Due to the coronavirus, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul was forced to close its doors on March 23. There are nearly 3,000 shops that employ over 30,000 people in the Bazaar and after completing a deep clean, the Grand Bazaar opened again after a two-month closure.
Visitor numbers at the Grand Bazaar
On average, the market in Istanbul attracts 150,000 people a day and last year it reported 42 million flocked to watch the traders lure tourists in to shop with their multilingual welcomes. The chairman of the board of directors, Fatih Kurtulmus confirmed that all visitors would have their temperature taken on entry, and the total number of people allowed into the Bazaar will be restricted.
Kurtulmus added that although they do not expect many visitors in the first few weeks of reopening: “I believe tourists will fly to Istanbul by the end of June because they cannot do without the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque.”
Age and location of the Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar sits on Istanbul’s historic Peninsula and is close to the Sultanahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, as well as the ancient Hagia Sophia. The Grand Bazaar was built in 1455, just two years after the Ottomans seized Istanbul from the Byzantines. The market expanded rapidly and by the 17th century it had taken shape and operated as a covered market. Kurtulmus added that: “Our Grand Bazaar, the heart of the economy, culture, history and tourism, has never been shut down except for natural disasters.”
COVID-19 and the Grand Bazaar
Kurtulmus explained that: “We had to take a pause because COVID-19 has shaken the world and because we had to prioritise safe and health before the economy.” Turkey announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the middle of March, and at this point health checks were carried out on all the market traders.
The Grand Bazaar has reopened under strict guidelines from the Health Ministry as Turkey removed all restrictions on intercity travel. One of the jewellers who has the pitch in the Bazaars main alley said: “Tourism is the backbone of the Grand Bazaar economy. We will see when the tourists will come.”
Another jeweller went on to say that: “2020 seems to be a year of economic losses for us. If business returns to normal, tourism opens and flights resumed by September, I believe we will also return to normal.”
Kurtulmus was quick to point out that the market has survived through history and other forced shutdowns. He went on to say: “I have confidence the Grand Bazaar will go full steam ahead and compensate for the economic loss by the end of the year.”