The Modern Central Asian Bazaar

Posted by on November 19, 2012

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Anybody who has been reading this site for a while will already know that I’m a bit on the obsessed side with bazaars and markets around the world. Not only for the sweet headgear opportunities, but also because they’re just such generally picturesque and atmospheric places that tend to make it really easy to interact on a personal level with the people who are from whatever town you happen to be in.

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Central Asia, in particular, tends to have a lot of old and kind of crumbling yet really attractive markets. Ashgabat’s main market, the Tolkuchka Bazaar, has long been known as one of the regions’s largest and craziest.

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In recent years, though, the Turkmen (and other) governments have started to clean-up and modernize some of the larger markets. Tolkuchka is a good example of this, with the modern iteration a large central plaza surrounded by stand-alone buildings each dedicated to one central theme.

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The meat department, in particular, has been centralized and sanitized. This is reportedly due to negative exposure several years ago after journalists posted a very critical look at the handling practices. Photography is now absolutely forbidden in this area, which would seem to corroborate the theory.

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Unlike the older bazaars that spring up seemingly at random, Tekke was completely planned and purposefully laid-out. As the map of the market shows, is was built to represent the national symbol of the Tekke Turkomans (the largest cultural group and perhaps not coincidentally the one which produces most of the ruling class).

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Samsa Sweetheart

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Merchant Clan

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While as a tourist and photographer I obviously enjoy the older style smoky dirty labyrinthine bazaars, it seems hard to deny that better organization and higher standards of handling can only benefit the people who actually shop in these places.

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What do you think? Have your favorite spots around the world been organized and sanitized? Which do you prefer?

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