Grand Bazaar closed to visitors
Istanbul’s historical Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest surviving shopping centers in the world, has been completely closed to visitors as part of the measures Turkey has taken in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Until March 23, people could visit the historical venue between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. only through two entrances.
As of yesterday, all visitors were banned and only business owners and employees are allowed after ID checks.
People who work in the bazaar, however, do not spend too much time on the premises. They leave the Grand Bazaar as soon as they are done.
“It is quite empty inside…nobody there,” said one employee.
Mehmet Ali Kuru, who owns a business at the Grand Bazaar, said he had not seen anything like it, noting that he has been doing business there for 79 years.
“Turkey has gone through much. But nothing compares to this,” Kuru commented.
“I was caught off-guard. I own a store here. I heard that the bazaar would be closed. I will only check my shop and head back,” said Februniye Bektaş, another tradesman. “Everybody is scared…naturally,” Bektaş added.
The Grand Bazaar already saw a sharp drop in the number of visitors and shoppers at the start of the month.
Some 2,500 shops operate in the 560-year-old building.
The covered market shops made a good start in 2020, said Hasan Fırat, the head of the shopkeepers’ association at the Grand Bazaar, in an interview in early March. “It’s the coronavirus outbreak that dismays us,” he complained even back then.
“The 64 streets of the market are usually occupied with large groups of tourists, but not even a single bus arrives at the main gate nowadays, said Fırat.