My favourite shop was in The Grand Bazaar! It makes no sense to me. Usually the main tourist drag is exactly the wrong place to get something nice and affordable. I was so impressed that I felt Gulseren’s shop deserved an entire post on its own.
WHERE IS IT?
I went to the Grand Bazaar twice and it wasn’t until the second trip in the afternoon of my last day in Istanbul that I found it. Maybe I appreciated it all the more because I had given up on finding a costume in Turkey but I feel it was more than that.
It was in an alley way off a main street and not the easiest to find but well worth persisting in your hunt through the maze that is the grand bazaar. All I had to go on was again the very helpful meissoun’s description
Cukur Han No: 63 /11
In a small side street. If in doubt, just ask in another shop. Good for skirts, accessories and costumes, moderate prices.”
Go to the approximate location (there are street signs in the bazaar overhead) and ask around. Gulseren is quite well known and someone is sure to point you in the right direction if you can’t find it.
Being off the main drag had extra advantages – you didn’t feel that you were the subject of speculation by bored nearby shop keepers and their mates. Also the shop was staffed by Gulseren and her lovely daughter. Women!! Yes Women!! Such a wonderful change from the men running all other belly dance stores I have ever been in. The men that gleefully tell you they can help adjust your costumes.
As someone that is not really busty and of quite a small frame, my tops always need adjusting, they don’t stay on at all without adjustment. They always say with ‘silicon’ and changing the clasps that they will make it fit. But that means strangers fiddling with your breasts and I don’t feel comfortable with that. I much preferred it to be women that matter of factly made the adjustments. The perv factor was eliminated.
Gulseren’s daughter (whose name I have forgotten, I am ashamed to say) came behind the curtain with me and made the adjustment’s as we went, with no need to awkwardly parade out into public view holding the costume with both your hands so it doesn’t fall off and you end up flashing everyone. The change room / curtained off area was also large, so you had plenty of room and if you were traveling with a friend or 2 you could change at the same time and help each other out too.
The price these lovely ladies offered were more realistic and because of that they made 2 costume sales off me rather than one plus I bought a few other bits and pieces too.
I know you can bargain but I was being offered some quite old tired costumes for starting prices of 700€ in other shops! That translated to roughly $1400 AUD. That wasn’t even in top costumiers. Better places (better designs) started bargaining around 1200€ which is just way, way too high for this belly dancer from rural Australia. I was shocked, really lovely professional egyptian costumes seemed to go for around $300-$400US when I was there 3 years ago.
The Turkish sellers told me Egyptian quality was crap but frankly I couldn’t see the difference. Some of the dearer ones used some lovely silks and that justified a higher price but not 4 times the price. Prices did eventually drop but not by a lot and I was traveling with a pretty good bargainer. The one exception was Gulseren. She didn’t budge a lot on price but she also didn’t start ridiculously high. Plus she offered prices in Turkish lira which I appreciated.
I have only performed in these costumes a few times but they are holding up well, no damage as yet and no need to repair. They seem well made. The style is what I associate with a classic turkish look with lots of beaded fringing. I liked this though as I already had Egyptian costumes and wanted something different.
The service was fantastic, I had planned to come in early in the week, shop and pick up any purchases when they were adjusted, but things didn’t go to plan. On my first trip to the grand bazaar I found the shop only 5mins before I had to leave. I didn’t get back until my last day and yet they did all the adjustments on the spot and stayed late so I could have a costume from Turkey. I had given up on finding anything suitable by this stage but they were so welcoming that as I waited for the first to be adjusted, I found a second that I had to own.
Now please, if you can possibly avoid it don’t leave costumes to the last minute, I don’t want you to take advantage of this kindness extended to me but I think that it shows a dedication to the costumer that goes beyond the usual.
While I was waiting for the adjustments to be completed, I got a phone call from my travel companions. The little girl had bought a salt and pepper shaker set that she adored but had dropped it and broken it on her way back to the apartment. She was very distressed and asked me if I could buy another. The bazaar was very close to closing at this point with many shops already packed up. I described the piece and asked Gulseren and her daughter if they knew where I could find one. It took a bit of miming and drawing as their English was not perfect but they eventually understood what I was after and Gulseren took me straight to a shop that sold them, saving me a lot of time. While her daughter was sewing frantically on my outfits.
We stayed so late that the bazaar was closed and locked and security escorted us from the building when we emerged. Gulseren paid for my tram back to Sultanahment too which was a lovely touch.
I just can’t imagine better people to do business with. They were likely to have been ravenously hungry by the time we finished too as it was Ramadan, instead of being grumpy they were lovely. Gulseren said she was the first designer in the grand bazaar and I can see why she has lasted. She also has another smaller shop in the bazaar too that has more of the kids folk costumes.
Right next to Gulseren’s shop in the alley way was a positively beguiling shop with Indian and folkloric costumes and all sorts of things that would make a belly dancer or tribal dancer or just anyone that loves ethnic fabrics, loose track of time. Sigh!! Yet another reason to find Gulseren and shop with her!!
If you shop there tell them Jade sent you!
Have you shopped in the Grand Bazaar? What was your experience? Please share below.