Istanbul’s landmark Grand Bazaar reopens after being shuttered in March
The historical Grand Bazaar opened its doors to visitors on June 1 as part of the country’s normalization phase, having longed for its old crowded and busy days since being shuttered on March 24.
As social distancing measures and cleaning conditions are given utmost importance, those who do not have a protective face mask on are not allowed to enter the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, the oldest shopping center in Istanbul.
Visitors are allowed inside only after their body temperatures are screened by healthcare professionals.
The Grand Bazaar is not packed at the moment, said Ercan Kaya, a jeweler who has a shop in the 559-year-old complex.
Kaya, among some of the shopkeepers to open his shop in the bazaar, said the “heart of the country’s economy beats in the Grand Bazaar.”
“Hopefully, if [foreign] tourists come after June 15, we will restart business too. Our bazaar is open, we wait for our guests,” he said.
Another jeweler, Erkan Aslan stressed that they could not do business even though it was wedding season.
“Foreign tourists make up 70 percent of the Grand Bazaar’s customer portfolio. Since the weddings were delayed during this time, we did not have any expectations,” Aslan said.
“We have no expectations from June and July. The wedding season was postponed to September and October. I hope the wedding customer will arrive in August,” he noted.
Hüseyin Şahin, who sell rugs and carpets, complained that there were no foreign tourists to buy from him.
“We usually do business with tourists. We have no chance to make any sales when there are no tourists,” Şahin added.
The complex — which was built in 1455 just two years after the Ottomans conquered Istanbul, then known as Constantinople — is home to almost 3,000 shops where more than 30,000 people work.
The bazaar on the historic peninsula of Istanbul, also home to tourist sites such as the Hagia Sophia Museum and the Blue Mosque, was closed on March 24 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.