Tehran Bazaar

Tehran bazaar
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Tehran is the greatest of the Iranian markets. Squat and once black in the heart of the city, like a covered railway station, stand the bazaars in the southern part of Tehran. These bazaars deserve a half-day stroll. Down there you may still smell the spices and the sheepskins, and hear the rich trump of unrolling carpets, unpeeled from the stack like pages of a manuscript. All the faces of Persia may be seen in those arcades: Semite or Mongol, fair or swarthy, swathed in fringed turbans or clamped upon by dowdy trilbies. It is an imperial sort of place: Darius would have liked it.

As well as being one of the biggest of all eastern bazaars, that of Tehran is also among the newest. The bazaar was a city within the city. For many years, it was the focal point of the town. Everything happened there, trading, but also social relations, marriage and politics. It is to be regretted that the bazaar is gradually being abandoned by the more prosperous merchants, who have moved to the northern avenues of the new city, built after the bazaar. Bazaar never closes, except for religious festivals, but it is seen at its most bustling at midday or between five and seven in the evening. Haggle furiously here for anything you like: carpets, tribal jewelry, leather, silks, copper, gold?

Two warnings: go slowly, since the paths are usually watered to prevent dust, but slippery; and keep closely to the right, well away from the center of the passageway to avoid the heavily laden porters who make their way at top speed through the crowd.

Your tour of the Tehran?s 10-km long covered bazaar will begin at Sabzeh Maidan (Green Square). Actually, entrance to bazaar is through several gates, closed and manned by security personnel at nights. The first section, on the east, is devoted to luxury articles, especially watches and jewelry. Beyond these are the carpet dealers. Turn off at right angle to the main street from time to time to enjoy the relative peace of a timcheh or depot in the form of a rectangular courtyard open to the sky, where fountains or small pools alleviate the suffocatingly dry heat of a Tehrani summer afternoon.

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