Old Bazaar Bitola
The oldest waqf in Bitola was Sungur-Chaush Bey’s waqf formed in the early 15th century. Then the built buildings: the mosque, the madrasa, the mekteb, the imaret, the inn marked the beginning of the Bitola bazaar. It is the heart of the city, with numerous alleys, magaza (store, turkish.), shops and workshops where people worked on the principle of one alley – one craft.
At that time, more than 30 special purpose markets were recognized: At (at=horse in turkish) market, Pekmez market, Ointment market, Wood market, etc.
In 1836 Bitola became the main headquarters of Rumelia and that was the period when the bazaar lived its greatest prosperity with over 2500 shops, magazas and workshops grouped in 30 markets with 75 guild organizations.
Today the Old Bazaar in Bitola is perhaps one third of its totality. It extended to the city Clock Tower and to the west. Numerous travel writers compared it to the Istanbul bazaars. It is considered that the original one was the largest in the Balkans.
Its so-called alleys and Ottoman architecture – seemingly with winding, hidden streets – are in fact deliberately built and urbanely created “chaos” to avoid the monotony and depression of a straightforward urban concept.
The bazaar was full of surprises, mysterious shops, even more mysterious stories, legends about life, about events, about work, about the whole everyday life seen with a lot of diversity, colorfulness and specific beauty in the glory of life. The secret of the bazaar is in fact the secret of life – unpredictable, diverse, rich in events, with characters, exchanges, dialogues.
Nobel prize laureate Ivo Andrikj wrote about the Old Bazaar in Bitola and its ingenious urban whole in his short story ‘’The Vizier’s Elephant’’, talking about it as the most important pit-stop after Istanbul.