Caravanserai to Carrefour

The retail history of the Middle East, 600–present

Authored by: Omar Foda

The Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138675087
eBook ISBN: 9781315560854
Adobe ISBN:


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This study maps retail markets in the Middle East from 600 to the present, dividing its history into four periods: Islamic Retail, 600–1750; Retail Colonialism, 1750–1950; the Retail of Developmentalism, 1950–1990; and Neoliberal Retail, 1990–Present. It argues that from the very foundations of Islam until the present day, buying and selling and the venues where these transactions took place have been inseparable from the politics that surrounded them. This connection manifested itself in government regulation of retail spaces, countrywide boycott of products, and active scenes of violence in retail venues. There was never a time where retail was not a concern of those ruling and those hoping to rule. This connection was only amplified by the fact that mass consumption, and its attendant ideologies, erupted in a colonial context in the Middle East. By analysing the typology of retail markets in the Middle East, we not only see who was selling what and to whom, but we also grasp the historical interaction of state and society.

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