Politics and Patronage

Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian

in The Bazaar in the Islamic City

Published by American University in Cairo Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9789774165290
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9781617971334 | DOI:
Politics and Patronage

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The genesis and demise of the Sara-ye Amir is closely bound with the development of Tehran from a small town in the foothills of the Alborz mountains to Iran's main metropolis, and with the evolving role of the bazaar as Iran began to emerge from more than a century of economic stagnation. Commissioned by Amir Kabir the reforming prime minister of Nasser al-din Shah, the elegant and spacious caravanserai complex, built in 1851 by Aqa Mehdi Tabrizi Malek al-tojjar as part of the overall plan to boost trade and improve the capital's bazaar, was much admired by foreign observers and came to house major domestic and foreign companies. By the end of the century the Sara-ye Amir was suffering from neglect and ownership conflicts, significantly coinciding with the gradual move into the khiabans (avenues) as the requirements of trade and industry outgrew the obsolescent structure and mentality of the bazaar. With the original layout and many features extant though disjointed, it has avoided the recent garish trend that has befallen its neighboring patron saint, the Emamzade Zaid, the vulgar revamping of which may be indicative of a deeper malaise affecting the ideas that once informed refined good taste.

Keywords: Tehran; Qajar dynasty; Amir Kabir; Malek al-tojjar; Sara-ye Amir; Emamzade Zaid

Chapter.  10370 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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