A bazaar is a permanently enclosed marketplace or street where goods and services are exchanged or sold. The term originates from the Persian word bāzār. The term bazaar is sometimes also used to refer to the "network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen" who work in that area. Although the current meaning of the word is believed to have originated in Persia, its use has spread and now has been accepted into the vernacular in countries around the world. In Bahasa Indonesia, the word pasar means "market." The capital of Bali province, in Indonesia, is Denpasar, which means "north market." Souq is another word used in West Asia and North Africa for an open-air marketplace or commercial quarter.

Evidence for the existence of bazaars dates to around 3,000 BCE. Although the lack of archaeological evidence has limited detailed studies of the evolution of bazaars, indications suggest that they initially developed outside city walls where they were often associated with servicing the needs of caravanserai. As towns and cities became more populous, these bazaars moved into the city center and developed in a linear pattern along streets stretching from one city gate to another gate on the opposite side of the city. Over time, these bazaars formed a network of trading centres which allowed for the exchange of produce and information. The rise of large bazaars and stock trading centres in the Muslim world allowed the creation of new capitals and eventually new empires. New and wealthy cities such as Isfahan, Golconda, Samarkand, Cairo, Baghdad and Timbuktu were founded along trade routes and bazaars. Street markets are the European and North American equivalents.

Shopping at a bazaar or market-place remains a central feature of daily life in many Middle-Eastern and South Asian cities and towns and the bazaar remains the "beating heart" of West Asian cities and South Asian life. A number of bazaar districts have been listed as World Heritage sites due to their historical and/or architectural significance. Visiting a bazaar or souq has also become a popular tourist pastime.

Etymology and usage

The origin of the word bazaar comes from Persian bāzār.[1][2] from Middle Persian wāzār,[3] from Old Persian vāčar,[4] from Proto-Indo-Iranian *wahā-čarana.[5] The term, bazaar, spread from Persia into Arabia and ultimately throughout the Middle East.[6]

In North America, the United Kingdom and some other European countries, the term charity bazaar can be used as a synonym for a "rummage sale", to describe charity fundraising events held by churches or other community organisations in which either donated used goods (such as books, clothes and household items) or new and handcrafted (or home-baked) goods are sold for low prices, as at a church or other organisation's Christmas bazaar, for example.

Although Turkey offers many famous markets known as "bazaars" in English, the Turkish word "pazar" refers to an outdoor market held at regular intervals, not a permanent structure containing shops. English place names usually translate "çarşı" (shopping district) as "bazaar" when they refer to an area with covered streets or passages. For example, the Turkish name for the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is "Kapalıçarşı" (gated shopping area), while the Spice Bazaar is the "Mısır Çarşısı" (Egyptian shopping area). The Arabic term, souk (souq or suk) is a synonym for bazaar in Arab-speaking countries.

Brief history

Bazaars originated in the Middle East, probably in Persia. Pourjafara et al., point to historical records documenting the concept of a bazaar as early as 3000 BC.[7] By the 4th century (CE), a network of bazaars had sprung up alongside ancient caravan trade routes. Bazaars were typically situated in close proximity to ruling palaces, citadels or mosques, not only because the city afforded traders some protection, but also because palaces and cities generated substantial demand for goods and services.[8] Bazaars located along these trade routes, formed networks, linking major cities with each other and in which goods, culture, people and information could be exchanged.[9]

The Greek historian, Herodotus, noted that in Egypt, roles were reversed compared with other cultures and Egyptian women frequented the market and carried on trade, while the men remain at home weaving cloth.[10] He also described The Babylonian Marriage Market.[11]

Prior to the 10th century, bazaars were situated on the perimeter of the city or just outside the city walls. Along the major trade routes, bazaars were associated with the caravanserai. From around the 10th century, bazaars and market places were gradually integrated within the city limits. The typical bazaar was a covered area where traders could buy and sell with some protection from the elements.[12] Over the centuries, the buildings that housed bazaars became larger and more elaborate. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is often cited as the world's oldest continuously-operating, purpose-built market; its construction began in 1455.

City bazaars occupied a series of alleys along the length of the city, typically stretching from one city gate to a different gate on the other side of the city. The Bazaar of Tabriz, for example, stretches along 1.5 kilometres of street and is the longest vaulted bazaar in the world.[13] Moosavi argues that the Middle-Eastern bazaar evolved in a linear pattern, whereas the market places of the West were more centralised.[14]

In pre-Islamic Arabia, two types of bazaar existed: permanent urban markets and temporary seasonal markets. The temporary seasonal markets were held at specific times of the year and became associated with particular types of produce. Suq Hijr in Bahrain was noted for its dates while Suq 'Adan was known for its spices and perfumes. In spite of the centrality of the Middle East in the history of bazaars, relatively little is known due to the lack of archaeological evidence. However, documentary sources point to permanent marketplaces in cities from as early as 550 BCE.[15]

Nejad has made a detailed study of early bazaars in Iran and identifies two distinct types, based on their place within the economy, namely:[16]

* Commercial bazaars (or retail bazaars): emerged as part of an urban economy not based on a merchant system
* Socio-commercial bazaars: formed in economies based on a merchant system, socio-economic bazaars are situated on major trade routes and are well integrated into the city's structural and spatial systems

In the 1840s, Charles White described the Yessir Bazary of Constantinople in the following terms:[17]

"The interior consists of an irregular quadrangle. In the center is a detached building, the upper portion serving as a lodging for slavedealers, and underneath are cells for newly imported slaves. To this is attached a coffee-house, and near to it a half-ruined mosque. Around the three habitable sides of the court runs an open colonnade, supported by wooden columns, and approached by steps at an angle. Under the colonnade are platforms, separated from each other by low railings and benches. Upon these, dealers and customers may be seen during business hours smoking and discussing prices.
Behind these platforms are ranges of small chambers, divided into two compartments by a trellice-work. The habitable part is raised about three feet from the ground; the remainder serves as passage and cooking place. The front portion is generally tenanted by black, and the rear by white slaves. These chambers are exclusively devoted to females. Those to the north and west are destined for second hand negresses or white women – that is, for slaves who have been previously purchased and instructed, and are sent to be resold. The hovels to the east are reserved for newly imported negresses, or black and white women of low price.
The platforms are divided from the chambers by a narrow alley, on the wall side of which are benches, where women are exposed for sale. This alley serves as a passage of communication and walk for the brokers, who sell slaves by auction and on commission. In this case, the brokers walk around, followed by the slaves, and announce the price offered. Purchasers, seated on the platforms, then examine, question and bid, as suits their fancy, until at length the woman is sold or withdrawn."

21st century

In the Middle East, the bazaar is considered to be "the beating heart of the city and a symbol of Islamic architecture and culture of high significance."[18] Today, bazaars are popular sites for tourists and some of these ancient bazaars have been listed as world heritage sites or national monuments on the basis of their historical, cultural or architectural value.

The Medina of Fez, Morocco, with its labyrinthine covered market streets was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.[19] Al-Madina Souq is part of the ancient city of Aleppo, another UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.[20] The Bazaar complex at Tabriz, Iran was listed in 2010.[21] The Bazaar of Qaisiyariye in Lar, Iran is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.[22]

In art and literature

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans conquered and excavated parts of North Africa and the Levant. These regions now make up what is called the Middle East, but in the past were known as the Orient. Europeans sharply divided peoples into two broad groups – the European West and the East or Orient; us and the other. Europeans often saw Orientals as the opposite of Western civilisation; the peoples could be threatening- they were "despotic, static and irrational whereas Europe was viewed as democratic, dynamic and rational."[23] At the same time, the Orient was seen as exotic, mysterious, a place of fables and beauty. This fascination with the other gave rise to a genre of painting known as Orientalism. Artists focused on the exotic beauty of the land – the markets, caravans and snake charmers. Islamic architecture also became favorite subject matter. European society generally frowned on nude painting – but harems, concubines and slave markets, presented as quasi-documentary works, satisfied European desires for pornographic art. The Oriental female wearing a veil was a particularly tempting subject because she was hidden from view, adding to her mysterious allure.[24]

French painter Jean-Étienne Liotard visited Istanbul in the 17th century and painted pastels of Turkish domestic scenes. British painter John Frederick Lewis who lived for several years in a traditional mansion in Cairo, painted highly detailed works showing realistic genre scenes of Middle Eastern life. Edwin Lord Weeks was a notable American example of a 19th-century artist and author in the Orientalism genre. His parents were wealthy tea and spice merchants who were able to fund his travels and interest in painting. In 1895 Weeks wrote and illustrated a book of travels titled From the Black Sea through Persia and India. Other notable painters in the Orientalist genre who included scenes of street life and market-based trade in their work are Jean-Léon Gérôme Delacroix (1824–1904), Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (1803–1860), Frederic Leighton (1830–1896), Eugène Alexis Girardet 1853–1907 and William Holman Hunt (1827–1910), who all found inspiration in Oriental street scenes, trading and commerce.[25]

A proliferation of both Oriental fiction and travel writing occurred during the early modern period.[26] British Romantic literature in the Orientalism tradition has its origins in the early eighteenth century, with the first translations of The Arabian Nights (translated into English from the French in 1705–08). The popularity of this work inspired authors to develop a new genre, the Oriental tale. Samuel Johnson's History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, (1759) is mid-century example of the genre.[27] Byron's Oriental Tales, is another example of the Romantic Orientalism genre.[28]

Many English visitors to the Orient wrote narratives around their travels. Although these works were purportedly non-fiction, they were notoriously unreliable. Many of these accounts provided detailed descriptions of market places, trading and commerce.[29] Examples of travel writing include: Les Mysteres de L'Egypte Devoiles by Olympe Audouard published in 1865[30] and Jacques Majorelle's Road Trip Diary of a Painter in the Atlas and the Anti-Atlas published in 1922[31]



In Albania, two distinct types of bazaar can be found; Bedesten (also known as bezistan, bezisten, bedesten) which refers to a covered bazaar and an open bazaar.


  • Ingleburn Bazaar (held annually during the Ingleburn Festival)




In Bangladesh, a Haat bazaar (also known as hat or haat or hatt) refers to a regular produce market, typically held once or twice per week.[32]

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Hong Kong

  • Harbour City Bazaar
  • Petit Bazaar



In India, and also Pakistan, a town or city's main market is known as a Saddar Bazaar.

Border bazaars

These are mutually agreed border bazaars and haats of India on borders of India with its neighbours.


Bangalore, Karnataka

Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Delhi and NCR

In Delhi
In National Capital Region (NCR)

Hyderabad, Telangana


Jaipur, Rajasthan

Kerala, Keralam

Kolkata, West Bengal

Mumbai, Maharashtra

Munger, Bihar


Punjab, India

Uttar Pradesh





    • Souq Almubarikiyya * Souq Avenues


    A Qaysari Bazaar is a type of covered bazaar typical of Iraq.



    After sustaining irreparable damage during the country's civil war, Beirut's ancient souks have been completely modernised and rebuilt while maintaining the original ancient Greek street grid, major landmarks and street names.


    In the Balkans, the term, 'Bedesten' is used to describe a covered market or bazaar.


    • Bukit Beruang Bazaar, Malacca
    • Bazar Bukakbonet Gelang Patah, Johor Bahru




    Hyderabad, Pakistan





    Punjab, Pakistan




    South Africa

    Sri Lanka


    • Al-Buzuriyah Souq in Damascus
    • Al-Hamidiyah Souq in Damascus
    • Souq Atwail in Damascus
    • Souq Al Buzria in Damascus
    • Mathaf Al Sulimani in Damascus
    • Midhat Pasha Souq in Damascus
    • Souq Al-Attareen (Perfumers' Souq) in Aleppo
    • Souq Khan Al-Nahhaseen (Coopery Souq) in Aleppo
    • Souq Al-Haddadeen (Blacksmiths' Souq) in Aleppo
    • Suq Al-Saboun (Soap Souq) in Aleppo
    • Suq Al-Atiq (the Old Souq) in Aleppo
    • Al-Suweiqa (Suweiqa means "small souq" in Arabic) in Aleppo
    • Suq Al-Hokedun (Hokedun means "spiritual house" in Armenian) in Aleppo





    In Turkey, the term 'bazaars' is used in the English sense, to refer to a covered market place. In Turkish the term for bazaar is "çarşı."



    See also


    1. "bazaar - Origin and meaning of bazaar by Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
    2. Ayto, John (1 January 2009). Word Origins. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-4081-0160-5.
    3. Daryaee, Touraj (16 February 2012). The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History. Oxford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-19-973215-9.
    4. "Bazaar"., LLC. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
    5. Benveniste, Émile; Lallot, Jean (1 January 1973). "Chapter Nine: Two Ways of Buying". Indo-European Language and Society. University of Miami Press. Section Three: Purchase. ISBN 978-0-87024-250-2.
    6. Encyclopedia Britannica,
    7. Pourjafara, M., Aminib, M., Varzanehc, and Mahdavinejada, M., "Role of bazaars as a unifying factor in traditional cities of Iran: The Isfahan bazaar," Frontiers of Architectural Research, Vol. 3, No. 1, March 2014,, pp 10–19; Mehdipour, H.R.N, "Persian Bazaar and Its Impact on Evolution of Historic Urban Cores: The Case of Isfahan," The Macrotheme Review [A multidisciplinary Journal of Global Macro Trends], Vol. 2, no. 5, 2013, p.13
    8. Harris, K., "The Bazaar" The United States Institute of Peace, <Online:>
    9. Hanachi, P. and Yadollah, S., "Tabriz Historical Bazaar in the Context of Change," ICOMOS Conference Proceedings, Paris, 2011
    10. Thamis, "Herodotus on the Egyptians." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 18 Jan 2012. Web. 20 Aug 2017.
    11. Herodotus: The History of Herodotus, Book I (The Babylonians), c. 440BC, translated by G.C. Macaulay, c. 1890
    12. Gharipour, M., "The Culture and Politics of Commerce," in The Bazaar in the Islamic City: Design, Culture, and History, Mohammad Gharipour (ed.), New York, The American University in Cairo Press, 2012 pp 14–15
    13. Mehdipour, H.R.N, "Persian Bazaar and Its Impact on Evolution of Historic Urban Cores: The Case of Isfahan," The Macrotheme Review [A multidisciplinary Journal of Global Macro Trends], Vol. 2, no. 5, 2013, p.14
    14. Moosavi, M. S. Bazaar and its Role in the Development of Iranian Traditional Cities [Working Paper], Tabriz Azad University, Iran, 2006
    15. Gharipour, M., "The Culture and Politics of Commerce," in The Bazaar in the Islamic City: Design, Culture, and History, Mohammad Gharipour (ed.), New York, The American University in Cairo Press, 2012, pp 4–5
    16. Nejad, R. M., “Social bazaar and commercial bazaar: comparative study of spatial role of Iranian bazaar in the historical cities in different socio-economical context,” 5th International Space Syntax Symposium Proceedings, Netherlands: Techne Press, D., 2005,
    17. Cited in: Stewart, F., Shackles of Iron: Slavery Beyond the Atlantic: Critical Themes in World History, 2016
    18. Karimi, M., Moradi, E. and Mehr, R., "Bazaar, As a Symbol of Culture and the Architecture of Commercial Spaces in Iranian-Islamic Civilization,"
    19. UNESCO, Medina of Fez,
    20. "eAleppo:Aleppo city major plans throughout the history" (in Arabic).
    21. UNESCO, Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex,
    22. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Bazaar of Qaisariye in Laar - UNESCO World Heritage Centre".
    23. Nanda, S. and Warms, E.L., Cultural Anthropology, Cengage Learning, 2010, p. 330
    24. Nanda, S. and Warms, E.L., Cultural Anthropology, Cengage Learning, 2010, pp 330–331
    25. Davies, K., Orientalists: Western Artists in Arabia, the Sahara, Persia, New York, Laynfaroh, 2005; Meagher, J., "Orientalism in Nineteenth-Century Art," [The Metropolitan Museum of Art Essay], Online:
    26. Houston, C., New Worlds Reflected: Travel and Utopia in the Early Modern Period, Routledge, 2016
    27. "The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Age: Topic 4: Overview".
    28. Kidwai, A.R., Literary Orientalism: A Companion, New Delhi, Viva Books, 2009, ISBN 978-813091264-6
    29. MacLean, G., The Rise of Oriental Travel: English Visitors to the Ottoman Empire, 1580–1720, Palgrave, 2004, p. 6
    30. Audouard, O. (de Jouval), Les Mystères de l'Égypte Dévoilés, (French Edition) (originally published in 1865), Elibron Classics, 2006
    31. Marcilhac, F., La Vie et l'Oeuvre de Jacques Majorelle: 1886–1962, [The Orientalists Volume 7], ARC Internationale edition, 1988.
    32. Crow, B., Markets, Class and Social Change: Trading Networks and Poverty in Rural South Asia, Palgrave, 2001, [Glossary] p. xvii
    33. Ahour, I., which dates to saljuqid era 11th century. its extension occurred in the safavid and kajar era. It is the largest roofed bazaar of the world. "The Qualities of Tabriz Historical Bazaar in Urban Planning and the Integration of its Potentials into Megamalls," Journal of Geography and Regional Planning, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 199–215, 2011, and for a contemporary account of the Bazaar see: Le Montagner, B., "Strolling through Iran's Tabriz Bazaar," The Guardian, 12 November 2014 Montagner, Boris Le (12 November 2014). "Strolling through Iran's Tabriz bazaar - in pictures". The Guardian.
    34. Assari, A., Mahesh, T.M., Emtehani, M.E. and Assari, E., "Comparative Sustainability of Bazaar in Iranian Traditional Cities: Case Studies of Isfahan and Tabriz," International Journal on "Technical and Physical Problems of Engineering", Vol. 3, no. 9, 2011, pp 18–24; Iran Chamber of Commerce,"Iran: Iranian Architecture and Monuments: Bazaar of Isfahan".
    35. Kashif Abbasi (14 January 2014). "Reacquainting with history: Narankari - a bazaar with a past, but no future | The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune.
    36. "Bazaars of Uzbekistan". Retrieved 2013-06-10.

    Further reading

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