Arts, Culture & Media

Shoeshine in Istanbul

Nine men sit on stools on this sidewalk in the shadow of a glorious mosque. I go up to one of the stands and sit on a stool and put my shoe in a footrest�that's about all that would be familiar to Americans at this shoeshine. The structure looks almost v-shaped and the wings are made up of glass bottles. Each stand is distinct, designed to capture the eyes of passersby. This man has been at his stand for 38 years. he and a regular complain about US foreign policy, perhaps for the benefit of their audience. He says the shoeshine stand is like a bit of a confessional for regulars. His callous fingers rub with such vigor it feels almost like a foot massage. He shines shoes from 6:30 every morning until 8:00 at night. He says he makes most of his money in the spring and fall when there are the most tourists. During the time he's been shoeshining, the city has grown from 5 million to 17 million people.

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