Writing for Hürriyet’s Daily News, Istanbul’s English language newspaper, on December 30, Aylin Öney Tan lists Turkish New Year traditions. After a year of turmoil, she notes, Turkish people need to eat foods that bring good luck and a prosperous coming year. Her favorite was the pomegranate, an ancient symbol of fertility that Turks smash on the doorstep as the New Year turns. Also, tradition requires the gobbling of 12 grapes for good luck during the countdown to midnight. Finally, thousands of lentils, beans, and/or wheat berries are consumed on the first day of the new year. All of these might be bought at the Spice Market where Ruth uncharacteristically went crazy buying Turkish candy, dried apricots, etc. Later that day she bought dozens of Turkish good luck symbols to be given as gifts.
We found the Spice Market by accident while looking for a way up to the Suleymaniye Mosque. The Golden Horn waterfront’s New Mosque was across Cami Meydani Sok Street from the Spice Market, an L-shaped building constructed in 1660 as part of the mosque’s complex. It used the market’s profits for philanthropy. For more than 350 years it has sold spices that make any visit a multi-sensory experience.
Locals also call it the Egyptian Bazaar because import tax money from that country originally helped build it. At the time of its construction, Asian spices were expensive and this bazaar specialized in them. It still does with Iranian saffron, etc. prominently displayed. One can also buy exotic shoes, clothing, silk, etc. I gaped at hanging sausages, caviar, and aphrodisiacal tea while edging myself nearer to product among too many serious-minded shoppers. It’s one of those places where, I suspect, everything imaginable can be found somewhere among the stalls, cafes, etc.
Ruth emerged from Spice Market with a heavy bag. With a huge smile on her face, she told me repeatedly that she probably paid way too much for what she bought She had spent a lot of time in step-up-into Develi Baharat where she bought pomegranate candy but no grapes or lentils. I looked at one of the boxes on which her personal salesman had written the word Delight. Indeed.