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Bazaar

The life of Eastern societies has been concentrated around the bazaar since ancient times. The name “bazaar” is very old and has its roots in the Old Persian language. This Persian word followed the trade routes and was borrowed by many European and Asian languages. In Iran, the earliest reference to the bazaar dates from the 8th millennium B.C.

The legend of Jamshid that appears in the Avesta, the Zoroastrian sacred book, tells of the bazaar already in existence.

An archaeological survey in the Sialk Mounds has revealed that the residents of Sialk traded with the countries of the Persian Gulf in about the 6th millennium B.C. and that they could purchase necessities at a permanent marketplace. The records of the Achaemenid period include the costs of goods in the markets and the amounts of taxes levied on the merchants.

During the Parthian period, the economy of the country was mainly based on agriculture and trade.

Moreover, the Parthians, who actively traded with the countries of both East and West along the Silk Road, even had a monopoly over some specific goods such as spices and fabrics. The map of the Parthian town of Dura Europos from 165-256 A.D. shows the exact place of the main bazaar of the town. During the Sassanid period, the traders and artisans were already organized into guilds, and each guild had a leader who usually worked as a mediator between the common people and the government officials.

Starting from the early Islamic period, the bazaar has not been only the place where trade is concentrated; in fact, it has constituted the focal point of most city activities. People gathered in the bazaar not only to purchase, but also to communicate, to listen to the decrees announced by royal heralds, and to participate in festivities or mourning processions. Until at least the 13th century, the "Nowruz Bazaar" was held annually opposite the Jur Gate of Isfahan. Both traders and customers gathered there to take part in the New Year Festival.

Azad al-Dowleh, the Buyid prince who grew up in Isfahan, is said to have been so fond of the local custom of celebrating Nowruz that, when he grew up and became the governor of Fars, he founded a town of Fana Khosrow near Shiraz where the annual festival of Nowruz was held. On religious mourning Occasions, the bazaar was usually closed. Since the Safavid period, the Isfahan Bazaar has been the place of the most splendid ceremonies, particularly connected with the Moharram mourning rituals.

The bazaar has always had an important social power. The cancellation of a tobacco concession in 1890, the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, the nationalization of oil in 1951, and finally the Islamic Revolution of 1979, spurred on the closing of the bazaar. The merchants and artisans staged a walkout in objection to the governmental deeds, and all the life in the country came to a stop.

In virtually all towns, the bazaar is a covered street, or series of streets and alleyways, lined with small shops grouped by service or product. In small towns, the bazaar might be the equivalent of a narrow, block-long street; in larger cities, the bazaar is a warren of streets that contains war houses, restaurants, baths, mosques, and Madresehs, in addition to hundreds and hundreds of shops.

A bazaar usually consists of “raste-ye asli”, a main street that, in its simplest form is a road lined on either side by shops. In large bazaars “raste-ye fari”, the auxiliary lanes, branch of the the main road.

The intersection of two major bazaar lanes is called “chahar-su”, usually the richest shops surround this point. Meydan, the square, most often precedes the entrance to any bazaar.

 Refrences

- Beheshti, Oksana (2003). Travel guide to Isfahan, Kashan and more. Iran. Tehran. Rozaneh publication.

 

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