The bazaar of Tabriz (Persian: بازار تبریز, Bāzār-e Tabriz) in Iran is one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East. It develops especially in the thirteenth century through the intense trade along the Silk Road. The entire bazaar was gradually enlarged over the centuries, but it was completely rebuilt in the 18th century under the Zand and Kadjar dynasties. With an area of 75 hectares, it is one of the largest covered bazaars in the world.
It is one of the most beautiful and impressive examples of traditional Middle East bazaar, which has earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2010.
The development of trade at Tabriz (ninth - sixteenth centuries)
It was in the ninth century that the city of Tabriz began to develop and became an economic pole. The destruction of Baghdad in 1258 placed Tabriz at the heart of trade in the Middle East, on the famous Silk Road. Marco Polo also passed through the city on his return from China, then during the reign of the Yuan Dynasty, and described the bazaar of the city. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Safavid dynasty established Tabriz as the capital of its kingdom, contributing to the enrichment of the city. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, commercial activities were at their peak, and textiles, copper objects, weapons, tiles, leather goods, leather and soap were exchanged at Tabriz.
Destruction and reconstruction of the bazaar (17th and 18th centuries)
The economic decline of the city began in the last quarter of the 17th century, due to political instability and the proximity of Tabriz with the Ottoman Empire, with which the Persian kingdom was in conflict.
In 1778, an extremely violent earthquake completely destroyed the city. It was quickly rebuilt with the support of the first Kadjar king, Agha Mohammad Shah. The bazaar was also raised, and the current buildings are mostly from the late eighteenth century. Abbas Mirza, who is crowned prince in the town of Tabriz and who held his court there, contributed particularly to the financing of the reconstructions.
The decline of the bazaar (nineteenth and twentieth centuries)
The political instability of Persia in the 19th century hindered the development of trade in Tabriz, which was occupied by the Russians between 1826 and 1828. The city underwent several changes. In 1871, it was a flood that caused considerable damage in the bazaar. Repair work was underway, but also expansion, such as the Mochaffarieh timcheh (vaulted gallery), built in 1905.
But in 1906, the actors of the constitutional revolution, which started in Tabriz, take a radical step: in order to make silence the small traders of the bazaar, opposed to the reforms, it was closed. In the following years, large modern and wide open streets were opened in the city, culminating in the destruction of parts of the bazaar and its fragmentation into several parts.
The rehabilitation of the bazaar (end of the 20th and 21st centuries)
The Tabriz bazaar is placed on the list of protected heritage by Iran in 1975 and a specific regulation makes it possible to preserve the structure of the oldest and most interesting buildings. The Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHHTO), which is responsible for the protection of listed monuments since 1981, is concerned with the preservation of the site.
Several restoration projects have resulted in the restoration of the Jami and Goi Machid mosques, as well as the courtyards and warehouses of the bazaar. In 2000, the ICHHTO began a bazaar restoration project, involving full ownership of the shops. The rehabilitation project won the Aga Khan Prize for Architecture in 2013.
The bazaar of Tabriz is not only a place of trade. It integrates buildings with diverse destinations, which mix equally diverse activities.
The bazaar has fourteen mosques, the largest of which is the Great Mosque of Tabriz. The bazaar is also one of the privileged places of Tabriz for the religious ceremonies. The most important is the one that takes place during the ashura, during which all the traders of the bazaar close their shop for ten days in order to participate in the festivities.
The Tabriz bazaar has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since September 3, 2010.
The Tabriz bazaar juxtaposes and integrates buildings and spaces where, if commercial functions are dominant, they are not exclusive. There are several markets, timchehs (warehouses), inns and caravanserais, but also mosques. These various architectural elements finally form a homogeneous and compact space.
Moreover, by its surface of 75 hectares, it is one of the largest bazaars in the world.
Bazaar of Amir
It was built in the 1840s by a member of the family of the Kadjar king Abbas Mirza, Mohammad khan Zanganeh, who had the rank of Amir Nezam, the 2nd highest in the Persian army. The courtyard is surrounded by shops and two iwans, one to the north, the other to the south. The southern part of the bazaar, as well as the neighboring passages, is devoted to jewelers, and sometimes considered the largest gold market in Iran.