4.4.8 Suqs and bazaars

Talking about Syria, Kennedy argues that:

'The suqs of the Islamic town were basically linear, essentially narrow streets bordered by small shops ... Smaller rectangular market areas did still exist, in the form of the covered qaysariyya, ... and the open courtyard of the khan (inn), but ... neither was developed before the twelfth century. Where large open markets did exist, they were to be found outside the gates and catered for livestock and food brought from the surrounding country by peasants or bedouin. The high-status trades, fine textiles, jewellery, books, spices and the like were to be found in the suqs around the mosque, not in the open markets.' (Kennedy 1985, 13)

It is likely that a variety of locations, including intra- and extra-mural locations, were employed, with clustering of suqs around the Friday mosque, a preference for main streets, and for groupings to serve specific neighbourhoods (Wheatley 2001, 247).

The architectural form of the early suqs is still poorly understood, although what we can say from historical accounts suggests a mix between street-side stalls and shops, domestic residences, khāns, funduqs, purpose-built market spaces (some that could be locked at night), and roofed buildings (qayasir) (Wheatley 2001, 248-9). Similarly, whether the suqs were roofed or not seems variable, and not related to size (loc. cit.).

  1. The street-side suqs, identified archaeologically in a number of early Islamic cities (e.g. Kennedy 1985, 12-13; Roll and Ayalon 1987), are going to be very difficult to identify within the aerial images.
  2. The proximity of suqs to the Friday Mosque might suggest looking at street patterns, widths, and building relationships in this area, to see if anything unusual can be isolated in the plan.
  3. Al-Maqdisi refers to the suqs at Merv being in a helicoidal arrangement (screw-shaped spiral) around the Upper Mosque (Wheatley 2001, 249). It is not clear what this description means, but the patterning around the Central Friday Mosque (if this is the Upper Mosque) would be worth examining in detail.
  4. For other suqs the identification of possible khāns and funduqs, within areas of housing, might be used to suggest a suq area.


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Last updated: Mon Sept 29 2008