesnt apply for the big cities for sure). and now that the “kıraat” times are long lost memories, most of these places are called “kahvehane”, meaning coffee house; and all you can do there is have a “çay” -tea- or “kahve” -coffee-, while playing “okey” -the domino-like game-, “tavla” -backgammon- or “pişti” -a card game- with your buddies.

  10. Luana Says:

    John! I haven´t known about this blog before!! It makes me “kill my saudades” from Turkey! I´ll visit your website more often now. Very good description!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: