The Arabic Market

Steaming fresh bread out in crates on the streets waiting to be sold.

One of our favorites places to eat and shop in Istanbul is at the Arabic market close to Fatih Mosque. It’s very convenient for us because it’s also close to home.

The market isn’t what you would imagine a traditional market to be. Instead, its a couple of intersecting streets that have shops and stalls that sell various local and imported goods. Most of the imported goods are from the Middle East and each time we go there, more often then not, Anas speaks to the sellers in Arabic. That is why I have named it the Arabic market. Here I am able to ask for particular things that I couldn’t buy elsewhere simply because Anas can ask for me.

This is the place we go to buy our beloved Za’atar – a green aromatic spice blend made up of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, marjoram, and sumac that has become a staple in our house. We mix it with olive oil and use it on almost everything – eggs, salad, and roasted vegetables. Or it can be eaten on its own as a dip with fresh bread and cheese. It’s very versatile and has a moreish earthy flavour. Here is also where we buy dried sour apricots, freshly ground coffee with cardamom and chunks of honeycomb.

On the intersection of Fatih Cd. and BaลŸimam Sk. there is a small restaurant called Al Jenani where we often stop to eat falafel and hummus. They also offer a selection of other tasty Syrian dishes. When we first went there, their menu was only in Arabic but they have since changed it so that it is also in English. The people there are very nice.

Just at the beginning of Fatih Cd., in front of one of the entrances to Fatih Mosque, there is a shop called Zayn Sweets which sells freshly made Madlouka and Kunafa. It always seems packed with people who buy plates of it to enjoy on one of the many benches in the courtyard of the mosque. More often then not, Anas joins the queue.

A view down Fatih Cd. in the direction of Fatih Mosque.
Honey coloured figs and dates.
Tea made of dried flowers.
Trays of Kaymak, a soft dairy product similar to clotted cream. Above are boxes of Tahini Helva.
Crisp and chewy flatbreads covered in Za’atar at Al Jenani.
Falafel, a bowl of Ful Medames (a type of broad bean salad), and Hummus topped with Chickpeas. What we normally order when we visit Al Jenani.
Cutting into a pan of Madlouka at Zayn Sweets.
There are many honey shops on Fatih Cd. and the sellers are very knowledgable and eager to offer samples.
A cat waiting for his share.
Dried chillies.
Serving Kunafa along with a slice of Madlouka at Zayn Sweets.

With Love,



9 thoughts on “The Arabic Market

  1. Za’atar is known as ‘zahter’ in Turkey and it is eaten mostly in Hatay province and cities around Hatay where we are neighbours of Syria. ๐Ÿ™‚ People have zahter (spice) especially at breakfasts in Hatay and around. I like it too and it’s always found -with olive oil- on my breakfast table at the weekends. But naturally, there are some differences between za’atar spices of turkey and Syria…

    By the way, thank you for sharing significant details about your favourite pastry shops, cafes, restaurants. I note some of them to my list to visit someday. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Zaโ€™atar at breakfast especially and yes, with olive oil. Hatay is a place I would love to visit especially for its food culture. I have heard many good things about it. Being a city at the crossroads, the cuisine has many influences making it special. Perhaps one day. I would also love for you to share with me your favorite places. You can add them to the comments below and I would be happy to share them with the readers. I am sure you have a few secret places of your own ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy eating!


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