"Souq" redirects here. For the city in Iran of a similar name, see Suq, Iran
. For the village in Iran of a similar name, see Shuk, Iran
. For the online retailer, see Amazon.ae
, is a permanently enclosed marketplace
or street where goods and services are exchanged or sold.
Carpet Merchant in the Khan el Khaleel, from Georg Ebers, Egypt: Descriptive, Historical, and Picturesque, Vol. 1, Cassell & Company, New York, 1878
The term bazaar originates from the Persian
. The term bazaar is sometimes also used to refer to the "network of merchants
" who work in that area. Although the word "bazaar" is of Persian
origin, its use has spread and now has been accepted into the vernacular in countries around the world.
The term souk
, Syriac: ܫܘܩܐ
: zoco, also spelled souq
) is used in Western Asian, North African and some Horn African cities (Amharic
: ሱቅ sooq).
Evidence for the existence of bazaars or souks 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. Souks became covered walkways. 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
were founded along trade routes and bazaars. Street markets
are the European and North American equivalents.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Western interest in Oriental culture led to the publication of many books about daily life in Middle Eastern countries. Souks, bazaars and the trappings of trade feature prominently in paintings and engravings, works of fiction and travel writing.
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 and South Asian life; in the Middle East, souks tend to be found in a city's medina (old quarter). Bazaars and souks are often important tourist attractions. A number of bazaar districts have been listed as World Heritage sites due to their historical and/or architectural significance.
Terminology by region
In general a souk is synonymous with a bazaar or marketplace
, and the term souk
is used in Arabic-speaking countries.
Souk in Amman
Differing meanings of “bazaar”
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.
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 word "bazar" means second-hand shop
. "Autobazar" is a shop which purchases and sells pre-owned cars.
Souk in Dubai, the Deira Souks
The Arabic word is a loan from Aramaic
"šūqā" (“street, market”), itself a loanword from the Akkadian
"sūqu" (“street”, from "sāqu", meaning “narrow”). The spelling souk
entered European languages probably through French during the French occupation of the Arab countries Morocco
, and Tunisia
in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus, the word "souk" most likely refers to Arabic/North African traditional markets
. Other spellings of this word involving the letter "Q" (sooq, souq, and so'oq) were likely developed using English and thus refer to Western Asian/Arab traditional markets, as British colonialism was present there during the 19th and 20th centuries.
In Modern Standard Arabic
the term al-sooq
refers to markets in both the physical sense and the abstract economic
sense (e.g., an Arabic-speaker would speak of the sooq
in the old city as well as the sooq
for oil, and would call the concept of the free market السوق الحرّ
In the Indian subcontinent
the corruption 'chowk' is often used in place of souk. The term is used generally to designate the market
in any Western Asian city, but may also be used in Western cities, particularly those with a Muslim community.
, the terms suq
and sometimes monti
are used for a marketplace.
In the United States, especially in Southern California and Nevada, an indoor swap meet
is a type of bazaar, i.e. a permanent, indoor shopping center open during normal retail hours, with fixed "booths" or counters for the vendors.
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 3001 BC.
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.
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.
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.
He also described The Babylonian Marriage Market
Documentary sources point to permanent marketplaces in Middle Eastern cities from as early as 550 BCE.
A souk was originally an open-air marketplace. Historically, souks were held outside cities at locations where incoming caravans stopped and merchants displayed their goods for sale. Souks were established at caravanserai
, places where a caravan or caravans arrived and remained for rest and refreshments. Since this might be infrequent, souks often extended beyond buying and selling goods to include major festivals involving various cultural and social activities. Any souk may serve a social function as being a place for people to meet in, in addition to its commercial function.
These souks or bazaars formed networks, linking major cities with each other in which goods, culture, people and information could be exchanged.
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.
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, one of the biggest and continuously-operating, purpose-built market; its construction began in 1455.
From the 10th century to modern times
From around the 10th century, as major cities increased in size, the souk or marketplace shifted to the center of urban cities where it spread out along the city streets, typically in a linear pattern.
Around this time, permanent souks also became covered marketplaces.
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.
Moosavi argues that the Middle-Eastern bazaar evolved in a linear pattern, whereas the market places of the West were more centralised.
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.
Nejad has made a detailed study of early bazaars in Iran and identifies two distinct types, based on their place within the economy, namely:
* Commercial bazaars
(or retail bazaars): emerged as part of an urban economy not based on a merchant
* 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:
"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."
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."
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.
Cayenne peppers at a Souk in Yemen, the Souk Al Milh
A temporary, seasonal souk is held at a set time that might be yearly, monthly or weekly. The oldest souks were set up annually, and were typically general festivals held outside cities. For example, Souk Ukadh was held yearly in pre-Islamic times in an area between Mecca
during the sacred month of Dhu al-Qi'dah
. While a busy market, it was more famous for its poetry competitions, judged by prominent poets such as Al-Khansa
. An example of an Islamic annual souk is Al Mirbid
just outside Basra
, also famed for its poetry competitions in addition to its storytelling activities.
Temporary souks tended to become known for specific types of produce. For example, Suq Hijr in Bahrain was noted for its dates while Suq 'Adan was known for its spices and perfumes.
Political, economic and social changes have left only the small seasonal souks outside villages and small towns, primarily selling livestock and agricultural products.
Weekly markets have continued to function throughout the Arab world. Most of them are named from the day of the week on which they are held. They usually have open spaces specifically designated for their use inside cities. Examples of surviving markets are the Wednesday Market in Amman
that specializes in the sale of used products, the Ghazl
market held every Friday in Baghdad
specializing in pets; the Fina’ Market in Marrakech
offers performance acts such as singing, music, acrobats and circus activities.
In tribal areas, where seasonal souks operated, neutrality from tribal conflicts was usually declared for the period of operation of a souk to permit the unhampered exchange of surplus goods. Some of the seasonal markets were held at specific times of the year and became associated with particular types of produce such as Suq Hijr in Bahrain, noted for its dates while Suq 'Adan was known for its spices and perfumes. In spite of the centrality of the Middle Eastern market place, relatively little is known due to the lack of archaeological evidence.
Permanent souks are more commonly occurring, but less renowned as they focus on commercial activity, not entertainment. Until the Umayyad
era, permanent souks were merely an open space where merchants would bring in their movable stalls during the day and remove them at night; no one had a right to specific pitch and it was usually first-come first-served. During the Umayyad era the governments started leasing, and then selling, sites to merchants. Merchants then built shops on their sites to store their goods at night. Finally, the area comprising a souk might be roofed over. With its long and narrow alleys, al-Madina Souk is the largest covered historic market in the world, with an approximate length of 13 kilometers.
Al-Madina Souk is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo
, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mule moving goods around in the car-free Medina quarter, Fes
Gharipour has pointed out that in spite of the centrality of souks and bazaars in Middle Eastern history, relatively little is known due to the lack of archaeological evidence.
Souks are traditionally divided into specialized sections dealing in specific types of product, in the case of permanent souks each usually housed in a few narrow streets and named after the product it specializes in such as the gold souk
, the fabric souk, the spice souk, the leather souk, the copy souk (for books), etc. This promotes competition among sellers and helps buyers easily compare prices.
Though each neighbourhood within the city would have a local Souk selling food and other essentials, the main souk was one of the central structures of a large city, selling durable goods, luxuries and providing services such as money exchange. Workshops where goods for sale are produced (in the case of a merchant selling locally-made products) are typically located away from the souk itself. The souk was a level of municipal administration. The Muhtasib
was responsible for supervising business practices and collecting taxes for a given souk while the Arif are the overseers for a specific trade.
Shopping at a souk or market place is part of daily life throughout much of the Middle East.
Prices are commonly set by bargaining
, also known as haggling, between buyers and sellers.
In art and literature – Orientalism
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
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."
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
. A proliferation of both Oriental fiction and travel writing occurred during the early modern period.
Many of these works were lavishly illustrated with engravings of every day scenes of Oriental lifestyles, including scenes of market places and market trade.
Artists focused on the exotic beauty of the land – the markets, caravans and snake charmers. Islamic architecture also became favorite subject matter. Some of these works were propaganda designed to justify European imperialism in the East, however many artists relied heavily on their everyday experiences for inspiration in their artworks.
For example, Charles D'Oyly
, who was born in India, published the Antiquities of Dacca
featuring a series of 15 engraved plates of Dacca [now Dhaka, Bangladesh] featuring scenes of markets, commerce, buildings and streetscapes.
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.
Notable Orientalist artists
Notable artists in the Orientalist genre include: 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. 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.
A proliferation of both Oriental fiction and travel writing occurred during the early modern period.
Many English visitors to the Orient wrote narratives around their travels. 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.
Byron's Oriental Tales,
is another example of the Romantic Orientalism genre.
Although these works were purportedly non-fiction, they were notoriously unreliable. Many of these accounts provided detailed descriptions of market places, trading and commerce.
Examples of travel writing include: Les Mysteres de L'Egypte Devoiles
by Olympe Audouard
published in 1865
and Jacques Majorelle
's Road Trip Diary of a Painter in the Atlas and the Anti-Atlas
published in 1922
Gallery of paintings and watercolours
- Selected paintings & watercolours with bazaar scenes as subject matter
A Bazaar, Oil painting, Wellcome
The Silk Bazaar by Amedeo Preziosi, late 19th century
Carpet Merchant in the Khan el Khaleel, 1878
Cashmere Travellers in a Street of Delhi by Edwin Lord Weeks 1880
Bazaar of the Coppersmiths by David Roberts, 1838
Bazaar El Moo Ristan, by David Roberts, 1838
The Fruit Merchant, by Eugène Alexis Girardet, late 19th century
Au Souk [At the Souk], by Eugène Alexis Girardet, late 19th century
Dans le Souk aux Cuivres by Nicola Forcella, before 1868
Bazaar by Otto Heyden, 1869
Scenery at a North African Bazaar, by John Gleich
, 20th century
Bazaar with Bagels by Ivan Koulikov, 1910
Marriage Procession in a Bazaar, unknown, 1645
People on the Street of a Bazaar at Midan El-Adaoui from D.S. Margoliouth, Cairo, Jerusalem, & Damascus: three chief cities of the Egyptian Sultans, 1907
A Turkish Bazaar by Amadeo Preziosi, 1854
Figures in the Bazaar Constantinople, by Amedeo Preziosi, 19th century
Shop of a Turkish Merchant in the Soo'ck called Kha'n El-Khalee'lee, 1836
Souk Silah, the Armourers' Bazaar, Cairo, from D.S. Margoliouth, Cairo, Jerusalem, & Damascus: three chief cities of the Egyptian Sultans, 1907
The Bazaar at Constantinople, watercolour by J. F. Lewis
Souk Hamareh, Damascus
by from D.S. Margoliouth
, Cairo, Jerusalem, & Damascus: three chief cities of the Egyptian Sultans,
The Silk Bazaar, Damascus – Australians buying goods, 1918
The Tentmakers' Bazaar, Cairo, 1907
Souk at Tunis, wood engraving by T. Taylor, 1886
The Spice Sellers by Vittorio Amadeo Preziosi, 19th century
Moroccan Market, Rabat, by Edwin Lord Weeks, 1880
The Metalsmiths Shop, Edwin Lord Weeks, late 19th century
Gallery of photographs
Souk entrance in Jerusalem
Covered souks in Bur Dubai
Souk in Tripoli
Leather goods store at the souk in Marrakesh
Assad souk, Syria, 2001
In Al - Hamidiyah Souk Damaskus
Sibil El-Bed Vieh (Souk-el-Selak), Cairo, Egypt
Souk in Tunis
Souk El Mushir Street Tripoli
Souk Khan El-Khalili Street (شارع خان الخليلي), Cairo, Egypt
A Syrian man wearing traditional clothes serving Liquorice juice in Homs Market
The traditional tagine clay pot, used to cook tajine
Souk in Marrakesh
Souk of Marrakesh
Souk in Cairo, Egypt
Souk in Matrah
List of bazaars and souks
Types of markets, bazaars and souks
- Bedesten (also known as bezistan, bezisten, bedesten) refers to a covered bazaar and an open bazaar in the Balkans.
- Gold Souk – a market trading in gold.
- Haat bazaar – (also known as a hat) an open air bazaar or market in South Asia.
- Landa bazaar – a terminal market or market for second hand goods (South Asia), such as Medina quarter.
- Meena Bazaar – a bazaar that raises money for non-profit organisations.
- Pasar malam – a night market in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore that opens in the evening, typically held in the street in residential neighbourhoods.
- Pasar pagi – a morning market, typically a wet market that trades from dawn until midday, found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. A Wet market sells fresh meat, and produce. See also Dry goods.
Markets and retail in general
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- ^ 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
- ^ a b 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,
- ^ Cited in: Stewart, F., Shackles of Iron: Slavery Beyond the Atlantic: Critical Themes in World History, 2016
- ^ Karimi, M., Moradi, E. and Mehr, R., "Bazaar, As a Symbol of Culture and the Architecture of Commercial Spaces in Iranian-Islamic Civilization,"
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- ^ a b "eAleppo:Aleppo city major plans throughout the history" (in Arabic).
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- ^ "Turkey's bazaar added to temporary UNESCO Heritage list". www.aa.com.tr.
- ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Bazaar of Qaisariye in Laar - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". whc.unesco.org.
- ^ 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, p. 4
- ^ a b 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
- ^ "eAleppo: The old Souks of Aleppo (in Arabic)". Esyria.sy. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
- ^ "Doha's Sprawling Souk Enters the Modern Era, The National [UAE edition], 25 February 2011, " https://www.thenational.ae/business/travel-and-tourism/doha-s-sprawling-souk-enters-the-modern-age-1.420872; Ramkumar, E.S., "Eid Shopping Reaches Crescendo," Arab News, 13 October 2007, http://www.arabnews.com/node/304533
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