There are so many things to love about Turkey's pazars (markets): the confusion, the hubbub, the dizzying array of goods for sale, the prices (oh, how cheap!), but I think what I love most is the people, like the sock seller in Bostanli or the kid gutting fish in Kemeralti.
Speaking even a smidgen of Turkish can open so many doors here and nowhere is that more true than the pazar.
While strolling through the Mardin pazar a few weeks ago, a shopkeeper, having heard us speaking a few words of English, emerged from his shop to introduce himself. We quickly switched to Turkish after realizing that the extent of his English-speaking skills were limited to "hello" and "American".
We happened to be standing right in front of a 2000-year-old Christian church. We asked if we could check it out, and he ran off to get the key.
The church has long since been converted for other uses and is now a warehouse for a nearby carpenter....
....with whom we had tea, of course.
We heard about how the economy is affecting Mardin, how people can't buy things anymore, even simple things like nails, hoses, wire, paint.
"The people, they have no money," we were told.
"But what about tourism?" I asked. "Doesn't that bring money into the town?"
"Bah," they replied. "Tourists come for 1 or 2 days and then what? Then they go home. And the hotels, they are all owned by big companies in Istanbul. So where does the money go? Istanbul. It doesn't stay here. We don't see any of it."
Sure, handicraft work still exists, like this man and his father who hand carve bakır (copper) coffee sets and serving trays.
It was he who introduced Jeff and me to our first mırra coffee, a very strong Arabic-style coffee from Urfa. He'd been making it, he said, since early that morning, about four hours by the time we arrived in his shop.
"How do you know when it's done?" I asked.
"When the coffee 'paints' the inside of the cup," he said.
This stuff is so strong it's shudder-inducing.
While most pazars, including Mardin's, are aimed squarely at locals in need of spices, pots and pans, and tomatoes, they are also great places to meet people, engage in conversation, have coffee and make friends.
What neat experiences have you had in Turkey's pazars?