The merchant of Istanbul January 4, 2009 – Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/travel/themerchantofistanbul2009010379dn.html Everyone is looking for something ... Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. Photo: AFP Grace de Morgan finds quiet hospitality in the Grand Bazaar. We descended into the bustling Grand Bazaar about three hours ago. Our group of eight has fractured into three factions. I seem to have joined Team Browse. The unfortunate fact is that it is hard to be "just looking" in Istanbul. Everyone is looking for something here, whether they admit it or not. One crockery stall banner even apologises to customers for its inadequacy to meet these unspoken needs: "Sorry, we're open." Each vendor tries to lead us into his shop where piles of his bounty stands stacked to the ceiling. One could call these men bold or assertive; others could call them attempted kidnappers. Added to this, the labyrinth of stalls makes it impossible to keep our bearings. We blindly trust that soon we will see daylight and be met with the ubiquitous smell of kebabs. From carpets to crockery and socks to shishas, the bazaar has something to tempt everyone. But after an afternoon of haggling, we are exhausted and desperate to find our way out. The only problem is, we don't know how. Deciding to retrace our steps back up the inclined path, we put our heads down and march towards what we pray is the exit. It's hard to avoid the merchants so we race through the rabble of voices. We pass a row of red and purple slippers as a spritely teenager lists prices at the top of his lungs. The further we move away, the cheaper the items get. Eventually, we find ourselves in a stone corridor, a glimmer of natural light at the end. My friends and I step from the doorway into the blinding sunlight of a large courtyard. In the centre of the bricked square, an old tree stretches towards the sun. It is strangely quiet. Our animated conversation comes to a halt. In the corner is one solitary shop. A gilt table and a number of cushioned stools sit out the front. We enter the stall and find ourselves in an Aladdin's cave of treasures. It appears that no one else is here. That is until we hear the clink of copper plates from the next room. Following the sound, we peer around the corner to discover the secret of the furnished grotto. Detached and unassuming, a lone man arranges a pile of plates amid a table of jewellery and glassware. He looks up and starts speaking Turkish in subdued tones, indicating some stools and a table piled with loose rings and buttons. Continuing his lilting monologue, he and his dancing moustache turn away, and he wanders to back room. He returns with small glasses of apple tea before promptly resuming his arranging. We sit in silence as we sip the warm, sugary drink. When we are finished, we try to thank him for his hospitality. He simply nods and continues his work. Outside his shop, we spot a side alley leading to the main street. We're overwhelmed with relief. As we walk out onto the cobbled lane, I can't shake the memory of the quiet merchant. In a city where everyone wants something from you, I had found someone who wanted nothing.