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Modern portal of the Jameh Mosque in the Bazaar of Tabriz
Tauris (Tabriz) is a great and noble city, situated in a great province called Yrac (the Mongol Ilkhanate of Persia), in which are many other towns and villages. But as Tauris is the most noble I will tell you about it. The men of Tauris get their living by trade and handi crafts, for they weave many kinds of beautiful and valuable stuffs of silk and gold. The city has such a good position that merchandize is brought thither from India, Baudas (Bagdad), Cremesor (the word could mean hot country in Old Persian) and many other regions; and that attracts many Latin merchants, especially Genoese, to buy goods and transact other business there; the more as it is also a great market for precious stones. It is a city in fact where merchants make large profits. The people of the place are themselves poor creatures; and are a great medley of different classes. There are Armenians, Nestorians, Jacobites (members of the Syrian Orthodox Church), Georgians, Persians, and finally the natives of the city themselves, who are worshippers of Mahommet.
The Travels of Marco Polo (between 1271 and 1295) - translated by Henry Yule
The next morning I entered the town and we came to a great bazaar, called the Ghazan bazaar, one of the finest bazaars I have seen the world over. (..) I passed through the jewellers' bazaar, and my eyes were dazzled by the varieties of precious stones that I beheld.
H. A. R. Gibb - Selection from the Travels of Ibn Battuta in 1325-1354
Tauris is really and truly a very large and Potent City: as being the second in Persia (after Isfahan), both in Dignity, in Grandeur, in Riches, in Trade, and in number of Inhabitants.
The Travels of Sir John Chardin into Persia and the East Indies - 1686
Landscape around Tabriz from El Goli Park Hotel
Tauris lyes in an open place where there is not a Tree to be seen and environ'd with Mountains on every side.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier - Travels through Turkey and Persia (1630s-1650s)
Proceeding thus, before we were aware of it, the city of Tabriz, with its gardens, lay stretched before our eyes, with the snow-covered Sahend beyond. The city fills the arena and spreads over the slopes of an amphitheater, formed by red and yellow hills, at the head of a plain, thirty-six miles in length, which reaches down to Lake Urumia. These hills are barren and at first sight unattractive; but as one gets accustomed to Persian scenery they impress one with a beauty of their own.
Samuel Graham Wilson - Persian Life and Customs - 1895
The features of Tabriz are a view of plush-coloured mountains, approached by lemon-coloured foothills; a drinkable white wine and a disgusting beer; several miles of superb brick-vaulted bazaars. (..) There are two monuments: the wreck of the famous Blue Mosque, veneered in fifteenth-century mosaic; and the Ark, or Citadel. (..) Turkish is the only language, except among officials.
Robert Byron - The Road to Oxiana - Macmillan 1937
Ark: (left) eastern tower; (right) brick decoration between the two passages, most likely the mihrab of a mosque
Mosque of Ali-Chah is almost totally ruin'd. Only they have
repair'd the lower part where the People go to Prayers, and
the Tower which is very high, and is the first that discovers itself to the Eye. Chardin
Tabriz is no more the magnificent city described by Chardin: all its large buildings have been destroyed by earthquakes. (..) To the S. W. of the city (enclosed in the ark or fort of Ali Shah, which contains the barracks and magazines) are the remains of another mosque, now converted into a look-out house. This is a conspicuous, but very unseemly object, and to me seemed of little use, and from its height to be the most exposed either to the shock of an earthquake, or to an attack from a battery.
James Justinian Morier - A Journey through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor, to Constantinople, in the years 1808 and 1809 - 1816
The citadel, which is supposed to have been the mosque of Ali Shah, of which nothing now remains but a large square tower, built of brick, about one hundred feet high, is the most prominent object in Tabreez when approaching the city. It is now turned into an arsenal, and was used as a place of execution, criminals being thrown from the summit. A short time ago, however, a woman, who was to be executed for adultery, contrived to arrange her clothes in such a manner, that the wind inflating them broke the force of her fall, and wafted her unhurt into a neighbouring garden, since which time the practice has been discontinued.
William Richard Holmes - Sketches on the Shores of the Caspian - 1845
A relic of still greater antiquity is the ark or citadel, a conspicuous landmark from every approach to the city. (..) Innumerable slabs of marble were used, and the walls were covered with kashee or tiles. "The Mirror of Cities", a Persian text, says "It surpassed in size all buildings in Persia". Through the court a watercourse flowed, and many kinds of trees grew around the mosque. (..) The present ark is probably a part of that mosque. It is popularly called Tagh-i-Ali Shah (the "Arch of Ali Shah"). Wilson
The Ali Shah referred to by travellers was the governor of the town in the first half of the XIVth century during the Ilkhanate rule over Persia.
Tabriz was favored as the seat of royalty by Shah Ismael, the founder of the Safavian dynasty. The interest of this period (1500-1750) in the story of Tabriz centers around the contests between the Ottoman sultans and the Persians for the possession of Azerbaijan. (..) A terrible earthquake in 1725 (1721) destroyed a great part of the city and caused the death of eighty thousand people. Three years afterward, though without walls or cannon, the Persians destroyed an army of twenty-four thousand Ottomans under the pasha of Van. When the sultan sent a greater army against them, they removed their women and children to Ghilan, and waged a bloody contest for days, in which thirty thousand men perished, and the remainder capitulated on condition of being allowed to retire to Ardebil. Tabriz was left without an inhabitant. By an agreement between Turkey and Russia, northern Persia was to be divided between them, and Azerbaijan was about to become a fixed part of the Turkish empire, when the magic prowess of Nader Shah turned the tide of fortune and it became again Persian, and Persian, except during the Russian occupation of 1829, it has remained. But Tabriz's misfortunes were not yet at an end. In 1780 another earthquake ruined fifteen thousand houses and killed forty thousand people. Graham Wilson
Tauris is at this day a great City and well peopl'd, as being the Mart for Turkie, Muscovy, the Indies, and Persia. There are an infinite number of Merchants,
and vast quantities of all sorts of Merchandize. Tavernier
I did not see many Palaces or Magnificent Houses at Tauris. But there are the fairest Bazars that are in any place of Asia. And it is a lovely sight to see their vast Extent, their Largeness, their beautiful Duomo's, and the Arches over 'em; the number of People that are there all the day long, and the vast quantities of Merchandize with which they are fill'd. Chardin
The bazaars are among the finest in the East. "The Mirror of Cities" says that there are five thousand shops in the main bazaars, and fifteen hundred in other parts of the city. (..) From the time of the last earthquake until about twenty-five years ago many of them were rude structures, roofed with timbers. These were removed (..) and extensive brick structures with high-vaulted roofs have replaced them. Wilson
Bazaar: Mozzaffarieh; the image used as background for this page shows a detail of its brick decoration
The arches often span the breadth of thirty feet, and show well the peculiar skill of the Persian in constructing the arch. The best idea of these bazaars can be formed, by one who has never seen them, from the arcades of a European or American city. Light and air are admitted through small skylights. The shops, ranging along between the piers, have about ten or twelve feet frontage, and even less depth. Some have additional rooms for storage. Movable shutters inclose them at night. Wilson
Bazaar: one of its small mosques
Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex, located along one of the most frequented east-west trade routes, consists of a series of interconnected, covered brick structures, buildings, and enclosed spaces for a variety of functions - commercial and trade-related activities, social gatherings, and educational and religious practices. Closely interwoven with the architectural fabric is the social and professional organization of the Bazaar, which has allowed it to function over the centuries and has made it into a single integrated entity. The lasting role of the Tabriz Bazaar is reflected in the layout of its fabric and in the highly diversified and reciprocally integrated architectural buildings and spaces, which have been a prototype for Persian urban planning.
From the UNESCO synthesis of the universal value of the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex which in 2010 was included in the World Heritage List.
Bazaar: (left) another section; (right) door closing a section
We remained at Tabriz four days. During this time we
became acquainted with Mr. Whipple, one of the American
missionaries, who kindly undertook to pilot us through the
interminable labyrinth of bazaars (perhaps the most extensive
in Persia), and the Turkish Consul, Behjet Bey, who, in
addition to an excellent knowledge of Persian, possessed the
best temper, the keenest sense of humour, the cheeriest laugh,
and the most voracious appetite that I have ever seen in one
of his nation.
Edward Granville Brown - A Year amongst the Persians - 1893
You may wish to have a look at the bazaars of Isfahan and Istanbul.
Bazaar: Tabriz carpets
abundance of Silk-weavers that are Artists, and work very neatly, and indeed there
are more of those than of any other Trade. Tavernier
The bazaars excited my curiosity as much as anything in Persia. They possessed a never-failing interest. To take a view of them I entered the Amir Bazaar, one of the finest of its kind. What a throng there was! City and village were mingling and rubbing against each other amid great confusion. (..) The Amir Bazaar presented first to the view a long line of dealers in prints and dress-goods, displaying all the gaudy colors that Manchester can mix for the Oriental taste. The dealers were sitting on rugs on the floor, quietly waiting for customers. Their stock of merchandise was placed in full view and within easy reach of them; the abacus and account-books were lying beside them. One was smoking his kalean, another reading the Koran or saying his prayers, keeping an eye squinted all the while on the passers-by, and interrupting his devotions to detain a customer. Between the shops, on spaces four feet square in front of the piers, sat Armenian silversmiths. Each one had a show-case for displaying his wares, and room enough behind it for the motion of his elbows. Wilson
The making of carpets in Azerbaijan is as old as the province, but it was not until the vast trade sprang up in Tabriz that the Azerbaijan fabrics were known as such. All the industry here has practically been developed since 1890.
John Kimberly Mumford - Oriental Rugs - 1900
Travellers of the past did not mention carpets among the main goods which were sold in the bazaar, but today at Tabriz and almost everywhere in Asia from Istanbul to Delhi and Beijing and in Africa from Cairo to Fes it is impossible to join an organized tour which does not include a visit to a "trusted" carpet dealer and sometimes even to a "true" carpet factory.
Thence I passed to the Georgian timcha, a circular or octagonal structure, covered by a dome (see one at Samarkand). Around its interior were shops where Armenians were displaying the goods of Nijni-Novgorod - knickknacks of various kinds. Farther on was the Rasta Bazaar, which glittered with glass and chinaware, vases and lamps, most of them elaborately decorated. There, too, were dealers in leather, carpets, tea, sugar, lotions, drugs, and a hundred other articles. The bazaars (..) opened into the Madan-i-Sahib-il-Amr. In this square or market-place, under sheds and booths, meats and fruits in abundance and variety were being sold. The place was crowded and dirty. I retraced my steps by a parallel street, passing row after row of shops. My attention was especially arrested by the dallal or peddlers' bazaar - a curiosity-shop where the old work of Shiraz, Ispahan, Kerman, and Resht was shown. The exhibitions of Persian goods interested me most, but imported articles were largely taking their places. Wilson
Bazaar: timber roof courtyard
From the Amir Bazaar I passed into the Amir caravansary, so called from a former Amir-i-Nizam, who built it and the bazaar. In the center of this caravansary is an open square, two or three hundred feet in dimension, and a fountain. Broad pavements surround the square and divide it into sections, which are planted with trees. The pavements were occupied, as usual, by cases of merchandise, which were quite safe, as the outer doors, as well as those of the bazaars, are locked at sundown, and watchmen patrol on the arched roofs. Wilson
El Goli Park lake
The river running by Tabriz,
the Aji Chai, is so brackish that it is scarcely suitable even
for irrigation. Two creeks, the Kiu'i Chai and Madan Chai,
are completely dried up in summer before they enter the city.
One reservoir, called Shah Gyol, built by Naib-i-Sultanah in
the early part of this century, retains a partial supply of water
for summer use. Wilson
The reservoir mentioned by Wilson is today an amusement park in the outskirts of Tabriz.
Plan of this section:
Tabriz: The Blue Mosque
Tabriz: Azerbaijan Museum
Republic of Azerbaijan:
Baku: The Old Town
Baku: The New Town
Environs of Baku
Qobustan National Park