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Shopping for Backgammon sets in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul.

Last updated on July 3, 2022

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar, or Kapali Carsi, in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with dozens of covered streets and thousands of shops. Its origins date back to the 15th century when the reigning Sultan laid the foundations for a textiles market near his palace in Constantinople. Today it is listed as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors every day. It is a must-see destination for every visitor to Istanbul, Turkey. You can easily spend a day exploring the Bazaar’s covered streets. It offers a visually pleasing and aromatically stimulating experience, with vivid colours, sounds and scents. No visit to the Grand Bazaar would be complete without a souvenir to mark the occasion. There are literally thousands of objects to choose from including antiques, rugs, food and spices, Meerschaum, textiles, traditional handicrafts, pottery, jewellery and, of course, backgammon sets. There is no doubt that the best place to buy a backgammon set is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, Istanbul.
Istanbul.

Tavla

Backgammon, which is known locally as Tavla, is played everywhere. You can see Tavla being played in shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, pensions and even on the streets. Tavla is quite possibly the national pastime. You can compare Tavla to other backgammon derivatives in our Deluxe Backgammon post on variants. The Tavla board is identical to a backgammon board, but there are a few minor differences to the rules. Unlike backgammon:

·         There is no doubling cube.

·         The winner of the opening roll, rerolls the dice.

·         You cannot waste pips when bearing off.

·         There is no ‘hit and run’ in the home board.

·         The winner receives one point for a normal win and two points for a gammon. There is no backgammon.

Backgammon sets

The Grand Bazaar, as well as being an absorbing tourist experience, is a memorable place to acquire a Deluxe Backgammon set. Traditional Turkish backgammon sets are handmade, often from walnut, and will be inlaid with coloured wood or mother of pearl. There are a few things to remember when shopping for a backgammon set in the Grand Bazaar. Read the Deluxe Backgammon post on what to look for in a backgammon set here.

The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul.
Grand Bazaar.

Shopping tips

·         It is a popular destination, in part catering to the tourist market.  There is bound to be a lot of cheap, low-quality tourist souvenirs on offer. Look for the shops that specialise in backgammon sets because they will stock authentic pieces.

·         Shop around and compare quality and prices. Because the attention from the vendors can sometimes be intense, be prepared to walk away.

·         Beware that some of the cheaper backgammon boards are made in Syria and are targeted at the tourist market. There is nothing wrong with these boards as such, but if you are looking for a genuine Turkish souvenir make sure you are certain of its origin.

·         Be prepared to haggle or even to play backgammon against the owner for a discount. The official price will often be inflated by 20-30% to allow a haggling margin. Start at 60% of the ‘official’ price and negotiate. Participate and enjoy the experience.

·         Examine each backgammon set carefully before making an offer. Handmade sets will never be perfect, but be on the lookout for obvious construction flaws and careless workmanship.

·         Ensure the inlays are genuine, a fine seam should be visible to the naked eye. Avoid backgammon sets with painted points because these are likely to be low quality.

·         Take your time in selecting your Deluxe Backgammon set. Don’t be pressured into making the sale.

Above all, enjoy the experience of acquiring your backgammon set in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul. It will give you countless hours of playing pleasure, but it will also contain memories of your stay in Istanbul.

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