Tabriz Grand Bazaar Exudes Vitality for 12 Centuries

Tabriz Grand Bazaar Exudes Vitality for 12 Centuries

One of the most important commercial centers on the Silk Road is the grand bazaar of Tabriz, East Azerbaijan. The complex is comprised of a series of interconnected structures, buildings and spaces of various functions, namely commerce and trade, social gatherings, educational activities, and religious practices.
All the spaces are closely interwoven within a single integrated architectural fabric. They were developed over centuries, and made up an exceptional physical, economic, social, political, and religious complex, in which specialized architectural structures, functions, professions, and people from different cultures are integrated in a unique living environment.
Tabriz Grand Bazaar, a prototype of Persian urban planning, played a lasting role in the socio-economical life of Tabriz and the Silk Road. The bazaar is one of the most sustainable socio-economic structures, and its great complexity and articulation attests to the wealth in trade and cultural interaction of Tabriz.

Archaeological evidence bears witness to human occupation of the area corresponding to Tabriz since the Bronze Age. However, this occupation was not continuous until the Iron Age.
In the 9th century AD, Tabriz was an important military base. It was at this time that Tabriz began to flourish as an economic and business center, as stated by the Islamic Development Organization.
The destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 increased the importance of Tabriz as a trading center. In the year when Baghdad was plundered and burned, Sahebabad, the first official and ceremonial square of a considerable size, was created in Tabriz, north of the river Mehranrud. Public buildings were arranged around the vast square, including the bazaars of coppersmiths and camel-herders (Turkish Davachi).
The Davachi bazaar, comprised of 50 domes, was not of course for camel herders; it was where merchants brought commodities on camels.
To serve Silk Road traders, Ghazan Khan, ruler of the Ilkhanate, commissioned numerous buildings, facilities, and caravanserais in Tabriz, his chief administrative center.
Between 1316 and 1331, Tabriz experienced the height of its economic and social life. Travelers such as Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta described it as one of the richest trading centers in the world.
Due to its strategic location, where the safest west-east and south-east routes crossed, and thanks to the policies of endowments and tax exemptions, Tabriz prospered greatly in the 14th and 15th centuries. The city’s cotton, textiles, arms, and potteries were highly regarded.
In January 1502, Tabriz was prosperous enough to entice Shah Ismaeil of Safavid dynasty to seize the city and make it his capital.

  Diversified Trade
In 1548, to make the capital safer from Ottoman threat, it moved to Qazvin, and then to Isfahan. Thus Tabriz lost its administrative centrality, but remained a significant commercial hub until the end of the 17th century, due to growth and diversification of trade in textiles, metallurgy, weapons, tiles, leatherwork, soap, and building materials.
In the last quarter of the 17th century, Tabriz entered a phase of economic depression. Nonetheless, accounts by travelers describe Tabriz as an important trading center in the period.
The 18th century brought political instability due to the Ottoman territorial attempts. In 1780, at the beginning of the Qajar dynasty, an earthquake completely destroyed Tabriz. The city was, however, rapidly rebuilt. This was followed by another earthquake in 1817.
The 19th century saw several changes to the city. The government seat moved from Sahebabad to its present location, south of Mehranrud river, near the A’la Gate. Masjid Jame at the western end of the bazaar was restored; thus bazaar’s central role was maintained.
The central core of Tabriz lies in a rectangular district. The grand bazaar is located in the center of the rectangle. To the east, the bazaar is bounded by Aliqapu royal complex; and to the west of the bazaar lies Masjid Jame. Some parts of the bazaar extend north beyond Mehranrud river over wooden bridges.
In 1871 Mehranrud river flooded and caused extensive damage to the bazaar. In the following years, various spaces were gradually repaired. Mozaffarieh Timche was completed in 1905.
In 1906 Tabriz became the center of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. The bazaar was closed and the people demonstrated against the government.

Over the last thirty years, a number of restorative projects have been carried out on Masjid Jame (the main mosque)  and another historical mosque southeast of the bazaar, called Masjid Kabud (Turkish Goi Masjid, English Blue Mosque). Pol Bazaar (Bridge Bazaar), which had suffered extensive damages, was also restored.
The bazaar still exhibits the design, workmanship, and materials of the period when it was reconstructed after the 1780 earthquake. It still exudes the lively commotion of people selling, buying, or just sightseeing.


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