Our ultimate internet carpet expert, Barry O’Connell, has informed us lately that the great bazaar of Tabriz is eventually being registered as a global heritage site. I visited Tabriz a couple of weeks after the presidential elections in the hot summer of 2005. The bazaar is very similar to others in the region, although definitely larger. Its entrance is at the Masjed-e Jomeh, a mosque dating back to the Seljuqs but has been restored in later centuries.
As usual in Iran’s busy bazaars, you will quickly get lost in the labyrinthine ‘guts’ of the city. The 35 km of covered bazaar often sports brick-vaulted passages and small caravanserais. There are special areas for carpet sales and sooner or later you may end up there with chay and discussions. A young carpet dealer, Alireza, who had a small shop in the main bazaar, wanted to introduce me to his, say, in a way godfather, Mr. Dawoud, a real gentleman, as he told me, who helped him to establish his small business and educated him as a future carpet dealer. And he was a gentleman. We had many informative chats about his passion, namely bringing very special pieces of Armenian carpets to Iran (which is, of course illegal; Iran doesn’t need to import carpets from abroad). They have a great market in the US, as he told me. They were not really my taste. Instead, I bought a small Shirvan that he was rather hesitant to sell to me since he had it in his own flat himself for 20 years or so.
The 1.2- million people city of Tabriz in Iran’s Azerbaijan province is not a beauty when compared to other cities in Iran. The main sight is the Blue Mosque, built in the 15th century by Turkmen who ruled Iran after the Mongolian Il-Khanid dynasty. The mosque had been heavily demolished in a terrible earthquake in the 18th century. Right now, there is still a lot of reconstruction work visible and many tiled bricks can be seen inside the mosque waiting for being replaced in its original positions. Other renovations were done only by painting the patterns on the bricks. Manufacturing new ceramic tiles is probably too expensive.