Lessons from a Turkish market

Lessons from a Turkish market October 22, 2008

In Istanbul the great marketplace is jammed. Arm in arm the shoppers come, jostled, impeded and pressed forward by the throng. Noisy and competitive, it’s a fluid masterpiece of diversity and the side-by-side offering of similar products and services. An observer might notice a few things:

Beans and lentils piled to dangerous heights get more attention than beans and lentils in half-empty bins.

Precious items like saffron and caviar become more precious when put into fine and delicate packaging.

Kebabs, chestnuts and olives get more attention when they are actively moved around.

Turkish delights get more interest in shops where there is a greater variety to choose from.

Moving a big bag of Turkish coffee to the front of a shop shows something about the shopkeeper’s attitude.

Passersby learn to respect the restoration of shoes when they watch cobblers at work.

The distinctive and pleasantly memorable odour of bread is advertising enough for this product.

Shopkeepers who appear to be friendly and seem to have a lot of friends appear to be more prosperous.

People become hungry when they see the lamb being energetically sliced on the spit.

Melons, pomegranates, cabbages and all manner of eggs are snapped up because they are fresh.

There is a movement toward the Anatolian tomatoes because the word has gone around that they are now in season.

Workers and shopkeepers who appear to be busy tend to be truly busier than those who are relaxed at their work.

People flock to certain produce because other people are flocking to it.

Some customers show off to their friends by buying extreme numbers of peppers and pimentos.

Some customers try to show good will and personal well being by paying the highest of asking prices.

Ottoman carpets are at their most appealing when you get your hands and feet on them.

Bonitos and mullets are most acceptable when they are still actively flopping.

Both the fishermen and the fish mongers are persistent and put in long hours.

The most desirable stuff is often tucked away at the back of the shop.

Best regards,


This post is part of a bi-weekly email from artist Robert Genn — used by permission.

To find out more, or to subscribe, go HERE.

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