The bazaar of Tabriz, with an area of about one square kilometer. It is the largest and most important covered bazaar in the world, located in Tabriz, Iran. The bazaar of Tabriz was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in August 2010. The ruler of Tabriz rebuilt it about 3 centuries ago, after the great earthquake of Tabriz in 1779. Many explorers who visited this bazaar provided information about it. Researchers have gathered this information from the 10th century AD up to the Qajar period (late 18th century AD).
Many explorers and historians praised the prosperity and the glory of the bazaar, namely Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, A. V. Williams Jackson, Evliya Çelebi, Yaqut al-Hamawi, Gaspard Drouville, Aleksei Saltykov, Jean Chardin, Eugène Flandin, John Cartwright, de Cardi, Clavijo, Robert Grant Watson, Hamdallah Mustawfi, and Al-Maqdisi. This bazaar contains 5500 Hojras (rooms, stores, shops), 40 professions, 30 mosques, 20 sub-bazaars, 11 corridors, 5 bathhouses and 12 schools.
Different parts at a glance
It has also 35 sārās (large complexes with a spacious central courtyard and rooms where we can store goods). This historic bazaar has 25 Timchehs, they are halls, similar to courtyards, but smaller in size. Accordingly, it is the nerve center of trade in Tabriz and Iran.
There is no accurate information available on the bazaar of Tabriz before Islam and even up to the tenth century AD. The oldest hints referring to the bazaar date back to the tenth century AD in the memos of the explorers. All these memos make this place the most historic market in the Middle East. Though, what makes it an important market in Iran and the Middle East is its place near The Silk Road. In general, the bazaar of Tabriz in the old days was so influential that its gates were considered as the main gates of the city.
The bazaar of Tabriz gained its popularity during the Seljuk era. The paintings of this period show that there was a structure in the current location of the bazaar having same function. When Tabriz was the capital of Ilkhanates, it made an excellent reputation. At this time there were three leading trade centers along the Silk Road, one in China, one in Iran (Tabriz), and the other in Rome. This popularity and prosperity continued during the Safavid kingdom, and many of Iranians would gather there to trade.
The history behind Tabriz Bazaar
The bazaar of Tabriz also continued to flourish during the Qajar period and was the main Iran export route to Europe for two reasons. Firstly, Tabriz had been chosen as the home for the crown prince, and secondly, it was closer to European markets. During the 18th century, while Abbas Mirza was the crown prince, the bazaar became international trading center throughout the world. British business people had brought their goods to this bazaar through the Silk Road after passing through Istanbul and Trabzon. And then they would distribute their productions across Iran.
The volume of the trades in the middle of the 19th century (Qajar period) was so large. It included a quarter of the Iranian overall trades which is more than Tehran bazaar. According to the figures, 25 to 33 percent of all Iranian trading in 1877 had been carried out in this bazaar! However, this was only a part of business with the world in Tabriz. People recognized the bazaar of Tabriz as the most considerable trade zone of Iran with Central Asia in 1879.
The main commodities that Europeans imported to Iran were:
Mirrors, silk, linen, and velvet fabrics, cotton, calico, muslin, sugar, glass, metal, sugar loaf, and other mechanical products.
And the people of Tabriz used to sell them items for exchange such as:
Silk, artificial silk, weapons, tobacco, dried fruits, paints, shawls, oak apple, and wax.
Of course the trades had always ended in the Europeans’ favor!