Their name is written in different ways and with different alphabets: bazar, čaršija, çarshija, çarşı …The meaning, however, is the same: meeting and exchange place, Balkan Ottoman heritage. OBC has travelled through the whole region to find where they are still alive, where they have been deleted from town memories, where they still symbolize something more than mere tourist attractions. To discover that they represent an interesting point of view for understanding Balkan society more in depth. A dossier realised by OBC in the context of the SeeNet II Programme.


Čaršijas/çarshijas, ancient markets at the heart of the Balkans

Marjola Rukaj

Traditional meeting points – commercial and trade neighbourhoods of Ottoman origin – have remained much as they were throughout history in many Balkan towns. Now, they represent an authentic barometer for gauging recent social changes and for understanding the Balkans' place in an enlarged Europe

Magic words

Bazaar Rhythms

Marjola Rukaj

Cultural and ethnic crossroads and meeting place par excellence, the çarshija is also the place for finding some of the deepest roots of the Balkan musical heritage. Our inquiry

The secret languages of the Bazaars

Marjola Rukaj Tirana

They were multilingual places where secret languages were spoken. What has remained in the Balkan Bazaars of these codes, invented in order to understand each other and yet not be understood by outsiders? Our analysis

Block: Mappe varie

    Baščaršija, the beauty

    Marjola Rukaj

    The ancient Ottoman market is one of the symbols of Sarajevo. This article concludes our series on Balkan bazaars.

    Novi Pazar, the bazaar without lipstick

    Marjola Rukaj Novi Pazar

    It is very similar to the Ottoman-style quarter in Sarajevo, though many consider it more genuine, the čaršija from which Novi Pazar in south-eastern Serbia gets its name. Our feature

    Mostar: the čaršija and the bridge

    Marjola Rukaj Mostar

    A divided town, a bridge, a čaršija on each side. Symbols of meeting and congregation which now have to deal with the legacy of the war. The challenge of Mostar between tourism and tradition

    Gjakova/Đakovica: the çarshija streetlights

    Marjola Rukaj

    Destroyed during the war, the old commercial heart of the town Gjakova/Đakovica, in western Kosovo, was rebuilt in 2001, thanks to international financial contributions. But, suffocated by its traffic, it's struggling to get back to being a “market on a human scale”, typical of the Ottoman period

    Peja/Peć, the čaršija and the war

    Marjola Rukaj Peja/Peć

    In Peja/Peć, a small town in Western Kosovo, little or nothing is left of the traditional bazaar, mainly because of the 1999 conflict. Although the authorities have faith in its development for tourism, it seems unlikely this will happen

    Gjirokastër, the bazaar built of stone

    Marjola Rukaj Tirana

    Kadaré defined it “the steepest town in the world” – Gjirokastër, in Southern Albania, on the border with Greece. Its çarshija also stretches upwards on sloping streets. Its architecture, although preserved over the centuries, has been slow in developing a new commercial life

    Bitola, the cosmopolitan čaršija

    Marjola Rukaj

    A perfect example of how to reconcile past and present. The Bitola čaršija has been neither abandoned nor a victim of unregulated building, nor even transformed into a shop window for tourists. Nevertheless it risks turning into a mundane modern market. A contribution to our dossier on Ottoman Bazaars in the Balkans

    Korça, Bazaar of the Serenades

    Marjola Rukaj Tirana

    Korça is an Albanian town on the borders of Albania, Greece and Macedonia. It is known for its bazaar which unfortunately is now in a semi-abandonned state. This article continues our in-depth analysis of markets with Ottoman origins in the Balkans

    Skopje, the čaršija of the Albanians

    Marjola Rukaj Skopje

    A real social and cultural barometer in the heart of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, this is an ancient Ottoman market which, in the last 20 years, has changed from being a disreputable quarter to a trendy one. Another article in our dossier on Ottoman markets in the Balkans

    Kruja, the Bazaar saved by the regime

    Marjola Rukaj Kruja, Albania

    Having survived for thousands of years, nearly disappeared at the beginning of the 20th Century and been brought back to life during the regime, the Bazaar of Derexhik in Kruja, Albania, is today a boutique for tourists. Despite the loss of traditions, unregulated urban growth and rampant globalisation, it continues to survive in its true spirit

    The Old Bazaar

    Risto Karajkov Skopje

    The Old Bazaar is the ancient heart of Skopje. Today it's but a pale remnant of what it once was: a bit dirty and dusty, but still brisk and dynamic. The Old Bazaar, though, is waiting for its next rebirth, and to gain back it's central role in the economic and social life of the city

    Albania: Once upon a time…

    Marjola Rukaj Tirana

    An Ottoman-style market, a çarshija, right in the heart of Tirana, of which today only faint memories remain. Architecture, social relations and memory in an interview with the anthropologist Armanda Kodra

    The origins of the word

    Ottoman markets can be singled out from other modern markets of Balkan towns partly by their names. Today, as during the Ottoman Empire, oriental words are used; they have been adapted according to the conventions of different alphabets and the jargon of local languages. Čaršija for the Serbo-Croat-Bosnian areas, çarshija for Albanian speakers, чаршија for Macedonians. The term comes from the Turkish çarş that means precisely “market”. The same public spaces are also called pazars, a word that most probably has its origin in the Persian bāzār ( بهاچار) - literally “the place of prices ”.


    Suggested links

    Bazars ottomans des Balkans

    A publication on Balkan bazaars by our partner Courrier des Balkans


    A website entirely dedicated to the Ottoman heart of Sarajevo

    Dossier realised within the SeeNet II Programme

    A trans-local cooperation network between Italy and South-East Europe. Read more