Our cab makes its way through Tehran, and when it gets close to the entrance of the market, the thick traffic makes being in the car useless. We get off, cross the street, and walk the pedestrian street full of people. On our right-hand side, shop after shop selling dried fruits and nuts sometimes piled up in colourful pyramids. When we come to a square, we hear shouting, and discover that there are guys standing above the crowd who are shouting to those below them, while some of them are holding a cell phone. Bystanders explain that these are currency traders: we are looking at the money market of Tehran. We are now at one of the main entrances of the bazaar of Tehran itself. Porters are waiting at the exit for people who have bought bulky or heavy stuff. When we look inside, we see a dense crowd of people in the corridor below us. We take a breath, and go in ourselves.
Before going to the bazaar, and knowing it is a centuries old institution on a spot where some kind of trading has probably been going on for thousands of years, I had this image of an old marketplace. Reality is, however, that the bazaar has been growing rapidly, and many of the added parts are relatively new. The shops also look quite modern, and many of them sell Made in China plastic products, instead of the handmade quality goods that I somehow expected. The bazaar is divided into different sections, each for one type of goods. Virtually anything you can think of can be found here. There are lanes just with piles of cloth, neatly stacked, and around the corner, you might walk into a lane with kitchenware. Then we walk through the inevitable section of Persian carpets, where many guys are trying to lure us into their shops, but we manage to stay clear of them, and continue walking around.
Nearly all of the bazaar is covered, with holes in the ceiling through which light falls from the sky, acting like beams. When we see an opening on our left, we walk out into an open courtyard on which a mosque with a mirror-filled vault stands. We return to the maze of corridors and lanes, walk past many stalls and shops. Some corridors are full of people, and men pushing their carts filled with heavy loads through the masses, so it is always wise to keep an eye out for them, as they never stop. When we see daylight coming in again, we walk out into a large square with a fountain in the middle, on which sits an old mosque with slender minarets, flanking a curious, circular clocktower in the middle. The big arch is decorated with green and blue mosaics with floral motifs. People wash their feet before going in, black-veiled women sail by for prayer, and we just stand still and watch. Deeper into the bazaar, we get to the leather section, the gold and silver section, the hair section - it seems endless. We start making our way back to where we began, taking another route. So much more to explore - it will have to wait for a next visit.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tehran Bazaar (Iran). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tehran Bazaar. Read more about this site.