Turkish Souvenirs: Spices, Towels, and Turkish Delights

by jenjenk on November 22, 2011

As far as I’m concerned, finding souvenirs to bring home is the worst part of traveling. It so hard to try to find thoughtful gifts for friends and family. Since I travel so much, I’m not expected to bring back something from every trip, but going to a destination like Turkey that is new to most of my friends and family, it’d be pretty unforgivable if I came home empty handed.  We Japanese are really big on Omiyage.

I wanted to make things as easy and quick as possible for my souvenir buying spree. I had some ideas of Turkish handicrafts that I wanted to pick up but also wanted to keep an eye out for things that I may “discover”.

Turkish Delights: I discovered that the junk delicious Turkish Delights that I’ve had before weren’t really that good.  I had the opportunity to try some truly delightful Turkish Delights from Altan Sekerleme.  The lokum was just softer, sweeter, fresher than the ones that I had out of boxes.  The shelf life was a lot shorter so it was critical to eat these things within a few days [I tried, I swear I did].

Turkish Towels: I had a bridal shower to go to the day after I got back. I didn’t have time to mess around so I decided to pick up Turkish towels for her gift [as opposed to trashy lingerie…clearly I suck at Bridal Shower Gifts].  But, oh…these towels from Jennifer’s Hamam was so sinfully thick and soft.  I felt like I could sink my fingers into the towel for miles.  I would like to use mine as a blanket, it’s so soft and cozy.  It’s not an inexpensive option, as it is handmade on a loom, but it’s still cheaper than how much you’d pay for similar quality in the US.

Hamam Towels: Flat cotton towels, perfect for a scarf, beach towel, or sarong [striped towels in the photo above].  Anywhere from $5 – $35, from cotton to linen, these towels are perfect in weight and thinness to pack up and take home as gifts.  I found some great colors that I love.  I had to refrain from the linens, even though those were the most gorgeous of the towels.

Spices: Do not get your spices from the Spice Market. Prices there are so high!  Go around the outskirts of the Spice Market and you’ll find an array of spices available at a much better cost.  I bought an entire grocery bag filled with various spices for only $5.  I was so thrilled and excited about these prices that I had to go back and buy some more.  Now that it’s the holidays, I’m kicking myself for not picking up cinnamon sticks for my cranberry sauce!

Nuts: This is going to sound crazy since these things are so flipping heavy but I had the room for it so I bought it. Blanched hazelnuts are pretty expensive in the States. I bought a 1 pound bag for less than $7.50. Not THAT much of a savings but it does help when you bake as much as I do.  [Ok, I admit it, this one was a personal souvenir.] I requested 15 Turkish Lira worth of nuts, which ended up being about 1 pound.

Coffee: Turkish Coffee is a rich espresso-like brew, with the fine grounds left in the coffee.  You need to be careful not to drink the sludge or it’ll cause you to choke violently…uh…not that I know from personal experience or anything.  I loved the stuff but I’m a coffee freak.  It’s probably why I’m crawling up the walls most days.

Cey, ChaiTea: Most of the tea in Turkey comes from Ceylon.  The area of Rize in Turkey actually grows black tea but I had a hard time finding the tea in Istanbul.  My next trip to Turkey will have to include a stop in Rize since I love tea so much.

I have to admit that I purchased a lot of souvenirs to bring home.  I have to further admit that I bought a lot of souvenirs for myself. Spices, Nuts, and towels turned out to be my undoing.  I am ashamed. I hope you don’t think less of me.

Altan’s Sekerleme, Turkish Delights
Kiblecesme Caddesi 96
Kantarcilar, Eminonu,
Istanbul, Turkey
 
Jennifer’s Hamam, towels
Arasta Bazaar, No. 135
Sultanahmet, Fatih
Istanbul,  Turkey
 
Baskent Coffee & Tea
Asmaalti Hasircilar Cad. Kalcin Sok. No.27/29,
Eminonu, Yusufpaşa,
İstanbul, Turkey
+90 212 527 7676 ‎
 
DIRECTIONS FOR SPICE & NUT STORE:
Seymen Baharat, Spices
With the spice market & new mosque to your back, look across the open square [see image above] towards Rustem Pasha Mosque. Walk across the square towards the mosque opposite the New Mosque. As you walk along the main road [Ragip Gumuspala], you will see a Blue Awning stand that reads “Sadik Bufe” [see below]
Just past this stand, you’ll see a set of stairs…walk up and you’ll find the spice store on the left
Hocao Gullari, Nuts store is located directly across from the spice store.
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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Turkey's For Life November 22, 2011 at 8:25 am

You can’t come to Turkey and not buy souvenirs. Looks like you found some good ones that are easy to carry, too. I LOVE Turkish towels. They last an age! 😉
Now that we live here, we always try to buy a little souvenir that’s traditional to the place we’re visiting. When we’re in Istanbul though, we just buy lots of foodie goodies! Yum.
Julia

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jenjenk November 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Oh my gosh…i love my turkish towels…i just wish I knew about the pickles!! I’d have stowed some in my luggage for sure!!!

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50+ and on the Run November 22, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Sounds like you did a good job shopping–and most of your choices were consumables, so you never have to dust them, lol. Thanks for the Turkey tips! Maybe you’d also like my latest souvenir solution: http://www.50plusandontherun.com/2011/10/do-these-souvenirs-make-my-luggage-look.html
Nancy
50+ and on the Run recently posted..And You Don’t Have to Go to the MallMy Profile

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jenjenk November 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

good point – i didn’t even realize that a lot were consumables! and i hate dusting!! :)

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Angela November 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Excellent blog!!! I love the step-by-step directions to your spice guy in particular. Makes me want to plan another international trip to somewhere way different again. Way too unforunate we couldn’t meet up- I would’ve loved to shop/eat with you there!!

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jenjenk November 23, 2011 at 3:08 am

Thanks, angela! I couldn’t describe it since it’s located in an alley & not a street so I wanted to remember for my own purpose, too! :) Sorry we weren’t able to meet up…hopefully the next time we’re both in some international destination, we’ll be able to meet up then! 😉

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Carrie November 23, 2011 at 1:11 am

Should have gotten the cinnamon sticks…

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jenjenk November 23, 2011 at 3:08 am

I blame you. You should’ve known. :)

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HeatherChristo November 23, 2011 at 3:08 am

All that stuff is just drool worthy Jen!!

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Christopher November 23, 2011 at 6:51 am

I love love love Turkish food! Lovely post!
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Andrea November 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I SO have to get back to Turkey to buy some souvenirs – we weren’t able to take anything this time and as you’ve pointed out here, there are so many beautiful things!
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Bethany November 23, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Wow – truly excellent post! I have been kicking myself for not buying a Turkish lamp for my sister. I thought I could get something similar in Morocco but haven’t been able to find anything. The thought of going back without one really makes me sad.
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jenjenk November 26, 2011 at 4:32 am

Me, too…but i was just worried that it’d break before I got home! :( I’ve got a little corner in my house that could’ve really used a lamp like that!

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ehalvey November 23, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I’ll admit, the majority of the souvenirs I bought were for me: silver bracelets, Turkish towels, a tea set, a vintage Orient Express print, and olive oil soaps. The lokum was pretty tasty as well, but they didn’t last very long…we have some serious sweet teeth.

I would’ve gone crazier if I was shopping by myself. Oh well, next time!
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Mark Wiens November 24, 2011 at 2:25 am

I have to agree with your first statement about finding souvenirs to bring home – I don’t like shopping at all – UNLESS it’s for food (or food related). I do normally buy things like spices, coffee, and tea. Looks like I would buy a bunch of food things in Turkey – thanks for these suggestions!
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Natalie November 24, 2011 at 11:46 am

You done really well with all the souvenirs. Put me to shame because I never buy any for anybody. *shuffles away in embarrassment*
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thepinaysolobackpacker November 25, 2011 at 12:44 am

I’d love to take home those Turkish lamps! :)
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jenjenk November 26, 2011 at 4:30 am

I wish!! it was too fragile for me…

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jade November 26, 2011 at 4:06 am

I’ll invite you to every party I have if you come bearing gifts like that!! Love the turkish towels- so nice!
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jenjenk November 26, 2011 at 4:31 am

SURE!! but as a back up, how about food?? I always bring food [or wine]…;-)

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Sophie November 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I think you found excellent souvenirs and presents! I adore Turkish towels as well (bet the bride did, too :). Not so keen on Turkish Delight, but then I haven’t tried those fresh ones.
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