The Tehran Grand Bazaar oozes history. The word “bazaar” originated from a single market district in Persia, but the idea soon spread to become synonymous with the many bustling markets throughout the Middle East.
Tehran Grand Bazaar has a multitude of unique and delicious traditions
The concept of traditional, Middle Eastern bazaars dates back to the early 9th century, with references in the famed Arabic literary collection The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights.
It comes as no surprise then that Tehran, Iran’s capital city, is home to one of the world’s largest and most famous bazaars. Known as the Grand Bazaar, it covers more than ten kilometers, with 180 shopping centers, five Timches (or courtyards), and hundreds of independent shops selling traditional Iranian art, textiles, food, and more.
Tehran’s Grand Bazaar – a history
Tehran hosted its first bazaars more than a thousand years ago. The Tehran Grand Bazaar was built during the Safavid Era in the 17th century, where it stills stands today in the center of the city. Surrounded by plenty of transportation options, the Bazaar is easily accessible by taxi or metro.
When visitors arrive at the main entrance of the sprawling marketplace, they might feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. With so much to see and so many artisans and goods represented, it’s easy to spend an entire day browsing the Bazaar and its many vendors.
The Iran Termeh house is one of the first shops visitors find as they enter the Bazaar. Termah is a type of handwoven Persian cloth; decorated with impossibly intricate patterns and designs. The Termah House includes a small workshop where visitors can watch artisans as they carefully weave the cloth while asking questions about the process and the designs.
A bit further into the Bazaar’s aisles, visitors find a seemingly endless array of exquisite Persian rugs. Each vendor has a unique style, reflected in the vibrant colors and mesmerizing patterns of the carpets.
A Bazaar architecture
The Bazaar itself is a living, breathing work of Middle Eastern art. The magic therein lies beyond what is for sale. The Imamzadeh Zeid Shrine is well worth a stop along the parade of shops. The structure’s ornate architecture is breathtaking; adorned with small mirrors and delicate mosaic patterns.
Visitors are welcome to come inside via one of the separate entrances for men and women. And women are asked to wear a chador (or head scarf) while inside.
The culinary arts also thrive within the Bazaar. Sprinkled among the endless aisles of shops and displays, visitors can try Iranian delicacies like Kebab and Tahchin. Afterward, they can enjoy a cup of tea (and unforgettable conversation) at Haj Ali Darvish, the “smallest tea house in Tehran.”
While the Bazaar doesn’t keep regular hours, most vendors are open for business between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. A day at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar is an immersive way to explore the culture’s rich artistic heritage.
Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.