Old Bazaar with historic streets is the most frequent destination for both the locals and foreign tourists visiting the city. The bazaar where traditions succeeded to survive has a secret story on almost every corner.
Nowadays it is a protected national landmark and contains numerous old craftsmen shops. It is a place where the aggressiveness of modern living ends and the respect for tradition is cultivated in typical forms of trade and crafts such as quilting, bags or gold, sets off. Thus, age-old traditions are kept alive by goldsmiths, shoemakers, coppersmiths and other skilled craftsmen.
Masters who are engaged in old professions such as watch making, mining, leatherworking and quilting in Macedonia’s capital Skopje for years have almost resisted this craft to disappear.
Sakip is a master of Smith from the Old Bazaar in Skopje. He is 70 years old and having a hard time hearing, he has been producing smith products for 59 years. He learned this profession from a local master when he was a child. Later, he set up his own business, which he still continued to work on. He has been retired for 8 years but the passion for this job hasn’t let him to sit at home, he prefers to work.
Sakip compares the time when he was younger and the interest of his generations to work in crafts, many things have changed meanwhile. He says his son has a different business and no one in the family would like to continue his business. 30 years ago, there were a lot of customers every day, but today sometimes there are days when none customer comes.
When we ask him, ‘Are young people interested in these kinds of professions?’ He thinks that nowadays the youngsters are not interested in doing craft-works, they’re more interested in computers and stuff. He gives an example of his grandson but at the same time he doesn’t want his grandson to continue in this profession because he thinks it is hard to survive today.
İbrahim is the black smith in the old bazaar. He learned to work from his father and grandfather. They have been in this business for more than 100 years as a family.
He says that from these professions used to provide a good life but today it is very difficult to survive by performing them. Being the only blacksmith in the bazaar makes him feel responsible to continue, even though it is very difficult. His son is also blacksmith and thinks to continue working in the future.
We continue with the story of Boris owner of micro-business of products from fur and leather. He finished faculty of technology 40 years ago and used to work in the biggest factory in Macedonia producing leather. The experience he gained there as engineer was immense, for 12 years they were producing 10.000m2 leather per day. Back in the times people bought their products since their products were sufficient.
One of the today’s problems is the lack of governmental support and special measures that would help traditional business by offering their products to governmental bodies such as: Police, soldiers, municipalities, public companies etc. since all of them use fur and leather products.
His business exists for more than 30 years. He says people will always be in need of clothes, they killed animals and use the fur for protection from the cold. They haven’t found yet an artificial leather that have the same parameters as the real one. The good quality product will always find the appropriate customer, here or abroad.
One of the occupations inherited from the Ottoman Empire is quilting. Just like other craftsmen, the number of who are so much more than enough to give their names to the streets is much less nowadays. There are a few craftsmen performing this profession in Skopje, challenging the time, at the quilting street of the old bazaar.
Despite the lack of interest in old crafts from young people there is hope in the recent period that the efforts of the state and the artisans will revive old crafts.
The Old Bazaar has cultural and historical features as one of Skopje’s largest habitats. Skopje Castle is located in a position beside the bazaar. The bazaar is also a cultural and artistic center in which a number of cultural and historic monuments are located. Most of the buildings that once were used to host the travelers or hammams were transformed into museums and galleries, which today are used with the main purpose to host art exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events. Nowadays, the place and its proximity are still home to several mosques, churches and a clock tower. The historic Old Bazaar in Skopje offers small shops, ateliers, traditional restaurants, inns and hammams to make visitors feel the spirit of the city. If you want to go on a journey to the past, get to know the old professions, experience the unique smells and texture of the streets. Old bazaar is waiting for you.