Traveling gives such creative inspiration but also a lovely opportunity to explore a different culture. Of course, there is the added bonus — we tend to learn more about ourselves as we venture new grounds — there are spiritual discoveries, emotional breakthroughs, I could go on and on but if you travel you must know what I mean…
One small but interesting fact that I learned about myself in both Marrakesh and Istanbul is the kind of shop environment that I enjoy the most. I found shops of all shapes, styles and sizes — kiosks, carts on the street, ladies with handmade goods displayed on blankets in the park, men selling bread that they carried on their heads, souks, bazaars, flea markets, you name it I shopped it. But what I found fascinating was that in each country I was easily lured in by the shops (and flea market tables) that had a more western sense of merchandising – where displays were carefully thought out, merchandise curated, and the selection being moderate — not too much of a single item but more of a mix of things to discover as I shopped. When products were shown in ways that got my creative juices flowing, I had no problem buying them. In stores where I found thousands of the same item, or things just tossed randomly in baskets or pinned to walls, or stores with aggressive sellers, I shopped very little and found them to be a bit depressing and ho hum.
I also found the more western sales style much more inviting than having to barter when it comes to pricing. I prefer items with tags on them, so I know where I stand, and I like to be told a little about a product but then left on my own. That way, I could see an item and have the mental space (and quiet) to imagine this or that piece in my home, where, how I would use it, etc.
When bartering is involved well that is also fine to a point but if I say, “No, thank you” I really don’t want the reply to be, “But lady look at this, I can give you a better price” followed by more and more of the same… I also don’t like to have a seller tugging on my arm, and I don’t like shop owners chasing me after I leave their shop trying to offer me the same goods at half the price. That is one thing that I found very annoying when I shopped the souks in Marrakesh, after the first day the excitement of bartering really became stressful and draining because most of the souk sellers are in your face the minute you enter the medina and you have little to no physical or mental space as you shop — it’s just one after another coming up to you trying to lure you into their shop and some even pull you in — grab you — and this was not enjoyable after the “new” wore off.
I found Istanbul a much more delightful place to shop because the Grand Bazaar wasn’t nearly as intense as the souks in Morocco when it came to the sales approach, also more stores had a fixed price. Some of the bazaar shop owners were also be a bit intense (mostly the young guys), but they seemed to know when to back off and let you have your fun, go your way, etc. And I loved how hospitable they were — always offering us tea and if we purchased something, closing the deal with tea and conversation. I could really think when I shopped in Istanbul — I could take time to imagine, create and design things in my head as I walked around and browsed each shop in the Grand Bazaar and in the Spice Market — this made the trip very special to me. Istanbul is more expensive compared to Morocco though, so I guess you have to decide what matters most to you, price or peace! :) Though I’m first to admit, if invited back to Morocco I’d go in a heartbeat because I loved it there, too. :)
In addition to the 4,000 + shops in the Grand Bazaar, you also have many small privately-owned shops peppered around in the same neighborhood. One such shop, shown in the photos above and below, is Tulu located in the old part of the city called Sultanahment. Tulu is owned by American textile dealer, Elizabeth Hewitt, and has three floors of gorgeous items for the home as well as fashion accessories that I highly recommend. I left with only a few things, though my husband purchased a beautiful rug from Tulu for his office. We both will go back to Tulu when we visit Istanbul in the future.
I first discovered Tulu online in October 2009 and blogged about it here (thanks to Raina’s tip), so I’ve been wanting to visit for a year now and so walking in and seeing it was quite exciting for me and certainly did not disappoint. The selection ranged from Turkish finds to gorgeous Indian textiles and the shop was loaded with pattern and color — I have to vote Tulu as one of my top five favorite stores in Istanbul and a definite must-see if you ever travel there. You can find bags, bracelets, fabrics by the meter, rugs (mostly vintage), pillows, tin heart mirrors, hand-painted boxes, ceramics, plates, journals, so many beautiful things that your eyes won’t know where to look first. And their staff is so helpful and lovely — and no pressure — they offer help and then let you alone to wander and imagine. I love that.
And good news for you if you’re not traveling to Istanbul anytime soon… You can buy Tulu goods at select stores in the US, like Layla in Brooklyn (another favorite shop of mine) and Nest in San Francisco.
A special thank you to Azmi for being such a great help in this shop!
I hope you enjoyed my photos — I took them at night so forgive the exposure… I did my best! :)
(images: holly becker for decor8)