We arrived in Istanbul for a semi annual buying trip only four days after the two earthquakes that struck southern Turkey near Gaziantep. The southern city near the border with Syria located is located in Anatolia. It has a population of around 2 million people.
The mood across Istanbul was gloom. Each conversation turned to the victims.
All TV was 24/7 footage of the devastation. The cell phone footage showed the horror as it was unfolding. The drone footage showed the real extent of the wreckage. The weather was freezing cold but survivors were being pulled from the debris but as the hours ticked on the death tool was soaring.
As the scope and severity of the earthquake came into focus the merchants in the Grand Bazaar started to organize. Huge woven plastic bags started to fill with dry goods. Men with large dolly carts hauled the bundles out to the trucks waiting to ship the goods south. At first a trickle of bags grew into a stream of massive bundles filled with towels, scarves, jackets, shoes cookware everything needed to start the slow process of rebuilding of domestic life.
Soon conversations turned to the lost of these people and to the country. Tens of thousands had lost everything and could face generational poverty as they start to rebuild there homes, shops and factories. The amount of devastation is hard for us to grasp.
Meanwhile as the country came to terms with the disaster we continued to meet with suppliers, with designers and vendors seeking to find new treasures that this unique country offers. Istanbul is a city of about 15 million people and the largest city in Europe. It is a city of shop keepers and small factories and each trip we seem to find more and more, often in the most unexpected places.
This trip one of the most interesting items we found was in a small shop just a few hundred yards from the Galata Tower pictured below.
If you ever had a desire to visit Constantinople or as we know it today Istanbul this is the time. The tourist trade will help the economy in a myriad of ways. The food is terrific and the people friendly.