Sunday, February 25, 2007

Iran's bazaar

Before I came to Iran, I thought a bazaar was a quaint relic that had more value as a tourism draw than as an actual economic powerhouse. Iran's bazaar, I learned, is more than that, and Angus McDowall has written a great article about Iran's bazaar. Here is an excerpt:

The bazaar, a city within a city sprawling across central Tehran, has been at the heart of the Islamic republic since it rose from the ashes of the Shah's monarchy in 1979. In so secretive a world, it is impossible to know the extent of the bazaar's control, but estimates range up to a third of the country's retail market. With its high political connections and long economic reach, some Iranians see the bazaar as the centre of a mafia that permeates the entire state.

But this thumping commercial heart, which has pumped Iran's lifeblood for hundreds of years, is in trouble. Its arteries already clogged by modernisation, it now suffers the effects of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reckless foreign policy and the belligerent rhetoric of the United States: the threat of sanctions and war. The economy is in crisis, the bazaar feels its pain, and worse could be in store as a result of Iran's nuclear showdown with the West.

"The economy is very bad now - prices are high, sanctions are coming," says Yadollah Bakhtiari, a grey haired mercantile veteran whose business has survived revolution, war, international isolation and a fast-changing economy. "Enmity is bad for business."

No comments: