TOP-20 Best Gifts from Turkey

Page update - Apr 6, 2023

Read on this page our TOP-20 ranking of the most interesting, colorful, useful gifts and souvenirs you can bring from your vacation in Turkey. What's interesting about each? Where to buy not to overpay? How to choose the best? See the prices and important features.

The prices on this page were updated in April 2023. The Turkish currency has devalued 2.5 times in the last two years. The exchange rate has fallen from 7 to 19.2 liras per dollar. Prices are naturally on the rise. Once again we have had to update all the prices on this page.

But there is good news in this. Many souvenirs and gifts are now lying in the shops at very low prices. Merchants bought these souvenirs back at the old exchange rate and are giving them away cheaply. Take advantage of the moment.

The first important feature

Not all items can be freely exported from Turkey and brought into your home country. The restrictions can be found in our review "What you can and not take out of Turkey". Also we strongly advise you to learn your home country's customs rules to avoid troubles.

The second important feature

The prices on this page are published in Turkish liras, as liras are the main currency in use in most parts of Turkey. However!

In the Mediterranean resorts (Antalya, Belek, Kemer, Side, Alanya) prices are usually set in US dollars or Euros. And there is no point in changing money there, you won't save anything.

In the Aegean resorts (Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye, Kusadasi), prices are usually in lira. Sellers accept US dollars and Euros, but at a bad exchange rate. Sometimes the price tags are in three currencies at once. It makes sense to exchange your currency for Turkish liras and thus save money.

Read our in-depth review "How and where to exchange currency in Turkey".

20. Nazar

The famous Turkish eye shaped amulet is a bestseller amongst tourists. And no wonder, as it's beautiful, cheap, colorful, and is believed to protect against an evil eye. Now nazar has become one of the symbols of Turkey. In Turkish it is called either "nazar boncuğu" ("nazar bonju") or "gökçe" ("giokche") or "munçuk" ("munchuk").

It is believed that the amulet nazar protects against an evil eye. And if a nazar is broken or lost, you should rejoice. The belief is that by doing so, the amulet has fulfilled its function and saved the wearer from an evil eye.

The amulet is made of blue glass on which the eye is drawn with white and blue (less often yellow). Nazars in Turkey come in a gigantic variety of forms: necklaces, bracelets, rings, key chains, plates and other utensils, cutting boards, fridge magnets, phone cases, home decor and much more.

Note that a nazar does not have any religious significance, nor does it bring good luck. It only protects from an evil eye, but nothing more.

The word "nazar" is Arabic and translates as "a look" and the word "bonju" is Turkish and translates as "a bead". The amulet nazar was not invented by the Turks. Similar amulets are found on the excavations of ancient settlements around the Mediterranean, and the oldest samples date back to 1600 BC. However, the modern form of a nazar and its color scheme was invented in Turkey.

Nazars of all shapes, sizes and kinds are sold in all souvenir shops. The price of a medium-sized nazar is 25-40 Turkish liras. A small one may cost as little as 5 liras. See our review "Money in Turkey" for the current exchange rates of Turkish lira.

Accordingly, the bigger the size or more complicated the design, the more expensive it is. A silver nazar ring can cost as much as 1,200 - 1,500 liras. Gold earrings with nazars can cost 4,000-6,000 liras.

19. Fez

It is the traditional felt headdress, shaped as a cylinder or truncated cone. The traditional color is red, often with a decorative tassel on top. The fez hat is one of the symbols of Turkey, though it wasn't invented by the Turks.

Fez was invented in Morocco and was named after the city of Fez, the capital of Morocco until 1927. It is not known exactly when the fez was invented, but it dates back to the Byzantine times.

Fez became the symbol of the Turkish nation only in the 1820s. Sultan Mahmoud II in 1826 dissolved the janissaries and introduced a new army uniform in the European style. The fez was made an obligatory headdress for militaries and other officials, and the wearing of turbans was prohibited. It was super reforms in the Ottoman Empire for that time.

Mahmud II's plan worked. The country began to renew itself and the fez became one of the symbols of the new country. It was taken up in neighboring countries and the fez became popular in the Middle East . The most common color for the fez was red.

The fez was such an established symbol of the Ottoman Empire that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned it in 1925. This ban is no longer in force nowadays, but it is very rare for Turks to wear a fez, which is not customary. Turks like tourists wearing fezes.

Fezes are mostly souvenirs for tourists nowadays. They are sold in two varieties. The first one is actually a cloth-covered cardboard and is simply a souvenir. The price of such a fez is 3-5 dollars.

The real felt fez is more expensive - from 20 dollars and up to infinity. Some fezes are embroidered with silk or gold thread. Finding the real fez is problematic, but possible.

18. Fruit and berry wines

About a thousand varieties of grapes grow in Turkey (from 600 to 1,200 by various estimates), of which 60 are cultivated on an industrial scale. Turks produce around 30,000,000 liters of wine per year, and consume around 20,000,000 liters themselves.

However, grape wine from Turkey is considered far from the best. In contrast, Turkish fruit wines are considered some of the best in the world.

The most popular wines are pomegranate, cherry, black mulberry. Also, the flavors in demand are strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, apricots, apples, melons, and even kiwis.

Since berries don't have as much sugar as grapes, the strength of berry wines is lower. Usually it is 8%, although the addition of sugar produces 12-13%. It's difficult to get too drunk with fruit wine.

The average price for a 0.7 liter bottle is 150-250 Turkish lira. The best places to buy it are souvenir shops, as supermarkets rarely sell it.

Tourists are often taken on excursions to wineries (really just stylised shops) where they are offered to taste the fruit and berry wines and then purchase them. Tasting is advised. You will not be charged for it. You are advised not to buy, however, as the prices in these fake wineries are higher than in the shops. The hope that tourists are not aware of the prices and assume that the default position is that the price in the winery must be lower.

Turkey is an Islamic country, but there is no ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol. Read our detailed review "Alcohol in Turkey".

17. Spices

Three dozen spices are used in Turkish cuisine, but there's no point buying them all in Turkey and taking them home. Only a few of them may be of interest. Either they have a special taste or aroma in Turkey, or they are difficult to find outside Turkey, or the price in Turkish shops is very low.

Sumac (Turkish: Sumak) is used in Turkish cuisine as a sprinkle for meat dishes and dumplings. Together with onions it is added to liver dishes. Sumac gives a slightly spicy and lemony taste. It is difficult to find good sumac in other countries, so we recommend buying it in Turkey.

Nigella (Turkish: Çörek otu) also known as "black cumin". Very common in Turkish cuisine as a sprinkle on pastries and rolls. It has a flavor like a walnut. In addition to baked goods, Turks add nigella to potatoes and vegetables, and use it in marinades. Turkish black cumin is considered one of the best in the world, it has a bright flavor and aroma.

Cumin (Turkish: Kimyon) is the spice that gives Turkish dolma, sarma and kofta (cutlets) their unique taste. Cumin is also often added to meat and soups. The taste is spicy with a slight bitterness. In some countries, cumin is called "zira" in the Iranian manner. Naturally, Turkish cumin is one of the best in the world.

Allspice (Turkish: Yenibahar) is amazing in Turkey. Its flavor is rich and bright. Its taste is mild and pleasant. Yenibahar can be considered as a key spice in Turkish cuisine. It is a must-have in any minced meat dish and in rice dishes.

Oregano (Turkish: Kekik) is a universal spice in Turkish cuisine. Oregano is most commonly used as a marinade on meat. It is also added to soups, salads and legumes. Turks brew oregano to obtain "oregano water", which they believe helps to lose weight and relax the stomach.

The best place to buy spices is a bazaar where you can smell and taste spices before you buy them. In addition, a trip to a spice market is already an attraction to smell that unique bouquet of aromas coming from shops. However, remember that at the bazaar, you will buy spices NOT in original packaging. The customs officers at the border may ask you, "What are you carrying in this small bag?"

You can buy factory-packaged spices in a supermarket, but the quality, taste, aroma are likely to be different. You buy for luck in this case.

We won't list the prices here as prices vary greatly from region to region, from sort to sort, between store-bought spices and in the bazaars.

16. Ceramics

Ceramics have been produced on the territory now is modern Turkey for at least 5,000 years. Of course, the ancient styles and techniques are a thing of the past, but they have seamlessly merged with the traditions of the Seljuks from Iran and the Ottomans. Turkish ceramics were highly valued in the world back in the Ottoman era and are still valued today.

Ottoman ceramics are famous primarily for tiles, not tableware. Of course, no one is likely to bring ceramic tiles from Turkey. Although there are tourists who bring packs of tiles. We do not recommend this.

Tableware is a more useful and transportable gift. The most popular are plates, jugs, gravy boats.

Important point! Turkish laws do not require that the goods be marked with the country of origin. Accordingly, there is a very high chance to buy Chinese pottery under the mask of Turkish in a souvenir shop. Choose your place of purchase carefully. It is best to find a specialty shop or buy in a factory.

Turkish pottery is most famous for its patterns. Ceramics from Iznik are known for their complex designs in red, blue, and white, sometimes adding green, black and turquoise as secondary colors.

Ceramics from Chanakkale are very colorful. Clear brush strokes are used there to show the handiwork on the piece. The main colors are green, brown, beige, and yellow. Jugs and statuettes from Chanakkale are most common in shops, and household utensils are rare.

The price depends on the quality. If you want to buy a hand-painted plate with the signature of an artisan, prepare from 500 Turkish liras. If you are buying a souvenir according to the "just as long as it's beautiful and I'll put it on a shelf" principle, then choose the one you like best for 50 liras.

15. Musical instruments

Classical Turkish music makes use of several colorful and interesting instruments, which are inexpensive to sell to tourists.

The traditional stringed instrument, the balama (bağlama), has a colorful appearance. It most closely resembles the European lute. The balama has a deep back and a longer neck. This instrument is usually played with a cherry tree bark plectrum or with fingers (the technique is called "shelpe").

The price of a balama starts at 200 Turkish liras. Of course, you can buy only the simplest instrument for this minimal price and it will serve well for decorative purposes only.

A cheaper instrument is called a balaban (aka mei). The Turkish balaban is a wind instrument, a close relative of our blowpipe. The balaban has 7 holes. You can buy a balaban for 60 Turkish liras.

There is a very picturesque instrument called "karadeniz kamencesi". It is a bowed instrument, which is difficult to compare with anything else. It is probably closest to a cello. Although one can say that it is a relative of lijerica or balalaika, which also has only 3 strings.

It is rather difficult to buy karadeniz kamencesi, as it is rarely sold in souvenir shops in the resorts. The price is 400-600 liras.

14. Olive oil

Turkish olive oil is not considered to be the best. And it used to be, when the standards in Turkey were far behind the world standards. Turks used to squeeze and consume oil that was not considered edible by the world standards.

But now things have changed. The standards have been brought up to the world standards and the factories have been modernized. Now Turkish olive oil can be compared in quality to Greek, Italian, Spanish, or Tunisian. Turkey exports oil to more than 100 countries. At the 2016 New York Oil Fair, Turks took first prize for taste and quality.

In 2020, Turks celebrated super success. They took 18 gold and 10 silver awards at the NYIOOC International Fair in New York.

The quality of an olive oil is primarily determined by its "acidity" indicator, which must not exceed 3.3%. The Turks didn't invent this figure, this is the International Olive Oil Council standards.

The most expensive Turkish olive oil is called "Erken hasat naturel sızma zeytinyağı" ("the first oil of the season"). It is squeezed from young olives which take 2-3 times more than the extraction from ripe olives. The price is correspondingly higher, starting at 200 Turkish liras a liter.

The best variety from the ripe olives is called "Naturel sızma zeytinyağı" ("natural extra virgin olive oil"). Its acidity does not exceed 0.8%. It is usually sold for around 110 Turkish liras. You can buy it for 70-80 Turkish liras on special sale in the supermarkets.

We do not recommend buying lower quality oil. The shelves in stores in many countries are stocked with low-quality oil. There is no point in buying it.

The most famous olive oil brands in Turkey are Kilye, Hiç, Selatin, Orfion, Kürşat, Laleli, Dino. These brands are recommended first.

The easiest way to buy oil is in a supermarket. Firstly, you do not pay exorbitant prices. Secondly, there are special offers and big discounts. Go to the nearest CarrefourSA or Migros.

13. Turkish lamps

Mosaic lamps are made of brass and coloured glass. Genuine Turkish lamps are handmade. However, you are likely to find Chinese samples in souvenir shops. But it still looks beautiful.

In reality, such lamps are not very practical. Such a lamp absorbs a lot of light itself, and you have to put a powerful bulb inside. It is not good at all as the main source of light in the house.

But they are ideal as a secondary light source. Colors can be chosen to create a specific atmosphere. For example, bright colors for fun, darker shades for a more intimate atmosphere or soft colors for relaxation and sleep.

Attention! If you decide to buy a mosaic lamp, make sure you take it with you in your hand luggage when you fly home. It is fragile and may not survive the flight in the luggage, especially considering the not very polite attitude of the cargo handlers to suitcases of tourists.

You can buy the lamps in almost any souvenir shop. The price for the "made in China" samples ranges from 50 to 200 Turkish liras. The price of a genuine Turkish handmade lamp starts at 400 liras. Accordingly, the bigger the size, the more expensive.

12. Turkish cheeses

When tourists taste cheeses in Turkey at the hotel buffet, the impression is usually horrible. One gets the impression that the Turks do not know how to make cheese at all. No! They produce a lot of magnificent cheese. The hotels do not even feed the tourists with cheese, but with an artificial cheese product. You can find real high-quality Turkish cheese only in expensive hotels.

The average resident of Turkey consumes 7.8 kilos of cheese per year, while the average British eats 11.4 kilos and the average American eats 18.2.

Most of the cheese consumed by Turks is fresh white cheeses, similar to Greek feta and Balkan bryndza. This family of cheeses is called 'beyaz peynir'. It is eaten for breakfast, used as toppings in pastries, on sandwiches and in salads.

The most popular type of young cheese in Turkey is called 'taze kaşar'. It has a smooth texture and soft consistency. The color is white but sometimes creamy.

A classic taze kaşar is made from cow's milk and is priced at 200-300 Turkish lira per kilo. The best place to buy cheese is at CarrefourSA or Migros supermarkets, as the range is wide and the prices are reasonable.

Eski kaşar is considered the best semi-hard Turkish cheese. It is usually made from a mixture of cow and sheep milk. The price starts at 300 liras a kilo. We also recommend buying it in supermarkets.

There are more than a hundred varieties of cheese produced in Turkey, but we cannot speak about all of them here. If you want to enjoy the variety, you can go to a bazaar where you can taste them before you buy them. But remember the hygiene rules!

Be warned! Customs laws in many countries allow importing animal origin food products only in the original packaging. If you're carrying unpackaged cheese, the customs officers can confiscate it. We advise you to learn the customs laws of your home country in advance.

Read our detailed review "10 best Turkish cheeses".

11. Lemon cologne

Lemon cologne is very popular in Turkey. And it's not even a cologne, but rather a flavored liquid that Turks use everywhere. Primarily as a cologne for themselves and to scent their homes. Such flavored liquid is called "kolonya" and lemon sort is called "kolonya limon".

Composition: 80% ethanol, water, lemon flavoring.

Lemon cologne is used as an antiseptic and to wash hands before meals. It is also believed to cure acne. The Turks also believe that it repels mosquitoes and in the case of an insect bite, they always sprinkle it on the wound. How well will it work against our mosquitoes? We don't know.

It is believed that lemon cologne cures dizziness and migraines. It is used for fainting spells.

Lemon cologne is used so often that you can buy it in packs of 5 liters (1.3 gallon) in the shops! Have you ever seen cologne in a 5-liters (1.3 gallon) pack? Go to a big supermarket in Turkey and you might see it there. In the countryside, they sell it on tap.

Traditionally, when guests come to the house, they are offered lemon cologne and sweets to refresh and strengthen themselves after the trip.

A 0.4 liter bottle can be bought for 40-50 liras, a 1 liter bottle for 80-100 liras, a 150 ml bottle for 14-20 liras.

10. Costumes and skirts for belly dancing

It is a very popular souvenir for tourists. Of course, most tourists do not buy these costumes at all for dancing, but rather as beautiful and colorful clothing. Some also add variety to the matrimonial life, which is not a bad thing.

Consequently, the costumes and skirts in souvenir shops are not intended for dancing at all, but are rather souvenirs made in China.

Costumes with sewn coins and beads on are particularly popular. These costumes usually endure one or two wearings. The decor starts to fall off, and you get tired of sewing it on every time.

So just choose the most beautiful one. You can buy a really nice costume for about 400-600 liras. The skirt alone could be around 100-200 liras. The main thing is that the costume fits, so we recommend always measuring before buying. Buying such a costume for someone without her presence is strongly not recommended.

If you want to buy a truly authentic costume for dancing, you need to go to good clothing shops. Prepare to lay out from 1,000 liras and more. A professional handmade costume is even more expensive - from 4,000 liras.

9. Oltu

A black semi-precious stone found only in Turkey. The Turkish name is "oltu taşı". It is extracted in Erzurum Province in eastern Turkey, and it is also known as the Erzurum Stone. It is also known as "black amber," although the comparison is clearly wrong, as oltu stone is several times cheaper than amber.

In Turkey, oltu stone has been mined since the 18th century and is traditionally used to make rosaries. Its color is usually black, but can be brown, dark-gray, or black with a greenish hue.

Oltu is similar in nature to coal or obsidian. Oltu burns although it is a stone. It also accumulates static electricity when rubbed, and can attract dust and small objects. Oltu is in a soft state in the soil and gradually hardens on contact with the air. This makes it easy to work with.

But the main advantage of oltu is its beauty after polishing. In Turkey, it is used not only for rosary beads, but also for rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, tie clips, mouthpieces and even smoking pipes. Oltu tableware is also made but is rarely found in stores. A variety of decorations are also popular.

Small oltu rosaries are available for 100-200 liras, silver earrings with the stones for 200-400 liras and silver rings with the stones for 600-1,200 liras.

8. Turkish honey

Turkey is now the world's second largest producer of honey after China, with an annual volume of 100,000 tonnes. Turkey used to be in third place after Argentina, but has now overtaken it. At the same time, according to experts, Turkey only uses 1% of its honey production potential.

There are several hundred varieties of honey produced in Turkey. The most famous is the pine honey, which is found almost nowhere else but Turkey. The Aegean region accounts for 92% of the world's pine honey, while Muğla province accounts for 75%. It is the pine honey that we recommend above all, as it is almost impossible to buy outside Turkey. Pine honey compared to flower honey contains less glucose and fructose which makes its taste softer.

The taste of honey differs depending on the region, the altitude and the selection of flowers that the bees pollinate. And the key to choosing the best honey is simple - taste, taste and taste again. In supermarkets, you can take one jar to taste, and then buy it if you like it.

Do not forget, some countries forbid or limit honey imports. We advise you to learn the customs laws of your home country in advance.

The real honey (not counterfeit) in Turkey can't be cheaper than 100 Turkish liras per kilogram. Good honey is around 200 liras a kilo.

7. Onyx products

A valuable (but not precious) stone. Turkey is believed to have the world's largest fossil reserves of it. Onyx looks very beautiful, with stripes of all the colors of the rainbow. The color of onyx layers depends on the substances embedded in the stone.

Nowadays Turks make practically everything from onyx: plates and cups, decorative statuettes, bijouterie, key rings, chess pieces, candlesticks. All this and in large quantities is available in souvenir shops.

Onyx has been known since Ancient Babylon, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Since then, an astronomical amount of beliefs about its healing properties have been accumulated. But now, in our age of advanced science, it is obvious that only some of them are true.

The Persians believed that onyx could cure epilepsy. English midwives placed onyx on the breasts of women in childbirth, believing the stone to be a painkiller. The famous Roman author Pliny the Elder described several treatments with onyx in his work Natural History. However, all of these properties are unproven by science.

However, the healing properties of onyx do objectively exist. For example, onyx with brown layers contains iron. If you drink from a cup made of such onyx, your body will get the iron it needs. Green onyx contains copper, which our body needs in small quantities.

Onyx also had a mystical meaning to ancient people. The ancient Greeks used it to make amulets depicting the god Ares, and believed that the amulet gave them strength and courage in battle. The Romans believed it was the stone of the goddess Venus and that wearing it made a woman more beautiful. During the Renaissance, onyx was believed to give eloquence.

Is it all true or not? You can find out for yourself by buying any onyx crafts. A medium sized figurine or cup costs 100 liras and a small and simple figurine can be bought for 40 liras.

And the good news is. You are sure to buy real onyx, there are no fakes. The thing about onyx is that it's cheap, it just doesn't make sense to fake it.

6. Peshtemal

Traditional towels in Turkish hammams. The word comes from the Persian language and literally translates to "black towel". Now they are made in all sizes and colors in Turkey. A peshtemal is easily recognisable by the fringe on the edges.

The Turkish word for them is "peştemal". They are also called "hammam" or "fouta".

Peshtemal towels are very thin and light, but absorb moisture as well as a thick terry towel. Peshtemal dries several times faster and suffers less from washing. In addition, Turkish towels have almost no sand adhesion and are not nearly as sticky to the body.

The secret of Turkish towels is the use of 100% cotton and very long fibers. But apart from cotton, there are also linen or silk towels. From a similar fabric Turks produce not only towels, but also domestic dressing gowns, tablecloths, bedspreads, handkerchiefs and much more.

Usual size - 180x100 centimeters (6x3.3 feet), and the towel weighs only 220-250 grams! The price starts at 180 Turkish liras. They are sold everywhere, but we do not recommend going to souvenir shops, because the prices are high. You're better off going to the nearest big shopping center.

5. Olive soap

This is a very popular gift that tourists take back from all the Mediterranean countries. Olive soap is soft, does not irritate the skin and is pleasant for the body. It is called 'zeytin sabunu' in Turkish.

In Turkey, olive soap is made with different aromas, as in all Mediterranean countries. The most popular scents are pomegranate, jasmine, honey, rose, and lavender. Fruity olive soaps are often made in the shape and color of those fruits whose scents are added.

The price of olive soap starts at 50 liras per kilo if you buy large pieces. However, souvenir shops do not sell big pieces. You can buy pieces of about 100 grams for 20-24 liras.

The black Turkish soap is worth talking about. This is a special mixture used in hammams to remove the top layer of epidermis, to make the skin softer. Black soap is an integral part of the culture of the Turkish hammam.

The consistency of black Turkish soap is more like an ointment than our usual hard soap. The composition of the black soap is very simple: black olive oil, water and minerals containing potassium hydroxide.

Warning! Potassium hydroxide is a very strong alkali. Soap should be used very carefully and in moderation so as not to damage the skin. Under no circumstances should you get black soap in your eyes! Black soap should be washed off with gloves only.

Do not confuse black soap (beldi soap) with just black soap, they are very different things. Because the product is special, it is not sold everywhere. You won't find it in gift shops or supermarkets. Look for a hammam accessories shop.

4. Tea, tea cups, teapots

Turks love tea. Tea and tea traditions are an integral part of the national identity and culture in Turkey. The average Turk consumes 3.16 kilograms of tea a year, the first in the world. By comparison, the average Englishman consumes 1.94 kilograms of tea a year. Turkey produces approximately 200,000 tons of tea per year, which makes 6% of the world's total.

Turkey has created dozens of varieties with admixtures of apple, rose hips, hibiscus, pomegranate, lime blossom and other ingredients. However, Turks don't drink such teas as they prefer regular black tea grown on the Black Sea coast of Turkey.

In Turkish, tea is called "çay", which reads "chay". It is sold everywhere, but the best place to buy it is in the nearest supermarket. The price is 80-120 liras per kilo, and the fruity varieties cost the same as ordinary black tea.

The best known Turkish tea variety is called "karadeniz" (Black Sea tea). This tea is almost never found outside of Turkey. We recommend it above all others. The price is around 120 lira per kilo.

Another popular gift is Turkish tea cups in the shape of a tulip. They have no handles and are used by Turks to drink freshly brewed and hot tea. A simple set of 6 cups costs 30-50 liras. If the glass is decorated they can cost more, the price depends on the decoration.

A third interesting gift is the Turkish double teapot "çaydanlık" ("chaydalyk"). The custom in Turkey is to fill the lower part with plain water and the upper part with water and tea. Only the lower part is heated, the steam heats the upper part.

The price of a simple plastic double teapot is around 150 liras. Copper or ceramic - from 450 liras. A copper one with a hand-hammered or embossed decoration can cost several thousand liras.

3. Raki

A strong alcoholic drink based on anise. Raki is common not only in Turkey, but also in Greece and the Balkans (under other names).

During the Ottoman period, meykhana eateries, where meze, wine and other alcoholic beverages were served, were common in Greece and Albania. In the period of reforms (1839-76), meykhana spread to Anatolia, where the majority of the population was Muslim.

During the liberal reform period, more and more Muslim Turks began to attend meykhana and the raki drink became a national drink. By the end of the 19th century, raki took its current form as a strong drink made by distilling grapes and adding anise.

In Turkey, it is not customary to drink raki in its pure form, but dilute it with cold water. When cold, the drink takes on a white color because of the anise oil. The color has given the drink its second name, "aslan sütü", which translates to "lion milk". However, it is not lion's milk that is meant here, but rather in the sense of 'milk of the strong'.

Raki is not only made from grape pomace. There is a raki made from figs, called "incir rakısı", which is considered an expensive and respectable drink. A cheaper version of raki is made from sugar beet molasses.

The most popular raki brand in Turkey is Yeni Rakı. Tekirdağ, Efe, Altınbaş, İzmir, and Tayfa are also recommended. A 0.5 litre bottle costs an average of 350 Turkish liras.

Buying raki can be problematic, as not every supermarket sells hard liquor. Large supermarkets definitely do, but not every resort has a large supermarket. Many tourists buy raki in duty-free stores at the airport on departure, it is cheaper there.

2. Coffee, coffee pot, coffee cups

Turkey is directly associated with coffee for many people. In reality, Turks drink very little coffee. The average Turk drinks as little as 0.4 kg of coffee a year. To compare, people in Finland consume more than 12 kilos, in Germany - 6.5 kilos, in the UK - 2.8 kilos, in the US - 4.2 kilos.

Turks are the world leaders in tea consumption now, but not coffee.

But the culture of coffee consumption in Turkey is very interesting. There are many traditions which remained from the Ottoman Empire, and in those times Turks were drinking more coffee than tea.

Turkish coffee is brewed from very finely ground coffee and the beverage is not filtered after brewing. If you want to buy coffee, choose at once whether you buy it in beans or just ground to a powder. The second option is more practical.

In Turkish, coffee is called "kahve" (or "kave"). Coffee in Turkey costs the same as in most countries. The price is around 300 liras per kilo.

When they say "Turkish coffee", they are referring to the method, not the variety. Coffee doesn't grow at all in Turkey because the climate is too cold. Turks drink the usual coffee from Ethiopia and America. They don't have any of their own varieties.

Does it make sense to buy coffee in Turkey? That is an open question. In our opinion, there is no point. But it is interesting to bring coffee supplies.

The turk coffee pot is called a cezve in Turkey. Traditionally they were made of copper, but nowadays they are made out of aluminum, zinc, ceramic. The long wooden handle and pear shape are the main features of the cezve.

You can buy a simple cezve coffee pot for around 50 Turkish liras. If you want a traditional copper one, it starts at 100 liras. If you want a nice one with ornaments and embossing, from 300 liras.

Coffee cups are called "kahve fincanı" in Turkey. They do not have a traditional shape, just a small traditional size and a capacity of 100-120 milliliters. The color is usually white and the material is porcelain. They are often decorated with a pattern on the inside or outside.

A good quality porcelain coffee cup costs around 100 Turkish liras.

1. Turkish sweets

Almost every tourist brings back lokum (Turkish delight), halva, and baklava from Turkey. However, this is not a complete list of Turkish desserts and sweets. There are also the cotton balls pişmaniye, the delicious rivani cake, grape-nut sausages cevizli sujuk, tulumba sticks and much more.

Turks consider baklava to be their main national sweet. These are cakes made of layers of thin dough with layers of syrup and nuts. Read more in our review "Turkish baklava".

Turks consider Turkish delight (lokum) to be their second national sweet. It is a sweet made of sugar, molasses and a thickener (usually starch). Read more in our review "Turkish delight".

Halva is definitely not a Turkish invention, but it is very much loved in Turkey. Halva is made from flour or nuts, hence the huge variety of the sorts. Read more in our review "Turkish halva".

What NOT to bring from Turkey

Gold is definitely NOT something you should bring back from Turkey. They say gold is cheap in Turkey. But gold is an exchange-traded commodity. That is, gold is traded on commodity exchanges and the price of gold is the same on all continents, in all countries.

The price can be lower only for jewelry due to lower trade mark-ups and/or lower jeweler's labor costs.

Selling fake gold to tourists is common in Turkey. The authorities are trying to fight the fake gold problem but can't win.

The last major police operation against counterfeit gold sellers took place on January 8, 2021. The police were able to arrest 103 sellers of counterfeit gold in 10 provinces. The photo near it is of someone arrested in such an operation. And think how many of them are still at large? Draw conclusions.

If you buy a golden item, you'll doubt if it's real or fake. If you want to sell or pawn this jewelry, you will have to prove its authenticity, because there is no hallmark. The cost of the examination is high. Do you need it?

Leather goods do not make sense to buy in Turkey. Of course, Turkish leather is great, there is no arguing with that. However, we now live in an era of globalization, when any product can be bought in any country. Same Turkish leather jackets are available in your country, and the price tags are about the same.

However, when buying in your country, you will be protected by your Law on Consumer Rights, will be able to contact your authorities, and will be able to assert your rights in court. And if you buy in Turkey and find a defect. Who will you go to? What will you do?

What if the defect is discovered when you return home? Will you go to Turkey to change the jacket? Do you need it?

Furs, carpets, silk, cashmere, pashmina. It's a similar situation.

It's risky to buy a hookah in Turkey. There's no doubt it'll be a good hookah. But it is risky to take it home, because it's fragile. It's easier to buy in your country, as the prices for hookahs are now comparable everywhere.

More important tips

- If you are aiming to buy something fragile, take pimply wrap or some other material with you to protect your gifts;

- Cats are very much loved in Istanbul. Local souvenir shops are filled with various "cat-themed" souvenirs;

- Some of our tourists carry dried fruit. In Turkey, dried fruits are cheaper. But is it worth stuffing a suitcase with it? That is an open question;

- For spending on holidays other than gifts, read our review "How much money to take to Turkey".

Enjoy your vacation, and read our interesting pages about Turkey (find the list of the pages below). © 2020-2024