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Type of public marketplace / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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A bazaar (Persian: بازار) or souk (Arabic: سوق, romanized: sūq; also transliterated as souq) is a marketplace consisting of multiple small stalls or shops,[1] especially in the Middle East,[2][1] the Balkans, North Africa and India.[1] However, temporary open markets elsewhere, such as in the West, might also designate themselves as bazaars. The ones in the Middle East were traditionally located in vaulted or covered streets that had doors on each end[3] and served as a city's central marketplace.[3] Street markets are the European and North American equivalents.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey

The term bazaar originates from Persian, where it referred to a town's public market district.[4] The term bazaar is sometimes also used to refer to the "network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen" who work in that area. The term souk comes from Arabic and refers to marketplaces in the Middle East and North Africa.[5]

Evidence for the existence of bazaars or souks dates to around 3000 BCE. Although the lack of archaeological evidence has limited detailed studies of the evolution of bazaars, indications suggest that they initially developed outside city walls where they were often associated with servicing the needs of caravanserai. As towns and cities became more populous, these bazaars moved into the city center and developed in a linear pattern along streets stretching from one city gate to another gate on the opposite side of the city. Souks became covered walkways. Over time, these bazaars formed a network of trading centres which allowed for the exchange of produce and information. The rise of large bazaars and stock trading centres in the Muslim world allowed the creation of new capitals and eventually new empires. New and wealthy cities such as Isfahan, Vijaynagara, Surat, Cairo, Agra, and Timbuktu were founded along trade routes and bazaars.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Western interest in oriental culture led to the publication of many books about daily life in Middle Eastern countries. Souks, bazaars and the trappings of trade feature prominently in paintings and engravings, works of fiction and travel writing.

Shopping at a bazaar or market-place remains a central feature of daily life in many Middle-Eastern and South Asian cities and towns and the bazaar remains the "beating heart" of West Asian and South Asian life; in the Middle East, souks tend to be found in a city's medina (old quarter). Bazaars and souks are often important tourist attractions. A number of bazaar districts have been listed as World Heritage sites due to their historical and/or architectural significance.