Shakhrisabz is one of the ancient cities on the Great Silk Road. It is located on the crossroad of brisk caravan routes leading to Samarkand, Tashkent and the Ferghana Valley, and via Termez to Iran and Asia Minor. However, Shakhrisabz was not only a staging post for the merchants bringing their goods. Since olden times it was renowned for its pottery made of local red clay; there were lots of weaver’s workshops where bleached muslin was made. The medieval Arabic geographer Maksidi wrote that “Kesh (Shakhrisabz) is a fertile land which exports early fruits”
Being a trade and handicrafts centre, Shakhrisabz possessed many commercial buildings. Unfortunately, only one of them has survived – Chorsu covered market, which was built in 1602. It is located in the very centre of the city on the intersection of ancient street which ran from the city southern gate Charymgar, in Timur’s time called Termez Gate, and the arterial road traversing Shakhrisabz from east to west. There was a bazaar and public baths here, still functioning nowadays. No other place in the city would be more convenient to accommodate the covered market.
Despite the formal resemblance of Shakhrisabz covered market with the medieval trade domes of Bukhara and Samarkand, Chorsu bazaar has a remarkable layout. This is a round building 21 metres in diameter. Four portals with arched doorways, oriented towards the cardinal points, lead inside, to the central hall of the building – a spacious square area with chamfered corners. From the central hall passages lead to eight corner rooms. The central hall is covered by spherical dome based on arched pendentives, whereas corner premises are topped by smaller domes. The covered market was not decorated with mosaics or majolica. However, the ‘herring-bone’ pattern of fine brickwork of the pendentives serves functionality as well as aesthetic purpose.
Each section of Chorsu bazaar traded in goods of certain type – ceramics, handmade embroidery which local Kashkadarya embroideresses are famous for until present day, imported and local fabrics, carpets and other goods.