Istanbul: Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Market)

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

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“How many?” Asked Munya in English. The chubby girl went back and forth asking me every time the pilgrim took the scarf, whether red, yellow, flowers, blue, and so on.

“Just three.” I replied while Mrs. Erni was busy tearing the pile of hijab in the next shelf.

“Means seven more.”

This girl is smart because she is able to speak English and Arabic as well. English is not surprising because Misir Carsisi or Egyptian Market is indeed one of the tourist destinations in Istanbul. Then what’s the benefit of Arabic? The answer since the seventeenth century the language was commonly used by traders and buyers in export commodity transactions especially spices. Zeki added that an Arabic-speaking Turkish was considered to have had above average religious knowledge.pasar mesir3.JPG

The pilgrims were engrossed in the price of this item and that. Paintings, scarves, sets of cups and kettles, or colorful beads. Munya and her workmates serves them all with no tired.

“Oooowwww !!!” Almost every pedestrian in the hall or those who were shopping shouted in unison when the circumstances in the market became pitch black. Apparently turning lights is not only a hallmark of Indonesia; in Istanbul the same thing happened. Shops are forced to race generators to keep customers from running or running their belongings. Starting from the sausage and meat shop next door, then the toy store in front, then the other shops. Munya’s store which named Kodjaoglu (son of religious scholar) somehow failed to turn on the diesel while there are customers on the ground and second floor.

Mrs. Erni and Mrs. Ros seemed unaffected by the darkness of the store. Both continue to be busy choosing hijabs until they reach ten or more. Munya pick up the calculator then typing number by number before showing the results.pasar mesir1.JPG

Built the first time in 1660 AD, the market, also known as the Spice Bazaar, was originally where the Egyptian spice merchants who originally came from Egypt peddled their wares. At that time the Ottoman Empire was still in control of the spice trade that stretched from the archipelago (now Indonesia), Yemen, Hijaz, Syria, to Venice. And just like other markets in Turkey, Misir Carsisi is also built close to the mosque so that worldly and religious lifes are not apart. While people study the Islamic science, merchants easily gather in the house of God when the prayer call sounded.

Today Misir Carsisi is not just a place to gather spices merchants alone. Sellers of sausage and ham meat, lamb slaughter, bread, Turkish delight, clothing, jewelry, nuts, and fruits; all gathered together in a tall canopy-like roof covering a two-lane store in Pasar Baru (New Market) Jakarta.

Finally the pilgrims were satisfied we had to chat and shop with Munya and friends. The girl who also Zeki’s cousin let us go by waving the hands, “Bye, TERIMA KASIH (thank you), come back again.”

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