One of the most renowned stops along the Silk Road, the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex is a testament to the centuries-long exchange of wealth between East and West. The Bazaar is located in the city center of Tabriz and was an incredibly important destination for the exchange of goods and cultures from the 12th century to the 18th century. Although it’s one of the oldest in the Middle East, it’s still a bustling bazaar that harks back to the business and grandeur of the traditional medieval Iranian marketplace.
Tabriz and its bazaar were already prosperous and famous in the 13th century when the town became a capital city. At a convenient meeting point on the Silk Road, it brought together people from all walks of life, with visitors from around the world coming to buy, sell, and trade goods of cultural importance. Even explorer Marco Polo is said to have described it as one of the richest trading centers in the world when he passed through around 1275.
Across the sprawling indoor site, the bazaar consists of 27 sub-bazaars relating to different goods and services. For instance, there are coppersmith products in one, carpets and rugs in another, plus fabric, jewelry, shoes, spices, and more. With high domes, arches, and interconnected brick structures, it can feel like a small city. So perhaps it’s no surprise to discover the complex even has mosques, health clinics, and houses within its boundaries.
Today, it stands as an outstanding example of an integrated multi-functional urban complex in which the connected architectural structures and spaces have been shaped by commercial activities. It is the largest covered bazaar in the Middle East and one of the oldest, bearing a role in the prosperity of handwoven carpets across the province.
The integrity of the bazaar’s frontage and interior remains true to their 18th-century conditions. Moreover, the integrity of the activities that occur within the bazaar’s walls remains true to life here between the 12th and 18th centuries. The preservation of not only structure, but also of intent, marks the bazaar as a site of unique cultural heritage. It is, by its very essence, an honest attempt at the reconstruction of a medieval Iranian past.