Home Modern history Camels once trotted through the Čaršija to the bazaar in Skopje

Camels once trotted through the Čaršija to the bazaar in Skopje

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Camels in Skopje, old town

Until recently, until before World War II, camels could still be seen as part of a caravan in Macedonia. Camels were exotic animals and attracted a lot of attention. There are more postcards and photos showing camels from other cities in Macedonia and less from the city of Skopje. They are really rare and I was lucky enough to spot one of them recently …

The time when camels roamed the Old Town (also called Čaršija) to the Old Bazaar in Skopje has not yet been forgotten, as Skopje is known as a crossroads town with highly developed trade. Commercial caravans have traditionally passed through the city, but also moved from there to various destinations around the world. Various goods were imported and exported with such caravans.

Until recently, until before World War II, camels could still be seen as part of a caravan in Macedonia. Camels were exotic animals and attracted a lot of attention. There are more postcards and photos showing camels from other cities in Macedonia and less from the city of Skopje. They are really rare and I was fortunate enough to spot one of them recently. A photograph showing camels in the middle of the old Skopje bazaar. They seem to be trotting through the bazaar with their boss, who is also posing on the photo, along with the many curious people, children and adults.

The caravans were led by the keepers in charge of everything, and one of them was appointed as the main leader. Although they were accompanied by an armed escort, there are interesting facts passed down from that time:

When the caravan approached the gates of Skopje in the evening, they avoided entering the city. For more security, the escort slept with the caravan in a nearby inn, for example in Ibraimovo (now Petrovec), to get into town in the morning or during the day. That way it was safer, because at night, in front of the city or in the city itself, the caravans were often attacked and looted. In addition, they always left during the day, especially in the morning when they left town.

The keepers who led the caravans came mainly from the Šar Planina region, but also from other parts. A caravan consisted of 50 to 100 horses, some camels also being used to transport the goods. Because of the trade, the Skopje merchants Hadži Kosta, Hadži Jovan, Kara Jove and Kara Jane lived in Bosnia, and the Bosnian merchants Hadži Gjorgje and Hadži Risto lived in Skopje for a long time.

The Skopje caravans were traded far beyond Europe. Loads of weapons produced in Skopje and Prizren reached as far as Egypt and India. There are reports that they have been to Sudan, Persia, Arabia. Camels, which were purebred and particularly long-lived, were probably bought and bred from there.

Trieste, Vienna and southern Russia were traded separately. The children of the famous Skopje merchant Hadži Trajko, his sons Hadži Nikče (Nikola) and Kostadin, who lived there for a long time before returning to Skopje, traded with distant Odessa and Kiev.

The merchants Hadži Zafir (from the Kočkovci family), Zafir Melev, Jane Šupka, Kaleš Bogdan, Toma and Vančo Dičo, Hadži Fetih, Qerim Efendija, Mateja and Lazar Komati and Kosta Srčadžija from the Sidovci family, the most famous traders of glass products, should also be mentioned.

It is not so easy to determine where in the bazaar the photo with the camels that we publish in this issue was taken. It is good that the year is known: the photo is from 1917 from the time of the First World War, when Skopje was under German and Bulgarian occupation.

Camels in Skopje

My experience shows that only a precise comparative analysis of several objects and similar photographs can lead to the desired result in order to discover the location of the photography. If this postcard with the camels is enlarged significantly, you will see a minaret of a mosque in the distance at the very bottom of the photo.

It cannot be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, it is necessary to have a good knowledge of the data of which mosques existed back then and which exist today in the bazaar or in the near.

At the time this camel photo was taken in 1917, the following mosques with tall minarets existed in and around the bazaar:

„Murat-paša“, „Igit-paša“, „Mustafa-paša“, „Aladža“ (Ishakbegova), „Isabegova“, „Sultan-Murat“, „Balaban džamija“, „Duḱandžik džamija“.

Today the same mosques still exist, except for one: the “Igit-paša” mosque, which was located opposite the “Napredok” cinema and was demolished before the earthquake.

If you stop today in the small square in front of the “Čifte Hamam” and look in front of the fence of the Murat Paša Mosque in the direction of Bit-Pazar, you will notice the same minaret in the photo with the camels, the minaret of the “Aladža- Mosque”.

It is therefore very likely that the camels were photographed in a small cobblestone square in front of the Čifte Hamam, although further investigation of the picture is of course required.

Nearby is the famous “Suli-an”, where the owner probably kept the camels. It is no coincidence that all the larger inns in Skopje had huge entrance gates because of the caravans and their load, which was carried with the camels and other cattle. It is also no coincidence that the square and the street near “Čifte Hamam”, which leads to the Bit-pazar, where the camels were photographed, is now called Bitpazarska, because they always went towards the market.

The Serava River, which was covered in 1896, once flowed here.

SOURCE: Nova Makedonija 01/2020, translated by History.mk.

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