The famous Middle Eastern bazaar has been a fixture of cities in that region and of central Asia from ancient times. This was a central market for the city, often becoming covered or indoor as the years went by, and serving both local businessmen and families as well as travelling merchants. As they grew, they could often take over a whole neighbourhood, and have a hierarchy of avenues, streets, corridors, alleys and pathways, with halls, intersections and major chambers as nodes.
In this multimedia report, we are guided through the great ancient bazaar of Tabriz (بازار تبریز), one of the largest cities of Iran. Its residents are now hoping it will be registered as a World Heritage Site in 2011. While many other town and city bazaars in Iran may have lost their original function as the main trade hub of their locality, and have turned into attractions, in Tabriz the bazaar has kept its original purpose and many of the features from the middle ages, Tamerlane’s era and the last few centuries.
Evocative yet practical names of the past greet us, seeming to challenge any assumption of a modern monopoly of the concept of shopping malls, centres or precincts: ‘caravanserai’ (a central courtyard for the pack animals and caravans, surrounded by warehouses and traders’ shop fronts, now often abbreviated to ‘sara’), ‘hojra’ (هجره) (a cell, kiosk, office or small shop), ‘rasteh’ (راسته)(a row of such shops), ‘chahar soo’ (چهارسو) (an intersection of two thoroughfares), ‘teamcheh’ (تیمچه) (a small version of the caravanserai, often a chamber) and ‘dalan’ (دالان) (alleys and pathways connecting all these together, lined with shops). We are invited to receive and enjoy the ancient hospitality of the residents and merchants of the bazaar of Tabriz.