Arasta Çarşısı (Sipahi Çarşısı)
The shop-lined street consisting of around eighty stores is a part of the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque Complex (Külliye). Built in 1617, this historical street is also called “Sipahi Çarşısı”, as the hardware of the Sipahi (Ottoman cavalry corps) were sold here during the Ottoman period.
In Ottoman architecture, the stores of arasta, lined on both sides of a street, are made of stone and covered by a vault or roof. The arastas are specialized markets where similar products were sold. The rental income generated from the stores of arasta were used to maintain the Mosque complexes (külliye). The Egyptian Bazaar, a part of the New Mosque Complex (Yeni Cami Külliyesi) located in Eminönü, is another good example of arasta bazaars.
Due to the big fire in Sultanahmet in 1912, the bazaar, located on the Torun Sokak behind the Sultanahmet Mosque, was largely left in ruin for a long time, but it was reopened, after undergoing restoration in the 1980s.
The stores in Arasta Bazaar, which offers a flavor of the Grand Bazaar, sells traditional items, such as carpets, kilims, textiles, jewelry, handcrafts, ceramics and souvenirs.
The bazaar was constructed in 1617 above the covered rubble of the Great Palace of Constantinople, built by Constantine I in the 4thcentury. The excavations, carried out at the Arasta Bazaar in the 1930’s and 1950’s, unearthed spectacularly beautiful early Byzantine mosaic pavements dated around 5th-6th century, which once belonged to the northeast section of the arcaded grand courtyard of the Palace.
In the Arasta Bazaar, there is also a tea garden and nargile (waterpipe) cafe with a fantastic view of the Blue Mosque, where you can watch a free whirling Dervish show. This pretty Bazaar is a good low-key shopping alternative in the Sultanahmet area.
Ahmet Vefa Çobanoğlu, (2009), “Sultanahmet Camii ve Külliyesi”, TDV Isam Ansiklopedisi. Cilt.37, p.497
Nusret Cam, (1991), “Arasta, ISAM Ansiklopedisi”, Cilt 3, Istanbul, pp.335-336