In memoriam Murat Bilir

Mark Stein Discussion

From: Amy Singer <>

It is with a heavy heart that I write to share the sad news that we have lost another familiar face has left us this week. For over 50 years, Murat Bilir, owner of l'Orient Handicrafts in the İç Bedesten in the Istanbul Kapalı Çarşısı, was a friend to scholars of the Ottoman empire and Turkey, and to the family and friends we sent his way. His miniscule shop was a school in the fine arts of metalwork, woodcarving and other decorative arts. It was a refuge from the hubbub of the çarşı; a place to call in and meet old friends and make new ones. Murat's enthusiastic welcome was constant, his generosity unfailing. As a graduate student, I imposed my limping practice of Turkish on him after long days in the archives, which he patiently corrected, and then he taught me my first Armenian words. 
May he rest in peace.
Amy Singer
Professor Amy Singer
Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Chair in Islamic Studies
Director of Graduate Studies
Dept. of History
Brandeis University 




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It's hard for me to imagine the old center of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar without Murat Bilir. His tiny shop overflowed with platters and water jugs, bowls and rose water holders. He called them portable cultural treasures. Murat didn't just sell these fine objects, he told their stories. He pointed out tiny details you might have over looked. He never haggled over price but in reality each piece was a bargain, for it came with its history. It's been more than a dozen years since I first stopped at his doorway. These years became an education, for Murat was a spinner of tales and a born teacher. The offer of tea led to a game of Find the Sugar, hidden somewhere in one of the many covered serving dishes. For me, he was Istanbul. A true scholar and gentleman and a friend, I shall miss him dearly and to his family I can only say, I am so sorry.
Judy Lessing Popkin
Brooklyn New York
May 3 2023

I am not in touch with Murat's family, but I hope someone has forwarded these two lovely remembrances of him to them. I have sent them to Hasan Semerci, who many on this list will know. They had been friends since they worked together in the bazaar in 1968.
Time marches on for all of us.
Nancy Micklewright