May 9, 2019 – On May 8, a massive fire severely damaged 150 shops in the historic Grand Bazaar of Tabriz, capital of the northwestern province of Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. According to the fire and emergency services, 29 people suffered minor burns and other non-life-threatening injuries, 19 of whom were firefighters.

The incident marks the second time in the past 10 years that fire has nearly destroyed the Tabriz Grand Bazaar, which is the largest roofed outdoor market in the world. Flames nearly burned down the entire long corridor that connects the main entrances in the front and back of the complex. The Tabriz Grand Bazaar has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2010.

According to unconfirmed reports, firefighters could not battle the blaze effectively because of the overcrowded corridors and blocked passageways.

“The preliminary investigation has identified electric short circuit and faulty wiring as a cause of the fire,” Farhad Azizi, director of the Iranian Commission for the UNESCO World Heritage Convention said. “Fire spread rapidly through stores selling highly flammable cosmetic products. Unfortunately, this is the second time in the past ten years that fire has damaged the Tabriz Grand Bazaar.”

Morteza Abdar, director of the West Azerbaijan Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization said: “According to official reports, the fire nearly destroyed 100 stores. However, the damage could have been more extensive if it was not for the stringent building and fire codes that were implemented after the previous incident.”

The Tabriz Grand Bazaar comprises 20 long walkways, 25 arcades, 11 corridors, 24 guesthouses (hostels), 5,500 booths, 40 trade guilds, 19 mosques, and nine seminaries.

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]