The covered arcades which run all around the Maydan Imam in Esfahan are known collectively as the bazaar.
It is here that you will find shops and stalls of all descriptions selling traditional handicrafts and clothing, gold, household goods, carpets, shoes, bags, various foods, herbs and spices to name but a few items. Most things are clearly priced but if you like a challenge then do try the traditional art-form of bartering for your purchases as you can often get a substantial reduction in the cost. I don’t have the wherewithal for this practice so very much rely on Feri to intervene on my behalf whilst I look on in typical English embarrassment or more often than not disappear from the scene altogether. Feri’s sister is the queen of haggling and it is fascinating to watch her walk away from a price which she thinks excessive just to see the shop-keeper chase her down the street now offering her a better discount!
In addition to the finished goods displayed in the shop windows, it is common to see the tradesmen producing their wares in small alcoves alongside the main alleyways. In the copper and metal-ware section of the bazaar for instance you walk along to the rhythm of the hammering as the many pots and pans take shape.
The spice section of the bazaar is very interesting as it is here that many cultures and cuisines meet and merge to produce a cornucopia of colour and flavours. Huge canvas sacks containing both fresh and dried herbs, spices and nuts are purchased by the kilo. One particular favourite of mine was the mound of “7 spices” which unlike the jars of ready-mixed Chinese 5-spice that we get in England, are layered separately to construct a rainbow cross section of different shades of spice. The 7 spices are turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, green cumin, red pepper, black pepper
The copper work is prolific, but goodness knows who does the polishing. Also popular is the Esfahan blue stoneware, embroidered silk table runners and textiles, marquetry work and silver filigree ornaments.
There is an abundance of carpets for sale, which is no surprise, but how many carpets do you need? And how much does it cost to ship them abroad I wonder. Most of the carpets are now machine made, but the original hand woven ones are still prized, well cared for and are highly valued but don’t rely on getting your hands on one of those.
As well as traditional Iranian and Middle Eastern goods, you can also buy the more modern fashions prevalent in the UK, high quality photographic equipment and Pizza. Even headscarves are imported. I guess it makes some visitors feel at home, but I much prefer the traditional wares; so beware all at home. It will be scarf clips, Gaz (nougat), dates and Iranian football shirts for you. No fudge, Blackpool rock or shell boxes.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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