Full reviews of The Persian Bazaar: Veiled Space of Desire


New York Times Book Review (January 22, 1995)

It is the roofs that enchant one first, their hundreds of domes appearing to have been formed by the winds eternally wearing and rounding the vast spines of rock that cradle Iran. The enchantment turns to wonder inside; the domes rest on arches of latticed bricks arranged in forms so delicate they make the spirit sing. For many centuries bazaars have brought together in one immense place religion, political power and the economic life of cities from Morocco to Central Asia. In The Persian Bazaar, Mehdi Khansari and Minouch Yavari, scholars of history and architecture (and husband and wife), reveal the social logic underlying these magnificent structures-in drawings and words, but most vividly in photographs that let one discover the magic cave that is a bazaar as if one were walking through it, assaulted by the sounds of potters, cabinet makers, farriers and merchants of everything from bread to gold, seduced by the odor of spices and coffee, dazzled by light drifting down from the pierced domes and scattered by brilliantly glazed arches and ceilings onto crowds winding far below among the fabrics and carpets, donkeys and carts, dust and incense. From the public hall called in Arabic qaisariya ("Caesar's room," suggesting a connection between the oldest bazaars and ancient Roman basilicas) to mosque and seminary bathhouse, from quiet terraced religious clubhouse to teeming caravansary-here is the bazaar, made even more appealing by the realization that the global spread of the modern industrial economy has probably doomed this beautiful house of life.

Center for Iranian Research and Analysis Newsletter (Vol. 10, No. 2, Winter 1995)

Persian bazaars, especially in this age of commercial sameness and international trade and goods, are still fascinating and wondrous places. This book attempts to capture some of the magnificence of that traditional Iranian marketplace. The coauthors, Mehdi Khansari and Minouch Yavari, are a husbandwife team, the former a professional photographer and the latter a practicing architect. Educated in Iran and both now living in France, they also coauthored Espace Persan, a book on traditional architecture in Iran. The Persian Bazaar also contains a Foreword by the art historian, Oleg Grabar, fomlerly of Harvard University and now at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, a Preface by Gerard Grandval, an architect working in Paris, and an Introduction by Marcel Bazin, a professor of geography and planning at the University of Reims.

This book is principally a collection of photographs of facets of various Iranian bazaars. about 80 photos in black and white and 40 in color. Brickwork, tiles, domes, and other architectural features constitute many of the most dramatic and beautiful photos, although there also are some scenes of life and activities in the bazaar. Seventeen different bazaars are included, with Kashan and Isfahan having the most illustrations, although Qazvin, Shiraz, Yazd, Tabriz, and Kemlan also are well represented. There are a few photographs from smaller bazaars from towns such as Bandar Abbas, Mahan, or Zabol. Some maps and plans of many of the major bazaars are included, although the fact that color pencils are used for the color lends a rather unprofessional look to them. A few diagrams of types of vaults and domes appear as well (also colored by pencil).

The photographs themselves are never discussed or analyzed. There is, in fact, no relationship between the photographs and the bazaar plans, or the diagrams, or the Forward, or the Preface, or the Introduction. It is as if each piece had been written separately without seeing any other section, and there is no attempt to coordinate any part of the book with any or the photographs. There is no analysis of the architectural elements in the text; the photographs are only identified by their location (except that a few photographs have no location given), and sometimes the architectural elements depictcted is named (such as a crossribbed vault or a half vault). Although there is a glossary of terms at the end, there is no discussion of the types of architectural elements in the text. This lack of any discourse on the architecture or any other aspect of the bazaar related to the photographs certainly limits the usefulness of the work.

Although not connected to the illustrations, the Introduction by Bazin is the most substantial written part of the book. He brings in some of the German academic work on bazaars in particular, even though his use of the terms "Oriental City" and "IslamicOriental City" in English are rather anachronistic, even if still used by French scholars and being a literal translation of the commonly used German terms, "orientalische Stadt" and "orientalishislamischeStadt". The Bibliography may be useful to some readers, since some of the lesserknown German and other European works on the bazaar are included.

A comparative analysis of the architecture, structure, and function of Iranian bazaars is certainly needed. The Persian Bazaar, unfortunately, does not provide the material or format toward that goal (although some scholars may find some of the photos of architecture useful if they are unaware of certain structures or patterns in specific locations). This work generally lacks any information or analyses that will further our understanding of the bazaar in Iran or the Middle East. It does contain some beautiful photographs, and to those who are enamored with bazaars this book might, indeed, be appropriate for their mizi qahveh.
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Bookwatch (March 1994)

The architecture of the traditional Persian bazaar involves the manipulation of light and setting to lend an exotic aura: the authors here utilize photos, maps, and the insights of urban planners and illustrators to present different angles on the Persian bazaar experience.
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