Uncovering The Charm Behind Ancient Bazaars

Ancient bazaars are like this magical pandoras box, full of beautiful cultural history, heritage and good food. If you have ever visited an ancient bazaar, or a marketplace, you must have noticed that the air that seems to be pulsating with the promise of a local’s insight into the authentic culture of the place. Most old bazaars around the world are beautiful chaotic markets by the locals, for the locals, serving as a traveler’s gateway to gaining insight about local culture and daily needs. Let’s take a look at some of the oldest bazaars around the world and what they are famous for.

Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey

Uncovering The Charm Behind Ancient Bazaars
Mike McBey, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most visited attractions of Istanbul, The Grand Bazaar was built in the 15th century, covering an area of 30,700sqm, spread over 61 roads and housing over 4,000 shops. It is one of the oldest markets (or ancient bazaars) and is regarded by many as the first shopping mall of the world. For the longest time this bazaar was the commerce, handicraft and finance hub of the Middle East and was known as a trading center. If you get a chance to visit this grand palace, do remember to haggle and bargain like a local and you might be able to get some of the finest carpet, leather, gold, silver souvenirs for a very good price. The market is also known for its grand architecture and rich history. Textiles, spices, pottery are some of the other goods sold here, among the many.

Khan El-Khalili Market – Cairo, Egypt

Uncovering The Charm Behind Ancient Bazaars
Daniel Nussbaum, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This souk, or market, is Egypt’s most famous ancient market, established as a local and foreign trading site since the 14th century. It was built on an old mausoleum near the Medieval walled city of the Saladin Citadel. Under its arching gateways, one can find some of the most iconic goods that Egypt is known for, from perfumes to candles, spices to musical instruments, elegant handicraft and jewellery. If you get tired walking around the grid-like alleyways, you could always rest in one of the traditional Maqha or Coffeehouses, smoke some Shisha or enjoy an Arabic Coffee.

Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok, Thailand

Uncovering The Charm Behind Ancient Bazaars
Christophe95, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the world’s ancient bazaars, is also one of the most diverse markets. This is the biggest market in Thailand. So big that you might need a map to navigate it. The market is spread over 35 acres, split into 27 section and houses over 15,000 stalls that sell pets, cosmetics, food, antiques, ceramics and everything in between. The market is open everyday but visiting on a weekend would let you buy anything and everything you’ve ever wanted.

The Marrakech Souks – Marrakech, Morocco

Dan Lundberg, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The souks of Marrakech are some of the most exotic marketplaces of the world. The traditional markets surrounding the main square in Marrakech are a maze filled with the chaos of merchants peddling wares and the smell of spices and leather is bound to overload your senses. But the best way is to just dive in and explore the shops selling silk kaftans, pashmina, high-quality textiles, carpets, spices, pottery, lanterns, antiques and jewellery. And when darkness falls, the main square itself turns into a night market where you can eat your fill of kebab, tajine and other street food! This is another market where you will want to bargain as much as you can.

Chandni Chowk – Delhi, India

Uncovering The Charm Behind Ancient Bazaars
Samuel Bourne, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest, busiest markets of India. It was built in the 17th century by Shah Jahan and designed by his daughter Jahanara. If you want the distinct Delhi experience, then this is the place to be. With Red Fort at the eastern end and the historic Jama Masjid, this market has everything, from authentic gold, pearl, silver jewellery to natural perfumes. If you visit Khari Baoli, you will get some of the most aromatic spices. Kinari Bazaar is the best place to look for zari and zardozi trimmings and tinsel. Katra Neel is the cloth bazaar that offers all kinds of fabrics such as silks, satin, crepe, cotton and muslin. Bhagirath Palace is Asia’s largest market for electrical goods and has the most beautiful lanterns, lamps and lights. Moti Bazaar is famous for shawls and pearls. And after you work up an appetite, don’t forget to visit Paranthewali Gali aka the ultimate food paradise.

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