Tabriz’s Grand Bazaar

Inside the bazaar, a UNESCO world heritage site

After crossing into Iran from Turkey, my first stop was the windy city of Tabriz, home to the largest roofed bazaar in the world.

In the 13th century Tabriz became the capital city of the Safavids; the greatest Iranian Empire established after the Muslim conquest of Persia. The bazaar soon became one of the most important international trade and cultural centres in the world. Whilst the city lost its status as capital in the 16th century, it remained important as a commercial hub until the end of the 18th century.

Arranged much like a department store, the bazaar contains approximately 8,000 shops and employs around 10,000 workers.

There are areas for carpets, gold jewellery, white goods, mens fashion, women’s fashion, food and produce and more. I saw very few computers or smart phones. Instead business is conducted the old-fashioned way on landlines and calculators. I even saw an abacus still in use.

Marco Polo claimed to have passed through it. Perhaps he stayed at one of its 22 caravanserai.

Somewhere deep within
One of the main carpet halls. Note the beautiful brick work.
A man about to measure the knots per square inch of a carpet, this denotes its quality
Measuring those knots
A carpet seller. Hanging on the walls are fiine silk carpets which command the highest prices. On the floor is a rougher woollen carpet that sells for less.
A carpet seller displaying a rug to potential buyers. He is showing off fine silk carpets.
Carpet sellers. Hanging on the back wall are photographs of previous generations of those in the business.
A spice seller cleaning up his display
A beautiful display of spices
A passageway leading to one of the bazaar’s 22 caravanserai
Tea break, Persian-style
This guy is rocking an abacus, dig that
This section sells rougher woollen carpets that are made by tribal people in rural areas. The designs tell the folk history of different tribes.
A detail shot of one of those carpets
The gold department of the bazaar
Gold sellers in the gold department of the bazaar
The gold department of the bazaar
A busy passageway full of shoppers
A bag seller tending to some shoppers
The fruit and veg department full of busy shoppers
The fruit and veg department
A fruit and veg seller with some shoppers
Rush hour in the fruit and veg department