Exploring Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar


This was definitely not my first sand storm and I suspect it won’t be the last. When we woke up and heard the gusty winds, I knew it was going to be challenging. So what to do in Isfahan when there is a sand storm? I could only think about something I have always loved, in this case exploring Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar.

What could be better than to get lost in one of the oldest bazaars in the world, this huge myriad of vaulted corridors and pathways? And when I say get lost, I do mean it literally. I don’t use maps to guide me, I usually follow scents, colors, wonderful objects, anything that catches my eye. It is really the best way to do it. Eventually all pathways will lead to the impressive Naqsh-e Jagan square also known as Imam square and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Reaching the square was the tricky part. On the way there, the sandy winds would hit us sometimes quite strongly, forcing us to stop and protect our face and eyes. When we finally made it, there was a haziness in the air from all the dust. The horse carriages were empty, waiting for the dust to settle and customers to come back.

dsc08518 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

There were moments here and there when the sun would break through the grey cloud roof which allowed us to briefly view the beautiful main gateway to the Grand Bazaar known as the Qeisarieh in some of its splendour.

dsc08525 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

After admiring the beautiful tiles of the gate, we entered a world of wonder dating back to the 17th century and the Safavid era.

The first thing that catches the eye is the vaulted ceiling but then there is so much more to see. Where to turn, left or right or shall you just follow any path and see where that leads you?

dsc08765 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

Life at the bazaar was slowly picking up. Shops were starting to open, getting ready for another busy day, at least hoping for one.

dsc08521 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

Some pathways looked straight out of Ali Baba’s cave, calling on me to explore them. I would need a palace to put all the beautiful items on offer, but there is nothing that prevents me from admiring the skill that was used for some of the handicrafts. The detail and effort put into certain pieces is wonderful and you can see artisans working beyond the stores front displays. We were lucky enough to observe some of them at work.

dsc08473 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

dsc08756 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

dsc08512 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

And then I saw him. He called me over to see what he was selling. I approached and my husband moved uncomfortably away as he always does when he feels I’m about to make a purchase. Earlier I had seen some shops with bone miniature paintings. These are pieces of white bone where artisans paint scenes mostly from the Safavid era. Battles, hunting scenes and daily life are the most common themes. You can see some small framed pieces just behind him.

dsc08762 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

But two unframed scenes in the vitrine caught my eye. It has been a while since I lived in the Middle East so I thought that maybe I had lost some of my negotiating skills. He saw my interest and told me he would give me a good price. Then the negotiations started. It is always important to know where they stand, what is the starting price and then you go from there. If you are patient like me, you can even get to half the price offered. We went back and forth until I said I had to leave and then we made a deal.

I left him talking to the next clients, a couple of tourists and continued without aim, just the desire to explore. We passed the famous tea sets.

dsc08441 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

And the intricate filigree work.

dsc08464 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

But I wasn’t looking to shop more, I live here, I have time. I started wondering about the spice shops. Turning a corner there it was, the scent and strong red color of the saffron and many other spices and herbs, if only we had our car already. I’m sure I would have bought a bit of everything, I lingered, fascinated by the variety and display. Some of it I tried to identify by smell and touch but couldn’t. I’m hoping in time I will. My husband called me to reality, it was time to go on but I just did not want to leave. So much to look at!

dsc08482 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

But then ahead, the light reflected on something else, wonderful nuts and pistachios. The say the Iranian pistachios are the best in the world and I’m inclined to agree. Since we arrived in Iran, our pistachio consumption  has increased substantially.

dsc08522 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

But fashion is also present in the bazaar and the scarfs are obviously an important fashion item for women in Iran. There are all sorts of colors, patterns and sizes. There are also many ways of wearing the scarf depending on age, class, origin and how religious you are. It is nice to be able to choose so many original ways to wear it. I just loved the hairstyle and makeup of these mannequins at the bazaar.

dsc08744 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

Apart from all the wonderful things I found at the bazaar, there is something else that enchanted me and that was the architecture. The little details, the empty alleys, the vaulted ceilings. That is one of the reasons I love to get lost in a bazaar. I often wander off the main pathways, to see what is beyond, to follow lights, colors or shapes. I encourage you to do the same.

dsc08758 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

dsc08763 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

dsc08436 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

dsc08490 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaardsc08584 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

dsc08516 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

dsc08468 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

When we finally made our way back to the square, we were tired but happy we got to explore so much of Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar. But we didn’t see it all.  There will be other visits, new discoveries.

Just before we stepped into the square there was still time to admire the famous metal plates and trays and the copper pots that I love so much. Next time, I thought, maybe I can even take something with me. The winds by then had calmed down and the sun seemed set on timidly shining through the clouds.

dsc08577 Exploring Isfahan's Grand Bazaar

In spite of the new shops and supermarkets, I was happy to realize that Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar is still very much the heart of the city. The bustling activity shows that the local population and the tourists help keep it alive. I thought about the tea houses, the bathhouses and the old mosques and madrasas that have also always been present and are part of its history. Next time, for sure …

Maria
About me

Welcome! If you love travel and photography and are looking for new places to explore, this is the right place for you! And of course a person gotta eat so why not follow in my footsteps, visit some exotic markets, get inspired and enjoy original and healthy recipes from my extensive collection of cookbooks.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Stranded at the Belvedere
Stranded at the Belvedere
August 21, 2017
Nordic Walking in the Alps
Nordic Walking in the Alps
August 17, 2017
Visiting Dürnstein: Richard Lionheart, apricots and saffron
Visiting Dürnstein: Richard Lionheart, apricots and saffron
August 07, 2017
Escaping the Tehran heat in Baraghan village
July 29, 2017
Postcards from Tehran: Tabiat Bridge
Postcards from Tehran: Tabiat Bridge
July 26, 2017
Postcards from Tehran: Parvis Tanavoli “Lions of Iran”
July 23, 2017
Discovering Kashan Bazar
July 13, 2017
In search of Esther and Mordecai In Hamadan
July 11, 2017
Honoring Saadi and Hafez in Shiraz
Honoring Saadi and Hafez in Shiraz
July 06, 2017

6 Comments

Carmen Pacetti
Reply November 22, 2016

María increíble, haces que den ganas de conocer los lugares. Maravillosas fotos

    Maria
    Reply November 22, 2016

    Thank you Carmen, I'm happy that it gives you incentive to come and visit Iran. Te esperamos!

Iman T.
Reply November 27, 2016

I would also love to visit Iran one day.. i share with you a passion for markets, spices and antiques!
I also find many things that you are describing similar to what one may experience in Cairo..

xxx

    Maria
    Reply November 27, 2016

    Dear Iman, I hope you do come to visit Iran one day. You would love the bazaars here as much as I did love Khan el Khalili in Cairo. xx

Meenakshi Gangopadhyay
Reply July 11, 2017

Dear Maria,
Your presentation was amazing. You are really fortunate to be able to travel to such exotic places, and tell us about your travels. It is really incredible.

    Maria
    Reply July 11, 2017

    Thank you Meenakshi, I am very grateful I can travel to all these places and share them with people like you. And thank you for your comment, it is always nice to receive feedback.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *