Souk
Overview
 
A souq is a commercial quarter in an Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

, Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

, and increasingly European city. The term is often used to designate the market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

 in any Arabized or Muslim city, but in modern times it appears in Western cities too. It may also refer to the weekly market in some smaller towns where neutrality from tribal conflicts would be declared to permit the exchange of surplus goods. In Modern Standard Arabic the term refers to market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

s in both the physical sense and the abstract economic
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 sense (e.g., an Arab would speak of the souq in the old city as well as the souq for oil, and would call the concept of the free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 السوق الحرّ as-sūq al-ḥurr).
Historically, souqs were held outside of cities in the location where a caravan loaded with goods would stop and merchants would display their goods for sale.
Encyclopedia
A souq is a commercial quarter in an Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

, Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

, and increasingly European city. The term is often used to designate the market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

 in any Arabized or Muslim city, but in modern times it appears in Western cities too. It may also refer to the weekly market in some smaller towns where neutrality from tribal conflicts would be declared to permit the exchange of surplus goods. In Modern Standard Arabic the term refers to market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

s in both the physical sense and the abstract economic
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 sense (e.g., an Arab would speak of the souq in the old city as well as the souq for oil, and would call the concept of the free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 السوق الحرّ as-sūq al-ḥurr).

Types

Historically, souqs were held outside of cities in the location where a caravan loaded with goods would stop and merchants would display their goods for sale. Souqs were held when there was a caravan or more available. At that time, souqs were more than just a market to buy and sell goods; they were also major festivals and many cultural and social activities took place in them.

Later, due to the importance of the marketplace and the growth of cities, the locations of souqs shifted to urban centers. Types of souqs that originated from this are:

Seasonal souqs

A seasonal souq is held at a set time, yearly, monthly or weekly. The oldest type is annually which usually included more activities than others and was held outside cities. For example, Souq Ukadh used to be held in pre-Islamic times in an area between Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 and Ta’if
Ta’if
Ta’if is a city in the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia at an elevation of on the slopes of the Sarawat Mountains . It has a population of 521,273 . Each summer the Saudi Government moves from the heat of Riyadh to Ta'if...

 during the month of Dhu al-Qi'dah
Dhu al-Qi'dah
Dhu al-Qa'dah, Dhu'l-Qadah, or Dhu al-Qi'dah is the eleventh month in the Islamic calendar. It is one of the four sacred months in Islam during which warfare is prohibited, hence the name ‘Master of Truce’.- Timing :...

 every year. While many products were sold, it was more famous for poetry competitions. Some of the most prominent poets were judges such as Al-Khansa
Al-Khansa
Tumāḍir bint ʿAmr ibn al-Ḥarth ibn al-Sharīd al-Sulamīyah , usually simply referred to as al-Khansā’ was a 7th century Arabic poet. She was born and raised in the Najd region...

 and Al-Nabigha
Al-Nabigha
Al-Nabigha , was one of the last Arabian poets of pre-Islamic times. "Al-Nabigha" means "genius" in Arabic....

. An example of an Islamic annual souq is Al Mirbid just outside Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

 which is also famed for its poetry competitions in addition to its storytelling activities.

Changes in political, economic and social styles have left only the small seasonal souqs outside villages and small towns, selling livestock and agricultural products.

Weekly markets have continued to function throughout the Arab world. Most of them are named from the day of the week when they were held. They usually have open spaces specifically designated for them inside cities. Examples of surviving markets are the Wednesday Market in Amman
Amman
Amman is the capital of Jordan. It is the country's political, cultural and commercial centre and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010. The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost...

 that specializes in the sale of used products, the Ghazl market held every Friday in Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 that specializes in pets; and the Fina’ Market in Marrakech
Marrakech
Marrakech or Marrakesh , known as the "Ochre city", is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history...

 that offers performances such as singing, music, acrobats and circus activities.

Permanent souqs

These are far more common but much less famous as they focus on the commercial activity and do not have much interest in entertainment. Until the Umayyad
Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

 era, those markets were only an open space where the merchants would bring in their movable stands during the day and remove them during the night; no one had a specific right to a spot in the market and it was usually first-come first-serve. During the Umayyad era the governments started leasing the land to the merchants and then selling them. The merchants then began to build shops on those small lots to store their goods during the night. That is when the Arab traditional experience of a souq evolved.

The souqs are traditionally specialized due to planning constraints at the beginning. The souq is divided into small souqs, each usually housed in a few narrow streets and named after the product it specialized in such as the gold souq, the fabric souq, the spice souq, the leather souq, the copy souq (for books)..etc. At the same time they were all collectively called a souq and assigned their individual name.

Some of the prominent examples are Souq Al-Melh in Sana'a
Sana'a
-Districts:*Al Wahdah District*As Sabain District*Assafi'yah District*At Tahrir District*Ath'thaorah District*Az'zal District*Bani Al Harith District*Ma'ain District*Old City District*Shu'aub District-Old City:...

, Manama Souq
Manama Souq
Manama Souq is the old bazaar of Bahrain's capital, Manama. It lies in the north of Manama Peninsula, in-between the old parts of the city and the Central Business District, to the east of Noaim and west of Ras Rumman. The area also is home to Bahrain's only synagogue.It is a bustling...

 in Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

, Bizouriyya Souq in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, Saray Souq in Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Khan Al-Zeit in Jerusalem, and Zanqat Al-Niswaan in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

.

Traditional system

Though each neighbourhood within the city would have a local Souq selling food and other essentials, the main souq was one of the central structures of a large city. A central marketplace, it was where textiles, jewellery, spices, wooden sculptures and other valuable goods as well as the money changers were arranged in a line.

A quadrilateral of stone-vaulted streets parallel to or crossing each other or a tight mass of buildings too packed together for roads to intersect them. The workshops were further away from this centre of exchange as were the main residential quarters – though the wealthier merchants or scholars might live within the centre of the city.

The souk was a level of municipal administration. The Muhtasib
Muhtasib
A ' was a supervisor of bazaars and trade in the mediæval Islamic countries. His duty was to ensure that public business was conducted in accordance with the law of sharia....

 was responsible for supervising business practices and collecting taxes for a given suq while the Arif are the overseers for a specific trade.

In a souq, the final price of an item is reached by bargaining
Bargaining
Bargaining or haggling is a type of negotiation in which the buyer and seller of a good or service dispute the price which will be paid and the exact nature of the transaction that will take place, and eventually come to an agreement. Bargaining is an alternative pricing strategy to fixed prices...

 with the shopkeeper
Shopkeeper
A shopkeeper is an individual who owns a shop. Generally, shop employees are not shopkeepers, but are often incorrectly referred to as shopkeepers. Today, a shopkeeper is usually referred to as a manager, though this term could apply to larger firms .*In many south asian languages like Hindi, Urdu,...

. Traders of a given commodity would all sell in the same souq, thus ensuring a competitive market. In some African countries the souq was a place where people could come and talk, or sit down to tell stories.

See also

  • Khan el-Khalili
    Khan el-Khalili
    thumb|200px|An old chandeliers shop at Khan el-KhaliliKhan el-Khalili is a major souk in the Islamic district of Cairo. The bazaar district is one of Cairo's main attractions for tourists and Egyptians alike.-History:...

  • Bazaar
    Bazaar
    A bazaar , Cypriot Greek: pantopoula) is a permanent merchandising area, marketplace, or street of shops where goods and services are exchanged or sold. The term is sometimes also used to refer to the "network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen" who work that area...

  • Medina quarter
    Medina quarter
    A medina quarter is a distinct city section found in many North African cities. The medina is typically walled, contains many narrow and maze-like streets...

  • Carmel Market
    Carmel Market
    The Carmel Market is the largest bazaar market in Tel Aviv. The market is bordered by Allenby Street and Magen David Square and the market is principally located along Carmel Street , but has expanded over time to streets such as Nahalat Binyamin Street...

  • Mahane Yehuda Market
    Mahane Yehuda Market
    Mahane Yehuda Market , often referred to as "The Shuk", is an outdoor marketplace in Jerusalem, Israel. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the market's more than 250 vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables; baked goods; fish, meat and cheeses; nuts, seeds, and spices; wines and liquors;...

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