Intense economic and commercial activity in the Ottoman Empire required new building types as for instance the kervansaray for lodging the traders or the bedesten, a secure building where the most valuable goods were traded. But not only single buildings like these made up the commercial hubs. The whole structure of an Ottoman town gravitated around an immensely commercial area, the bazaar.
Consisting of one or several streets a bazaar, also called carsija, is lined with small shops with their craftsmen workshops attached. In the big bazaars as the ones in Skopje or in Bitola each street specialized on one craft so that you could find a street of saddlemakers, another of blacksmiths or one of silversmiths. The bazaar is not only the economic center of any Ottoman town but also the gathering point for prayer, taking a bath or socializing. Surrounded by the Islamic threesome, that is mosque, han and hamam, the bazaar thrived with live at all hours.
Bazaars reached their peak of commercial activity in the 17th century and after a period of stagnation again during the 19th century. Skopje and Bitola stood out with the greatest bazaars in Rumelia (the European part of the Empire), but even smaller towns had its own bazaar, sometimes consisting of a single street.
The Bazaar of Bitola
At the zenith of Ottoman rule the bazaar of Bitola or Monastir as it was called in Ottoman times had over a thousand shops. Although strongly altered during different periods, be it by a changing commercial situation, by conflagration or by wars, this bazaar even today is a most lively market in the center of town with visible influences of oriental urbanism. Small one-storey shops, some of them a reminiscence of 19th century traditional architecture, alternate with revival style buildings, following the fashion of West European influences at the period. Building materials range from rubble to brick and sometimes stone. Some of these little shops still preserve their big protecting iron shutters, just as in old times. If you walk through the bazaar at commercial hours (not on Sunday afternoon as I did) you definitely fell the oriental way of living, with all its bustling livelihood, a transposition to another period and culture.
The bazaar in Bitola together with the one in Skopje are the biggest remaining ones in Macedonia.
In case you want to complete information on architecture from the Ottoman period in the Macedonian area my illustrated book is now available:
Teresa Waltenberger, Architecture in Macedonia: The Ottoman Heritage, Skopje 2014