Tehran Grand Bazaar at a glance
Markets of the Islamic cities are one of the greatest achievements of the Islamic civilization and are not to be found in other countries. Economy and religion are the two principal pillars of the Islamic bazaars, which symbolize their difference from other markets.
Upon mentioning the word BAZAAR, any Easterner unconsciously is reminded of a place where the ceiling lets beautiful rays of sun shine from the ceiling downward at given intervals. On either side of it is situated a collection of stores. The delicious smells of various spices, the cries of sellers of goods and their customers, and the rhythmic sound of hammers of artists are associated in the mind.
A bazaar is a type of marketplace, although many - such as Tehran's Grand bazaar - fulfill many additional functions rather than merely trade. Throughout its history, the Grand bazaar has played host to banks and financiers, mosques and guest houses.
Traditionally, the Tehran bazaar was split into corridors, each specializing in different types of goods, including copper, carpets, paper, spices, and precious metals, as well as small traders selling all types of goods. Today, modern goods are available as well, in addition to the many traditional corridor traders that still survive, Iran Review wrote.
The Grand Bazaar is located in the heart of Tehran; its many corridors are over 10 km in length. There are several entrances, some of which are locked and guarded at night.
While the current bazaar is most associated with the 19th century onwards, its roots go back much further.
Trade and early bazaars in Tehran
The area around Tehran has been settled since at least 6000 BC, and while bazaar-like construction in Iran as a whole has been dated as far back as 4000 BC, Tehran's bazaar is not this old. It is hard to say exactly when the "bazaar" first appeared, but in the centuries following the introduction of Islam, travelers reported the growth of commerce in the area now occupied by the current bazaar. The grand bazaar is a continuation of this legacy.
Researchers indicate that a portion of today's bazaar predated the growth of the village of Tehran under the Safavids' dynasty, although it was during and after this period that the bazaar began to grow gradually.
Western travelers indicated that by 1660 BC and beyond, the bazaar area was still largely open, and only partially covered.
Development of the Grand Bazaar
Despite relying heavily on this historical legacy, much of the bazaar itself was constructed fairly recently. The oldest remaining buildings, walls and passages in the bazaar today very rarely exceed 400 years, with many being constructed or rebuilt within the last 200 years. In this sense, the current grand bazaar is one of the newest in the Middle East.
The bazaar grew as a "city within a city" for much of the 19th century, and was largely able to expand itself without much outside interference. However, as Tehran began to grow exponentially in the early 20th century under Reza Shah, the changes brought by this rapid expansion saw much of the bazaar (including such areas as the Perfume Sellers' Bazaar and Moat Bazaar) disappear.
The old sections of the bazaar are generally similar in architectural style, while parts added in the 20th century often look markedly different; critics say that less care was taken in the construction of later sections. However, in an effort to increase the prestige of the bazaar, projects to beautify the bazaar through the use of plaster molding and decorative brickwork were undertaken late in the 20th century.
It is probable that a small section of the present day Bazaar complex in Tehran was the original nucleus of the Tehran habitable village prior to the Safavids and Shah Tahmasb period. During the reign of this king, along with the building of towers and fortifications the Bazaar was also built up.
The Grand bazaar is still an important place of commerce for Tehranis, Iranians, travelling merchants and - increasingly - tourists. However, much of the trade and finance in the city has moved to the north of the city, leaving the bazaar somewhat decreased in importance. Still, in addition to the traditional goods on sale, the market for watches and local jewelry is apparently growing, most likely for the benefits of tourists. As is in keeping with the market spirit, tourists are encouraged to haggle. The bazaar sees the peak of its business at midday and between 5 and 7 in the evening.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader