One of my very favorite activities everywhere I go, be it a destination I know or a new discovery, is to visit the local markets, and Iran bazaars were just about to become my favorite photography subject in the Islamic Republic. Many studies have been carried out about Iran bazaars, and the reason why they never fail to capture my attention is that nowhere like around these simple and picturesque shops can you find people from all walks of life, coming from different districts and belonging to different social and cultural layers interact with each other and exchange goods, words, greetings and tips.
Needless to say, Iran bazaars were a feast of colors, fragrances, flavors, spices, herbs, blue decorations and, wait for it, carpets.
During my hectic two-week trip to Iran I visited many cities, and in each of them the local bazaar was among the first attractions I delved into. Here is an initial round-up of the local markets I visited in five of the main cities I’ve been to, in the wait for a full post and more photos for each of them, to discover their history, their role in the community and the goodies on sale.
Tehran Grand Bazaar
Tehran Grand Bazaar is a huge maze of alleys full of shops, carriages, merchandise and customers. Heart of the city’s economy, it’s believed to play an important role in the whole country’s economic growth, and if you manage to get your way through the crowd, you’ll know why. Definitely a must if you visit the Iranian capital.
Not just the average herb, tea and carpet shops here, Tabriz bazaar is also an important historical place, being the oldest among Iran bazaars, even declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010 for its major role of commercial hub along the famed Silk Road. Operative and famous already in the 13th century, Tabriz bazaar is a fascinating complex of brick buildings and still one of the best places to buy typical Tabriz-style carpets.
Isfahanis have always known how to treat customers and make it easier for visitors to find the adored souvenirs. This is probably why they laid out the city’s bazaar right around Imam Square, the first attraction every tourist explores when in Isfahan. This market, too, is very old, its very first shops dating back to the 11th century nonetheless, and new areas being built gradually during Safavid era.
Shiraz Vakil Bazaar
Shiraz main market, called Bazaar-e Vakil, is located right in the historical center in Darb’e Shahzadeh, near Vakil mosque. Considered a masterpiece of the Zand dynasty, it has brick vaulted walls as its main architectural feature. Persian rugs, herbs, a variety of different teas and the always present khakishir, popular detoxing seed-based drink, are only some of the highlights of Shiraz bazaar.
A lot of blue, termeh, the wonderful silk and wool handwoven fabric traditional from Yazd, goldsmiths and tiles are everywhere in this city’s bazaar. Located betweeh Khan mosque and Khan school, the market is one of the oldest and most interesting sites in Yazd city center. From handmade jewelry to exquisitely painted tiles to precious fabrics, in Yazd too you are bound to fork out good cash.
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If you are going to Iran and need tips on what to wear in the Islamic Republic, check out my post on Iran dress code.