Tbilisi, in a country famously at the crossroads of Europe and Asia on the Old Silk Road, has for hundreds of years been a meeting point for trade. Not much remains of the old trade centers, but the locations can still be visted today: on Bambis Rigi, Sirajkhana, Kharazkhana, Darabkhana, Blacksmith’s Street, Rike, Wine Slope, and the Middle Market, which, as the Tbilisians say, "was full of fish tied at the belly, hazelnuts and with sugarcane".
Tatris Moedani was the main market in Old Tbilisi. Traders came from all over and sold everything: sugar, flour, vegetables, fruit, fish, wine, vodka, Persian carpets, Khilaband, Papakh, Chikhtikop, Bagdad, Daraia dresses, Shirvani rose ...
The market also had a place for charcoal-burners, who collected the charcoal in the existing forests around Tbilisi, then loaded donkeys and brought them down to Tbilisi to sell.
One of the oldest markets in Tbilisi was the Rostom Market, located where now we have Erekle II and Sioni streets, known for the “Little Chorsu” trade in cereals and flour. The Parcha (material), cotton, wool and maud traders were found in Bazazkhana. Hay was sold on Buxus Square (present day Rike). There were also stables for camels, horses and donkeys.
The current Shardeni Street was a set of pot-makers. Later they traded with maud and Parcha. The goldsmiths were scattered on the silver street. The water traders were called Tulokhchebi in Old Tbilisi who were hauling the water from Rumbs and Koko (service) made by bulls leather. Fish sellers were catching all kind of fished through Godori and Paceri at Mtkvari River in the morning and were bringing at the market for sale. Besides the new fish, salted one was also sold there.
Tbilisi was the biggest customer of wine. It’s said that annually over 350 thousands of bundles were arriving in the city. Births of trading wine and vodka was called Sirajkhana and wine traders –Sirajs.
The first Sirajkhana was located on the left bank of Mtkvari River in old Tbilisi and followed the long deviously slope which was started from Metekhi bridge and continued to under Avlabari curtain wall, down the rock. The estaminet (like pabs) and cellars located here were supplied with wine brought from Kakheti. This was the biggest wine market in Old Tbilisi, which was called the Big Sirajkhana. Little Sirakjhana was located in Kala, near to Tatris square.
Siraj – was not just a wine trader, but also a wine apprentice. They had assistants called Pishqar or wine Dalal. Pishkar had a great deal of confidence, and he was often sent to trade.
In autumn Sirajs were walking through yard-yard in Kakheti and examined wine, wrote whose wine they tasted and what prices settled. Ashes were scattered on those dealt wine jars (qvevri) and put their seals on the roofs. The next step included putting tile above and pouring the ground.
Also there was such rule, when Siraj visited the land-owner for buying wine in kakheti he had to bear more than one bundle of Dosh(Fish ham), as well as sugar-loaf, caviar and candies for children. He had to bring Kharaz boots, material for Caucasian coat, tunic and Paraj for the land-owner. The gift should have been so much that “two boys should have lifted it with sighing”.
The host also hosted the guest with great honor. Immediately slaughtered pigs and sheep. Before soaking leather rembs (dishes) with water, pouring wine and putting them on the bullock-cart, Siraj was the guest. In the meantime he was spending nearly two weeks there and felt himself in his home. After purchasing wine the buyer would bless the seller and tell about the money “use in joy and happiness” and bless the family’s good fortune.
Bringing wine from Kakheti needed several days. Bullock-carts caravan consisted of 15-20 ones called Agali and the leader Agalbash. At each bullock-cart 2-2 rumbs or barrels with 40 pails were fixed. The “senior” of Sirajs was called Sirajbash, through which a new Siraj’s blessing was conducted.
By Mariam Merabishvili
Photo source: georgianjournal.ge