Bazaar of Isfahan
By: Mohammad Gharipour, 12 December 2003
D- 2. Inner Organization of the Bazaar (senf)
All the retailers in the bazaar are grouped according to their wares in separate quarters of the market. "senf" in Persian means a number of people who are involved with the same kind of business or craft in a bazaar. Usually in markets in the Islamic countries, such as the bazaar of Isfahan, these groups of traders with the same craft or business were located in one place. This way, it was very easy for people to find the best products with the best price in a place in a short time. There were several senf in the bazaar of Isfahan, such as coppersmiths, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and dryers.
|Figure 11: Linear growth of Bazaar in the Saljuqid era
The distribution of jobs in the bazaar was based on the following factors:
- Attraction of products: For example artist's shops were located in the Naghsh-e-Jahan square, because of the high number of tourists who preferred to buy there.
- Providing security: For example gold merchants were strategically situated close to the Friday mosque (Masjed-e Jame) in the central part of the city to provide the best security for them. Groceries were located in more far off areas.
- Compatibility of businesses: The more compatible crafts were located in the same area, for example cereal shops and spice shop.
- Incompatibility of crafts: The crafts with less compatibility were located in separate parts, for example Blacksmiths and druggists.
|Figure 12: The structure of Bazaar in the Safavid part
The aims of establishing senf are:
The gradation of members in every senf was usually based on their experience. In the bazaar of Isfahan, the chief of each senf, called kadkhoda, was elected. Also in every bazaar there were some other positions, called mohtaseb, who were responsible for keeping order in the bazaar. Mohtaseb roamed the bazaar to remind sellers to be honest and fair and also to investigate to clients' complaints about any cheating in trades or the quality of goods. Four important regulations, which should be controlled by the mohtaseb, were cleanliness, noise, crowding of people, and movement of animals in the bazaar.
- Craft examination of everybody who wanted to start a business or craft in bazaar i.e., control over, which merchants were allowed to sell at the bazaar.
- Checking the quality of products before selling them, i.e., control over the quality of what is sold.
- Creation of support of the benefits of all members as well as customers. It was a set of support in every senf for all the members and also a kind of support for unsatisfied buyers who had complaints about any of the shopkeepers.
- Preservation of cleanliness in every part of bazaar by provision of cleaning crews or making sure that the shopkeepers did it themselves.
D- 3. Structure (Sub-spaces of Bazaar)
D- 3. a. Main Street (Raste)
|Figure 13: A raste in the old Bazaar
The primary movement system of the bazaar forms a central linear circulation space, called raste, splendidly domed throughout its length, parallel to which on both sides run the small regular dependent spaces of shops. Between them, at frequent intervals, arched entrances lead to the larger spaces-caravanserais, colleges, bathhouses, shrines, mosques and stores, all tightly connected to the central spine yet each a separate, self-contained world. The intersection of two rastes is called chaharsuq.
The main raste in the bazaar starts from the main entrance of the Bazaar in Naghsh-e-Jahan square, called qaisarya, and stretches into the old square. Several peripheral rastes connect to the main street. These peripheral rastes act as small bazaars for similar products, such as raste for shoemakers.
The raste also connects neighborhood residential areas to the bazaar. Through these residential alleys the bazaar is connected to the whole of the city. The number of these routes (raste) depends on the development of trade at different areas.
Being closer to the main street always increases the value of peripheral routes. These peripheral rastes are in an organic form in the old part of bazaar and in a designed form in the Safavid bazaar. While the space of the organic Bazaar is irregular in all directions, the second is characterized by domed structural bays, which are rhythmically organized.
|Figure 14: Different kinds of raste
It should be noted that after Safavid the Bazaar developed in an east-west axis, instead of the previous north-south axis. It was basically because of the commercial and tourism values of Chaharbagh Street in Isfahan. It is believed that some of the rastes and caravanserais of bazaar are added in the later ages based on the commands of some local governors.
|Figure 15: A corridor between caravanserai and raste
||Figure 16: A chaharsuq
Almost all parts of the raste in the Bazaar are roofed. In some areas close to the old square temporary non-wooden roofs are applied, but most of the Bazaar is roofed by vaulted brick roofs. The height of the roof differs in different parts of the Bazaar. In some places, like in front of qaisariya and madrasa or mosques and in the chaharsuq (intersection of two rastes) the roof is higher than other areas to highlight the importance of these spaces.
- ibid: 26.
- Evidence shows that there were some sorts of senf in eastern Rome in ancient eras as well as Sassanid empire. In these societies, merchants were one of the important classes of the society. Some researchers believe that the importance of senf was highly increased after Ismailid in the tenth century, in which the society was completely divided into senfs. (Iraj Porushani, "Bazaar", Encyclopedia of the Islamic world, 1995: 346.)
- The Muslim researcher, Ibn-e-ekhvah, who had visited Isfahan in the tenth century A.D. mentioned that there were seventy seven senf in the bazaar. (Ibn Ikhvah, Maalem al'ghorbat fi Ahkame'l hasba. Translated into Persian by Jafar Shoar, Ketab Publications, Tehran, 1980: 60.)
- Hosein Soltanzade, Iranian Bazaars, Cultural Research Bureau Publication, 2001: 42.
- Iraj Porushani, "Bazaar", Encyclopedia of the Islamic world, 1995: 305.
- A type of police force within the bazaar.
- Masoud Kheirabadi, Iranian Cities, Syracuse University Press, New York, 2000: 50.
- "Chahar-suq" means "four bazaars" in Persian. Because it is a center from which four different markets extend.
- This qaisariya is an urban space, which is surrounded by an open space from one side and closed on the other three sides. It acts as a small square. We should not confuse this qaysariya with its main meaning, which is a small bazaar and is explained in this paper.
- The width of the main raste is about seven meters and in peripheral raste something between four and five meters.
- These lateral raste are named based on the kind of trade or under the name of persons who had established them. For example "the raste for shoemakers".
- Klaus Herdeg, Formal Structure in Islamic Architecture of Iran and Turkistan, Rizolli Publications, 1990: 31.
- Chaharbagh is stretched parallel to the main street of bazaar from south of Isfahan to north.
- Hosein Soltanzade, Iranian Bazaars, Cultural Research Bureau Publication, 2001: 62.