"Bring me a present from Turkey!"
But what to buy? If you're not a careful shopper, you may end up with a cheap model of the Blue Mosque, or a second-rate carpet. Here's our guide to the goods you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else other than in Turkey.
Turkish alabaster is a fine, translucent and light stone with stripes of pastel colour that lend it a pretty, delicate appearance. It’s used to make bowls, plates, chess sets, egg cups, vases and a number of other household items. Quality varies, but prices start at around five lira.
If you’re in Istanbul look around the Grand Bazaar, and in Cappadocia head to Avanos.
Turkey’s long history means there’s no shortage of fine antiques all over the country. However, the best antique stores can be found in Istanbul, the centre of Turkey’s antique trade. Head to the Grand Bazaar’s central Old Bazaar section, where antique-hunters have haggled over precious goods for over a thousand years. You can also try Beyoglu’s Cukurcuma area, especially Faik Pasa Sokak and Cukurcuma Caddesi. The shops here hold a wealth of old prints, paintings, maps, furniture and weaponry.
The best antique bookshop can be found on Galipdede Caddesi at the Librairie de Pera. You can also try the Old Book Bazaar, which is between the Grand Bazaar and the Beyazit Mosque.
Please bear in mind that you may NOT buy anything that is over 100 years old. This is called an antiquity and if you buy it you are breaking the law. Ask to see the documentation if necessary, or if possible take the object to a museum.
Copper was very popular during Ottoman times, so you may find a few old copper bowls, plates, cups, pots and dishes around Turkey’s markets and bazaars, although the older items are becoming rarer to find. It’s still possible to find some fine, heavy pieces but most likely you’ll come across modern copies made of much thinner copper. These items are attractive and relatively cheap, but note that these items should not be used for cooking, as copper is poisonous. Once again, head to the Grand Bazaar for the best collection of copper goods.
Carpets are one of Turkey’s most famous products. Everywhere you’ll go, you’ll find a wealth of carpets in every colour under the sun. But be aware: many of these so-called ‘Turkish rugs’ are actually made in China or India!
If you'd like to find out how how to distinguish quality carpets from mass-produced, unTurkish carpets, have a gander here.
This ‘evil eye’ talisman is a Turkish good-luck charm, and offers protection against the evil-eye curse, where an ill-wisher can turn their evil eye upon another and curse them. Of course, this won’t happen to you if you buy one of these blue glass ‘eyes’, which ‘look’ straight at the ill-wisher and thwart any wrongdoing. The talisman have been crafted for generations and are an integral part of Turkish legend and folklore.
While few people believe in the susperstition of the evil eye these days, the glass eyes are still widely produced and remain an affordable and pretty token. Nazar Bonjuk are produced all round Turkey and you’ll be able to pick one up at any bazaar or craft shop. They’re made from blown glass and come in all shapes and sizes.
Turkey is a great place to pick up big, chunky necklaces, old brooches, earrings and rings. Old or new, there’s plenty of variety to be found in any bazaar. If you’re buying silver or gold, look carefully for the hallmark. Otherwise you may be duped into buying an expensive imitation of the real thing. Head to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Market and fill your boots with sparkling, shining jewellery.
These woven mats can be found all over Turkey and are recognisable by their bold patterns and bright colours. They are distinct from Turkish carpets in that they are woven, while carpets are knotted. Kilims were once seen as poor imitations of Turkish carpets, and were priced as such, but these days kilims are highly prized for their intricate designs and quality craftwork. Just like buying a carpet, you get what you pay for with kilims.
You can find leather work in all parts of Turkey. Although Istanbul is the centre of the leather industry, each area around Turkey has its own special way of treating or designing the leather. Be prepared to pay more for quality goods.
This soft, white stone can be found all around Turkey, usually in the form of pipes, cigarette holders and jewellery.
Silk has been a hallmark of Turkey’s trade for centuries, and Bursa silk is the most highly prized. Silkworms are fed mulberry leaves and then brought to Bursa each May to be auctioned off. The fine thread of the cocoons is unwound, and woven into scarves, shirts, dresses – you name it. Head to Bursa’s covered market and haggle your way to a silky bargain.
Harbiye, near Antakya is also a centre of silk weaving, thanks to its location on the Silk Road and the many mulberry trees growing in the area.