Turkey, the legendary land of Roman emperors and Muslim sultans is a unique country, a rich, layered, and magical world full of history, culture, gastronomy, humanity, and commerce increasingly Europeanized yet (despite the über-cosmopolitan center that is Istanbul) still unspoiled and innocent. In the heartland, people are still pleasantly surprised and proud of the fact that people come to visit from far and wide. Turkey offers a wealth of different kinds of destinations to travelers. From the dome and minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to the Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts, from the beaches of Antalya and the Mediterranean seaside resorts to the misty mountains of Eastern Black Sea. Shopping in Turkey is great, with open-air markets, covered Turkish bazaars and chic boutiques everywhere. Here are some of the things you must buy when you visit Turkey…
Carpet: No matter how lame bargaining skills you have, it’s still cheaper and do look good unrolled under your coffee table. Turkey’s tribal carpets and kilims represent a cultural tradition that goes back for centuries. The symmetrical designs we’re most accustomed to be found in rugs from Kayseri and Hereke, the latter traditionally boasts are the most exquisite silk-on-silk showpieces.
Ottoman books & rare prints: The Ottomans were masters of calligraphy, embellishing the page with dust from sapphires, lapis lazuli, gold, and other gems. Miniatures generally represent scenes from the life of a sultan and his family, with colorful shades to give the page life. One of the most valuable of originals or reproductions is the tugra, the sultan’s elaborately ornate and personal seal.
Turkish delight: This gummy, marshmallowy treat made of dried nuts, fruits, syrup, and cornstarch is a national favorite. It’s known as lokum in Turkish, a word also used to refer to a voluptuous woman. The best lokum is available at Haci Bekir in Istanbul, but you can find it at the Egyptian Bazaar or in practically every pastane, or souvenir shop.
Pottery & ceramics: These arts thrived under the Ottomans, whose skilled craftsmen perfected the coral red and cobalt blue of the Iznik tile. No one has ever been able to reproduce the intensity of these colors, until now. The only authentic reproductions come out of the Iznik Foundation‘s workshop and showroom in Iznik, which has a branch in Istanbul. Ordinary but equally stunning porcelain designs on white clay come from Kütahya and are sold throughout Turkey.
Turkish textiles: Check the manufacturer’s label on your fine linens, terry cloth supplies, and cotton T-shirts. You didn’t realize it, but Turkey exports a huge amount of textiles, supplying the raw materials for well known retailers such as OP, Calvin Klein, Walt Disney, and XOXO. Bursa and Pamukkale are both famous for the quality of their goods, many Istanbul residents head to one of these towns to stock up on plush towels and terry cloth robes.
Copper: Turks use copper for everything, probably because it looks so good. Tea servers with triangular handles pass you by countless times a day, the wide copper platters that double as tables represent typical Turkish style. Those shiny white bowls you see in a hamam are copper, too.
Turkish jewellery: Ottoman jewelry is ornate and extremely colorful. Jewelers use a variety of metals to give styles to every single piece of jewelry, which is the main difference from European jewelry where the same metal is repeated. The price by weight is same, but talking about labor, it’s so low-priced; you’re bound to get a deal. The Istanbul Handicrafts Center has an atelier where an artisan crafts his own work. In Ürgüp, many of the pieces have local precious stones. Museum gift shops are also great sources of unique jewelry.
Foodstuffs: The exoticism of the East is in full bloom at Istanbul’s Egyptian Spice Bazaar, where you can find a dizzying assortment of spices, dried fruits and nutty concoctions. Don’t bother with the saffron price; you really do need to pay for the good stuff. Although this isn’t Tuscany, you won’t know it by the quality of the olive oil; head to the local supermarket and stock up on a few bottles. The smoothest and most delicious of the household brands is bottled by Komili.
Meerschaum pipes: Carved from the magnesium silicate found primarily in Eskisehir, these ivory colored pipes are hollowed out and polished to mimic playful or grotesque images. The pipes are sold in most souvenir shops and make fun, frolicsome showpieces.
“The Ottomans were masters of calligraphy, embellishing the page with dust from sapphires, lapis lazuli, gold, and other gems.”
“Ottoman jewelry is ornate and extremely colorful.”