In the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş, the epicenter of the earthquakes, the historic Maraş Bazaar has slowly started to open up its doors again in order for the remaining citizens to get back to the normal course of life.
Although the city is relatively empty, people filled the streets in the central area where the historical bazaar is located.
The Grand Bazaar, including the historic Maraş Bazaar, Saraçhane, Bakırcılar, Semerciler, Mazmanlar, Kazzazlar and Demirciler Bazaars are still in operation despite some quake damage.
Spice shops, herbalists, jewelers and clothing stores are open just like the pre-quake days.
Nineteen-year-old Hüsne Karakuş, a university student who is working as a shopkeeper in a headscarf shop in the bazaar, stated that they are all here for the sake of Kahramanmaraş,not to make sales or profit.
Karakuş said that the shopkeepers’ aim is to make people forget about their sadness for a while.
As a freshman studying child development, she said that she started working with quake-stricken children voluntarily in one of the tent city areas.
“It was so strange. We were continuously hit with aftershocks, the children were terrified. But I was desperately trying to turn it into something fun. That’s how the children and I tried to get through the earthquakes. Now I work here during the day and volunteer in the evenings,” she said.
She stated that she either goes to work with the children or helps with the distribution of aid materials.
“We met all the volunteers here. It’s as if we all knew each other before and were sent here to help. This gives us incredible strength,” she said.
She added that her boss has lost his best friend in the earthquakes and he has not been able to work, so she is taking care of the shop, helping the customers.
Another shopkeeper stressed that they opened the shops as soon as the power came back on, yet they don’t expect a lot of revenue, they just want to relax and feel like life is returning to normal.
Vahit Özsaatçi, who has been working as a watchmaker in the historic Maraş Bazaar for more than 50 years, said that people “experienced the rehearsal of the apocalypse.”
“We open our shops the same as it ever was, we want to lift people’s spirits up, that’s all. Shopkeepers wish each other well. They chat as usual. Those who went out of town are slowly coming back. An open shop, a house with a light on gives us all a sense of security. We have not abandoned this place,” Özsaatçi said.
Meanwhile, a few shopkeepers in the southeastern quake-hit province of Malatya have opened stalls on roadsides with whatever they could save in their shops as well, not to make a profit but to bring the city back to its former glory.