The Evil Eye

Believe it or not, there’s more to this trip than just basketball. And while I’m here with the U.S. National Team, I hope to bring you some of the sights of Istanbul, along with a taste of Turkish culture.

ISTANBUL — The U.S. National Team has been here in Istanbul for eight days now. And with a day off here and there, they’ve begun to get a feel for this historic city.

Inside The Grand Bazaar.

Hopefully, they’ll also take some time to see the sights of Istanbul (and not just take taxis to McDonald’s). They don’t have to visit all 3,000 mosques in the city. Perhaps just the blue one.

One of the key sights to see in Istanbul, not too far from the Blue Mosque and the gorgeous Hagia Sophia, is The Grand Bazaar. It’s kind of like a mall, but the stores are a lot smaller than those you’d find at Newport Centre or Westside Pavilion. And since it’s situated in the middle of the old city here, some of the hallways are very narrow. It’s a very cool shopping experience (except it can get very hot in the summer).

They’ve got all kinds of stuff for sale at The Grand Bazaar: jewelry, fabrics, ceramics, rugs, leather jackets, etc. And the expectation is that if you want to buy something, you don’t accept the vendor’s initial price, but rather haggle it down a bit.

As you’re walking through, you’ll quickly notice the abundance of these blue disks that fit in your palm and that you can buy for a few Turkish lira (about $2). The Turkish term for these things is “nazar boncuk.” Translated literally, that means “evil bead,” but the common English name for it is “the Evil Eye.”

It’s a little confusing because the bead is meant to ward off evil, not promote it in any fashion. And these evil eyes are not just for tourists. Our guide here tells us that pretty much all Turkish people either carry one of these beads around with them and/or hang them in their house to ward off any evil that they may encounter during the course of the day or that visitors might bring into their home.

But the fascinating thing is in how many different forms you’ll find this evil eye design. I’m sure I didn’t come across them all, but here’s just a sample…

This is a box of standard evil eyes.

More after the jump…

Here are some evil eyes on some bracelets...

... and some evil eye pendants for that special someone.

Since smoking is quite popular here, you must have an evil eye lighter...

... and, of course, an evil eye ashtray.

Keep your milk from going bad with evil eye refrigerator magnets.

No one wants evil in their morning cup of coffee.

I think they've got this huge evil eye necklace just in case Flavor Flav ever visits Istanbul.

Evil eye paperweights make a great gift for your boss.

What's Christmas without an evil eye ornament?

No, Forrest, those don't look like comfortable shoes.

Alternate uniforms for the Turkish National Team.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

4 Comments

  1. Avril Hakkinen says:

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  2. Gokhan says:

    Hello John!

    I’m Turkish and I would like to clarify your confusion on these “eyes”. “Nazar boncuk” should not be translated as “evil eye”, cause “nazar” means “bad occurings” so it’s “bad occurings bead” which is used to prevent such bad occurings/happenings.

    Since these bad occurings happen (or believed to happen) when there are lots of “eyes” staring at you, you have this big blue thing on you (or your beloved ones, or house or car etc.) to draw attentions of those eyes. So the bead does not symbolise the eye, it just draws attention of the eyes. This is also mentioned in holy Kur’an book if i’m not wrong.

    Interestingly, it is said to have a scientific explanation too. I remember reading; when you stare at something you cause some small chemical reaction at where you look. So it’s believed to be kinda connected.

    I’m no muslim, though I believe in this Nazar and staring thing.

  3. Tim says:

    John,

    Great writing, and observation. I would like you to let us know about how gorgeous Istanbul is with some images from your own experiences..

    Thanks

  4. Zzanzabar says:

    LOL! Having all those eyes looking at me would give me the creeps (hey, maybe that is how they work!).