Stretching for 1200m from Tohid Sq northeast to Shohada Sq, Kerman’s Bazar-e Sartasari is one of the oldest trading centres in Iran. This main thoroughfare is made up of four smaller bazaars, and a further 20 or so branch off to the north and south. It is, however, easy enough to navigate and has a vivacity that should keep you interested, especially in the morning and late afternoon.
Starting at Tohid Sq, the first section is the Bazar-e Ganj Ali Khan , built in the 17th century for local governor Ganj Ali Khan, which soon opens around the pretty Ganj Ali Khan Square . This courtyard is home to what was once Kerman’s most important hammam , the Hamam-e Ganj Ali Khan , now restored and transformed into a museum. Wonderful frescoes adorn the walls and wax dummies illustrate the workings of a traditional bathhouse. The reception area, for example, was divided so men practising different trades could all disrobe together. At the east and west ends of the hammam, look for the ‘time stones’, translucent, 10cm-thick alabaster doorways through which bathers could get a rough idea of the time according to how light it was outside.
On the north side of the courtyard is the photogenic Bazar-e Mesgari Shomali (Coppersmith’s Bazaar), and at the square’s northeastern end is Masjed-e Ganj Ali Khan , Ganj Ali Khan’s lavishly decorated private mosque. Next door Golshan Caravanserai has recently been restored and is now home to a bunch of antique-cum-bric-a-brac stores and the Kerman Tour Guides Association.
From the northeastern corner of the square, the Bazar-e Zargaran (Gold Bazaar) leads to a small square with an attractive portal into an old (and now closed) madraseh (school). Follow the steps down to the Hamam-e Ebrahim Khan , which was being restored when we passed but, when complete, should be open for men to be rubbed, scrubbed and beaten.
From Ganj Ali Khan Sq the main bazaar continues east as Bazar-e Ekhtiari and passes the Hamam-e Vakil Chaykhaneh before becoming the Bazar-e Vakil ; both are about 150 years old. After about 600m the covered bazaar ends and the 700-year-old open-air Bazar-e Mosaffari begins with vendors selling fruit and (when we visited) socks from tables and crowded storefronts. The Masjed-e Jameh (Jameh Mosque) can be entered from this bazaar, and you can then walk through to Shohada Sq.