Situated in the Hadeed district midway between the Mallaha and Dabbaghah districts, the Haraj Souq has a total area of 2,300 square meters and is made up of two floors. This covered 14th century Mamlouk bazaar has a high vaulted ceiling, which is supported by granite columns that may have originally been part of a Roman or Byzantine structure.
The ceiling is eight meters high. The columns were renovated by the Crusaders, the Mamlouks and Ottomans . A total of 14 black granite shafts can be seen along the north, south and east sides. The granite was imported from the Sinai desert thousands of years ago. Souq al-Haraj is distinct from the other bazaars and khans as it has four gates, which open in four different directions into a vast roughly square yard, in the center of which are two columns of granite imported from Pharaonic Egypt.
It is surrounded by shops, above which there are rooms used as hotels by the merchants who used to come to sell their goods at auctions. The presence of windows covered with pierced wooden boards in the upper rooms, through which people could view the central square without being seen, were probably used by veiled women. Historians had different point of view about the origin of the Souk, some describes the souq as an old Crusader building constructed in the way of khans (a caravanserai with two floors, the lower floor is to display merchandise, while the upper is probably composed of bedrooms …
Other historians described the construction as “strange and undetermined,” built in an Arab-Islamic and Mamlouk style. Historians supported the theory, saying that the site was used for auctions and urged the authorities to conduct excavations and end the controversy about the site’s identity. They said the site’s design did not fulfill the conditions of khan construction, nor was it similar to other souqs, adding that he did not know whether there was another explanation for the site Some believe it was a Crusader church or a Roman temple.
Sarkis said he doesn’t believe the theory that the site is Mamlouk, adding that the Mamlouks exploited and renovated existing sites, but that the characteristics of Souq al-Haraj were not Mamlouk. Restoration: Asked what makes al-Haraj so special, German historian Stefan Weber, answered immediately: “Aesthetics – it’s as simple as that.” Pointing to the niches in the interior of the building he adds: “You don’t find that in Cairo, you don’t find that in Damascus, nor in Aleppo.
This is a truly outstanding building for the Mamluk period.” When Weber first visited the souk back in 1993, he was instantly fascinated, but disappointed that its beauty could not be fully appreciated: walls, once white, were covered in concrete, shabby metal doors had replaced the wooden ones, and a 1983 bombing had left half of the backside destroyed. The storefronts, which face into an open square and probably date back to the 14th century, have been restored through two periods of intense work and Souk Haraj regained its previous glory.