Every sunday in the Edirnekapı district of Fatih, right by part of the old city walls, is one of the more interesting spectacles that I’ve seen during my time in Istanbul – the Kuş Pazarı, or bird market.
The first thing you notice, of course, is all the birds – rows upon rows of crowded cages full of birds. That’s why everyone is there, after all. But after taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells for a moment, the presence of the birds seems almost less obvious than the absence of…well… you tell me, what’s missing from the photos?
Equally as packed as the cages is the market space – mobbed with men and boys of all ages. The Kuş Pazarı seems to serve as a social club for many of the men in attendance. Friends greet each other, drink tea, smoke cigarettes, and inspect the birds together. Fathers lead their sons around. Old men sit side by side and chat calmly. Teenage boys march through the market with a bravado which says they have something to prove to the old guard – what that is I can’t be sure.
I asked a vendor (in my broken Turkish) why people buy the birds. He seemed to indicate that people liked to watch them fly. Fair enough, but can’t they see birds flying all over the place? Whatever their reason, these men are really into birds. The cheapest bird could be had for under 100 TL, while the most expensive bird that I saw – an all-white and beautiful one – was 1000 TL.