Tabriz has been a place of cultural exchange since antiquity and its historic bazaar complex is one of the most important commercial centres on the Silk Road. Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex consists of a series of interconnected, covered, brick structures, buildings, and enclosed spaces for different functions. Tabriz and its Bazaar were already prosperous and famous in the 13th century, when the town, in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan, became the capital city of the Safavid kingdom. The city lost its status as capital in the 16th century, but remained important as a commercial hub until the end of the 18th century, with the expansion of Ottoman power. It is one of the most complete examples of the traditional commercial and cultural system of Iran.
Outstanding Universal Value
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.
Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex has been one of the most important international places for commercial and cultural interchange, thanks to the centuries-old east-west trading connections and routes and to a wise policy of endowments and tax exemptions.
Tabriz Historic Bazaar bears witness to one of the most complete socio-cultural and commercial complexes among bazaars. It has developed over the centuries into an exceptional physical, economic, social, political, and religious complex, in which specialized architectural structures, functions, professions, and people from different cultures are integrated in a unique living environment. 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.
Criterion (ii): Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex was one of the most important international trade and cultural centres in Asia and the world between the 12th and the 18th centuries, thanks to the centuries-old east-west trade routes. Tabriz Bazaar is an exceptional example of an architectural-urban commercial area, which is reflected in its highly varied and integrated architectural buildings and spaces. The bazaar is one of the most sustainable socio-economic structures, and its great complexity and articulation attests to the wealth in trade and cultural interaction of Tabriz.
Criterion (iii): Tabriz Historic Bazaar bears witness to one of the most complete socio-cultural and commercial complexes among bazaars. It is an exceptional physical, economic, social, political, and religious complex that bears an exceptional testimony to a civilization that is still living. Over the centuries, thanks to its strategic location and to wise policies of endowments and tax exemptions, Tabriz Bazaar has developed into a socio-economic and cultural system in which specialized architectural structures, functions, professions, and people from different cultures are integrated into a unique living environment.
Criterion (iv): Tabriz Historic Bazaar is an outstanding example of an integrated multi-functional urban complex in which interconnected architectural structures and spaces have been shaped by commercial activities and related necessities. A large number of specialized buildings and structures are concentrated and reciprocally connected in a relatively compact area to form what is almost a single integrated structure.
Integrity and Authenticity
The nominated property contains all the elements that are necessary to convey its significance. The integrity of the 18th century Tabriz Bazaar is well preserved and its architecture conserves a rich repertoire of commercial buildings; the connection between the physical structure and its functioning is still clearly legible, and in many cases alive.
The rich historical sources bear credible witness to the importance of the Tabriz Bazaar over history and to the permanence of its layout. The fabric of the Bazaar still exhibits the design, workmanship, and materials of the period when it was constructed after the 1780 earthquake. The Bazaar is still a lively and economically active place, attesting to its rich and long-lasting economic, social, and cultural exchanges.
Protection and management requirements
The Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex was officially protected in 1975 and since then has been covered by special stewardship measures. Three different protection areas have been established (a nominated area, a buffer zone, and a landscape zone), which are subject to special regulations, incorporated into the planning instruments. Within these areas any kind of activity needs authorization by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), which is the institutional body in charge of the protection of protected monuments.
The management framework for the property is based on the integration of existing planning instruments (the Master Plan and the detailed Plan for Tabriz), administrative and technical bodies (the steering committee for Tabriz Bazaar and the ICHHTO Tabriz Bazaar Base), conservation objectives, SWOT analysis, implementation strategies, and operational programmes that are included in the management plan.
Archaeological evidence bears witness to human occupation of the area corresponding to Tabriz since the Bronze Age. However, this occupation did not assume a continuous nature until the Iron Age.
In the 9th century Tabriz was an important military base. In this period Tabriz began to develop as an economic and business centre, and in the 12th and 13th centuries it was the capital of the country, although not uninterruptedly. The destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 increased the importance of Tabriz as a trading centre.
Between 1316 and 1331 Tabriz experienced the high point of its economic and social life. Travellers such as Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta described it as one of the richest trading centres in the world. During the 14th and 15th centuries the town’s prosperity increased thanks to its strategic location, where much used west-east and south-east routes crossed, to the development of highly regarded manufactured products (e.g. cotton and silk textiles, arms, pottery), and to a wise policy of tax exemption. The first vast official and ceremonial space, the Sahib-abad, was created in 1258, around which the most important public buildings were built and where the army could be paraded, but which could also be used as a meeting place.
In the early 16th century the Safavid dynasty chose Tabriz as the capital city of their kingdom and the town became a powerful government centre, even though the capital was moved, first to Qazvin in 1548 and then to Isfahan, which were considered safer from Ottoman threat. In the 16th and 17th centuries manufacturing grew and diversified (weaving, copper metallurgy, weapon and tile production, leatherworks, tanning, soap making) and the volume of trade expanded.
In the last quarter of the 17th century Tabriz entered into a period of economic depression. Nonetheless, accounts by travellers from this period of decline still depicted Tabriz as an important trading centre.
The 18th century brought a period of political instability owing to Ottoman attempts at expansion. In 1780, at the beginning of the Qajar dynasty, the most destructive earthquake in the dense seismic history of Tabriz completely destroyed the town; it was, however, rapidly rebuilt.
Another earthquake in 1817 caused a great deal of damage to the mosques and to the town. In 1826 Tabriz was occupied by the Russians, but it was regained by the Qajar rulers two years later. During the 19th century several changes were made in the town. The governmental centre moved from the Sahib-abad, where public buildings were arranged around a vast square north of the Mehranroud River, to its present location, south of the river, close to the Aala Gate. Sahib-ul-Amr square was built in the historical area of Sahib-abad, and the Jami Mosque was restored, which helped restore its central role to the Bazaar. In 1871 a flood caused extensive damage to the bazaars, which were mapped and evaluated by means of a field survey. These records provide information about the condition of the Bazaar at that time. Repair works were undertaken in the years that followed to various structures: for example, the Mozaffarieh Timcha was completed in 1905.
In 1906 Tabriz became the centre of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution: the Bazaar was closed and the people demonstrated against the government since the Constitution was signed by the king and the first Parliament was established.
During the 20th century several wide roads were opened, leading to certain parts of the Bazaar becoming separated from its core.
Over the last thirty years a number of restoration projects have been carried out on the Jami and Goi Machids as well as on several commercial structures, whilst the Pol-bazaar has recently been completely reconstructed.