People all around the world love bazaars. You can find these bright colorful places anywhere from Japan to USA. Northern Cyprus has its fair share of markets and bazaars. Some of them are tiny while others seem enormous. However, each of them is an important part of the cultural and social life of the country. Bazaars are such a big part of life in these parts. In fact, Sunday – the common day for going shopping – is called “Pazar” in Turkish.
Visiting open markets and bazaars is an integral part of understanding Northern Cyprus life. There are small open markets located randomly next to roads and supermarket all over the island. There are old traditional Eastern bazaars dating back to the middle centuries in Nicosia. There is even a famous weekly market which travels from town to town. It visits Kyrenia on Wednesdays, Famagusta on Thursdays and opens its doors in Nicosia on Sundays.
For those looking for the best products and the best deals, the weekly market is a bazaar for all occasions. You can buy literally everything there; from antiques to spare car parts. Also, it is a bustling gastronomic paradise for veggies and fruits lovers. Prices are a little bit higher in the morning but they tend to drop as the day progresses. In Kyrenia, when the travelling market is in town, the foreigners especially the British, tend to visit the market. Their main reason for coming isn’t shopping, but enjoying themselves and meeting with each other. That’s why they spend their time simply sitting and drinking tea in nearby cafés or walking down the street and esplanade. They leave the market by noon. After they are gone, a spontaneous “siesta” commences. The sellers take some time off to drink coffee and tea and talk with each other. Around three o’clock, usually a new wave of customers come for lower prices. The market stays busy till it closes. This is because customers come at this time to get the best prices and deals. It is quite common to hear sellers calling out prices and deals to customers. Prices change very quickly during this period. At this point, the customers pounce and snap up all their desired items at bargain prices. The market closes and generally both buyers and sellers go home happy and fulfilled.
At the weekly market in Nicosia, there is a different atmosphere. The city bazaar opens early, but there are few customers in morning. There is a bus station right in front of the open market place. This makes it easy for students, locals and tourists to get to the market. From 10 o’clock in the morning, the market fills up. Crowds of students from the universities troop into the market to buy up the sellers’ wares. Also, tourists and residents of Nicosia make an appearance. They go to the market in search of bargains. The market remains busy until the end of the day.
Besides the weekly market, there is a famous old bazaar in the center of the old town Nicosia. It is called Bandabulya and is located next to the Selimiye Mosque (St. Sophia Cathedral). This market dates back to the Ottoman Empire. In the nineteenth century, the bazaar spanned an entire quarter of the city. In fact, it was a centerpiece of the island’s cultural life. People from every corner of Cyprus came to Bandabulya to buy and sell products from all around the world. Eventually, a special building was constructed to house the market in 1930’s in a mixed British and Cypriot style. Currently, Bandabulya is one of the main sights to see in old Nicosia. It is one of the most authentic places of Northern Cyprus. You can buy Ankara fabric and Lefkara lace, exotic spices and curious trinkets, such as elegant coffee cups or shisha pipes at Bandabulya.
Why do I really love Cyprus bazaars? All the food is fresh, prices are affordable, and the sellers are quite friendly. Prices go down as the day progresses and it is unlikely that you will get cheated. Unlike the situation in many other countries’ open markets, you will not face pick-pocketing here. Overall, Cyprus bazaars are a mirror of Cyprus itself and its calm, cheerful, honest inhabitants.