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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Valerie:  Suq (or alternately souq, suk, souk) is the Arabic word used to refer to the commercial district of a city, i.e. the bazaar. In relation to the course, suq refers to the permanent markets established in urban areas, although in scholarship, suq can also refer to traveling or seasonal markets. Organization of the suq is important, and similar merchants are grouped together and in a hierarchical order. This hierarchy is determined by rulings over what types of trades are "cleaner" than others. As most suqs are built near or around mosques, the "cleanest" trades are positioned closest to the mosque, and that which is deemed "unclean" is placed further away from the mosque.

The largest suq in Cairo is Khan el Khalili, established by a Mamluk amir in the late 1300s (Burji Mamluk era). It was first a khan (alternatively caravanserai), meaning that it was established as a place for visitors to stay and for all to come for relaxation and entertainment. It quickly grew into a huge bazaar full of shops and cafés, making it a central meeting place for all citizens during the Mamluk era. It remains central to the life of Cairo, bordering al-Azhar university and mosque.

It was important for the government to monitor and control the happenings in the suq, which was done through a bureaucracy of markets inspectors and tax collectors (see muhtasib), as well as an extensive network of government agents whose purpose was to collect information on the actions of citizens in the suq.

Posted at Dec 06/2010 08:50PM:
ian: A key institution of Islamic urbanism, usually segregated by trade or products.