Tabriz is the capital of East Azerbaijan province, in the Azerbaijan region of Iran. It is a modern industrialized Iranian city with signs of old civilization of 2,500 years old. Having some of most famous museums, holding some of the cultural events, and harboring couple of most prestigious Iranian universities, the city is considered a major hub for science and culture in Iran.
Azerbaijani or Azeri, similar to Turkish, is the primary language spoken by most Tabrizis, although many people, especially the younger generation, can communicate in Farsi and English up to some level.
Most of the Tabriz residents consider themselves Iranian Azerbaijani.
Situated at an altitude of 1,340 meters above sea level, 619 km northwest of Tehran, the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960’s and one of its former capitals ( with a population of 1,400,000 according to 1992 census), Tabriz is in a valley to the north of the long ridge of Mount Sahand. The valley opens out into a plain that slopes down gently to the northern end of Lake Orumieh, 60 km to the west. The 160-km long Aji ,Chai or Talkheh River is the major river of the city, formed by merging of three smaller rivers, namely the Ab Nahand, Quri Chai, and Ojan Chai, all of which originate from the Sabalan Mountain and the heights in the southeastern part of the town. The river and streams join the Orumieh Lake after passing through the valleys between the Sorkhband and Yekkeh Chin mountain north of Tabriz and Osku district. Mehran River or Maidan Chai, also called Liqvan River, originates from the peaks between Karim and Sultan mountains overlooking the Liqvan village (a: major center of cheese production in Iran) near Esparakhoun and Qeshlaq. Its worst natural disadvantage, however, is its vulnerability to earthquakes, one of which utterly destroyed the city in 858. Rebuilt in a minor key, it was again devastated in 1041, when more than 40,000 people lost their lives.
By virtue of its situation, Tabriz has a continental climate with low humidity (average annual rain fall is 288 mm). It has a modestly warm summer climate and a severely cold winter.
The town has along and checkered history: Although the early history of Tabriz is shrouded in legend and mystery, the town’s origins are believed to date back” to distant antiquity, perhaps even before the Sassanian era (224-651 AD). The oldest stone tablet with a reference to Tabriz is that of Sargon II, the Assyrian King. The tablet refers to a place called Tauri Castle and Tarmkis. The historians believe that this castle was situated on the site of the present Tabriz. It was the capital of Azarbin the 3rd century AD and again under the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty (1256-13 53), although for some time Maragheh supplanted it. During the reign of Aqa Khan of the Ilkhanids, as well as under the reign of Ghazan Khan, Tabriz reached the peak of 1 glory and Impotance. Many great artists and philosophers from allover the world traveled to Tabriz. During this same period 1 Khajeh Rashid od-Din Fazlollah, the i..: learned historian and Minister of Ghazan , Khan, built the famous Rob’e Rashidi center.
In 1392, after the end of Mongol rule, the town was sacked by Tamerlane. It was soon restored under the Turkman tribe of r the Qara Qoyunlu, who established a short-lived local dynasty. Under the Safavids it rose from regional to national capital for a short period, but the second of the Safavid kings, Shah Tahmasb, moved the capital to Qazvin because of the vulnerability of Tabriz to Ottoman attacks. The town then went into a period of decline, fought over by the Iranians, Ottomans and Russians and struck by earthquake and disease.
Tabriz was the residence of the crown prince under the Qajar kings, themselves of Turkish stock, but the town did not return to prosperity until the second half of the 19th century .The greatest boost to Tabriz came with the opening up of Persia to the West at the turn of this century, when it became the main staging post between the interior of Iran and the Black Sea and, for a short time, the economic capital. In 1908 it was the center of a revolt against Mohammad Ali Shah, which was only put down with the brutal intervention of the Russians.
In the second Irano-Russian War the city was occupied by the Czar troops. however, it was returned to Iran following the signing of Turkmanchai Treaty, a peace and trade settlement that ended the Irano- Russian War of 1826-1828. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution originated in Tabriz and culminated during the reign of Mohammad Ali Shah of Qajar dynasty (1779-1925). Sat tar Khan and Baqer Khan were the two most prominent leading figures behind the movement. Tabriz was occupied by Russians several times in the first half of this century, including most of both world wars. A railway line to the border at Jolfa, built by the expansionist Russians, was of little importance until recently, but it has increased in significance in the ’90s as a result of Iran’s friendlier relations with its northern neighbors.
City transport, awaiting the Metro currently under construction (and still for a long time) is limited to Taxis, shared taxis and buses.
Taxis can be chartered for a modest fee (around 20 USD if you need a driver and car for the whole day to visit the region!)
Shared taxis are even more of a bargain, but you will need to speak a few words of Persian and risk your life by stepping on the side of the road and scream your destination at passing-by Paykans. However, the experience of sharing a car with 4 locals of both genders and all ages (+ driver) can be fun! Odds are the fare won’t be more than 10 cents (1.000 Rials) for a 10-minutes trip. Some drivers even refuse to be paid, the pleasure of chatting with a foreigner about the various plagues of Iran being apparently enough to make their day. (be careful of tarof, though)
Buses are difficult to take (no map, no schedule) and definitely not worth the experience when compared to shared taxis despite being quasi-free.
With a very rich history, Tabriz used to house many historical monuments. Unfortunately, many of them were destroyed in repeated invasions and attacks of foreign forces, negligence of the ruling governments, as well natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. What remains now mostly dates back to the Ilkhanids, the Safavids, and the Qajars. Some of the monuments are unrivaled masterpieces of architecture. The Shahrdari Square is the center of the town, on the south-west of which stands the imposing edifice of Municipality. The railway station (5 km from the center of the town) is at the western edge of the town. The Quri Chai river runs through Tabriz, and most places of interest to the visitor are to the south of this river and alone or north of Imam Khomeini Avenue.
- Saat Tower, Saat Sq., Emam Ave.. Saat Tower is the symbol of Tabriz. It was used as the main office of the city municipality. Nowadays it is the cite for Municipality museum.
- El Goli (locals call it Shah Goli), Shahgoli Blvd. (South east of Tabriz). It is a pool and a building in the middle of the poor. It used to be the summer palace for rulers or the king who ruled in Tabriz. Nowadays it is considered a suburban park with a square artificial pond. In the center, a small hall is on an island and hosts a restaurant. Very nice for eating some tchelokebab or sip some tea while enjoying the freshness of the park in summer.
- Blue Mosque (Goy Machid), Near to Mansur St., Emam Ave (City Center, close to Saat Tower). 9ː00 am till 4ː00 pm. Originally built in 1465, this mosque which was once certainly superb, but was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1778, leaving only the entrance Iwan. It was reconstructed at early 1900 by the Iranian Ministry of Culture. The inside of the mosque is tiled with superb blue ceramic, but unfortunately, many pieces went missing during the quake and were simply replaced by painting instead of tiles. Some of the original tiles can be found around the entrance.
- Bazaar of Tabriz, Rasteh-Kucheh (City center). is one of the oldest bazaars of the Middle East and the largest covered bazaar in the world. It was inscribed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in July 2010. The Bazaar is still alive and considered one of the major shopping and commerce center in Tabriz. Tabriz has been a place of cultural exchange since antiquity and its historic bazaar complex is one of the most important commercial centers on the Silk Road. Located in the center of the city of Tabriz, Iran. Bazar consists of several sub-units called Bazarche (sub-Bazar) each of which devoted to trade and shopping of specified goods. The most famous Bazarches are Amir Bazaar (for gold and jewelry) and Mozzafarieh (a carpet bazaar). Although, numerous modern shops and malls have been established nowadays, the bazaar of Tabriz has remained economic heart of both the city and northwestern of Iran.
- Ark-e-Alishah (Ark Citadel), Serah Taleqani, Emam Ave (City Center, close to Saat Tower.). During the Friday prayers there might be some restrictions for visitors.. It is a 28 meter wall which is the remnants of Tabriz city citadel and city wall. Ark was firstly made as a very big mosque in thirteenth century, however the devastating earthquake and other natural disasters ruined much of it except the main wall of the mihrab which is preserved till today. In later years this wall used as part of the city wall and the main part of fortress of Tabriz till end of Qdjar dynasty. During the wars of Safavid-Ottoman, and Perso-Russian wars this fortress was always one of the major Strong holds of Iranian troops. In early 20th century the constitutional revolutionist used the ark citadel as their military base in Tabriz. At the collapse of Autonomous Government of Azerbaijan Ark was the latest resistance of their troops against Iranian army. In recent years the surrounding area of Ark is used to build another big mosque for Friday prayers.
- Constitution house, Rasteh Koucheh (Close to Bazaar). It is a house retracing the story of the Iranian constitutional revolution in the early 20th century. Quite well documented and well kept, although few English translations are available. The edifice is located next to the Tabriz grand bazaar, on Motahari Ave. During the years leading up to the Constitutional Revolution and afterwards, the house was used as the gathering place of the leaders, activists, and the sympathizers of the movement, among them Sattar Khan, Baqer Khan, Seqat ol-Eslam and Haji Mirza AqaFarshi. The two-story building was constructed in 1868 by Haj Vali Me’mar-e Tabrizi. It has numerous rooms and halls. The most beautiful parts of the house are a skylight and a corridor decorated with colorful glasses and mirrors.
- Azerbaijan Museum, Emam Ave. (Next to Blue Mosque, very close to Saat Tower). It is a good place encompassing the long Iranian history with a focus on Iranian Azerbaijan. This is the most dominant archaeological museum in North-West of Iran. The museum includes the archaeological discoveries in Azerbaijan region. It has three galleries: Pre-Islamic History, Islamic History, and Coins. It also has a gallery for recently built sculptures in the basement and a yard for the stone sculptures. But poorly kept: very few translations and erratic classification make the trip inside the numerous dynasties intricate for first timers.
- Maghbarat-o-Shoara, Seqat-ol-eslam St.. Is a grave yard and a memorial for the poets and famous writer who lived in the city. The most recent poet who buried here is Azerbaijan poet Shahriyar.
- East Azerbaijan State Palace, Shohada Sq. (Close to Bazar). It is state palace and main office of East Azerbaijan Province governorship. The cite also include the Azerbaijan Governorship Museum.
- Fire Fighting Tower, Khaqani St. (located in the yard of fire fighting station.). is a fire fighting tower. it used to be part of fire fighting services. Someone was checking in the top of the tower around the city for any sign of fire. In case they would send the fire fighters toward the direction of smoke.
- Jomeh Moqsue, Rasteh Koucheh (Next to Bazaar). is a large, congregational mosque (Jāmeh) in Tabrīz city. There have been some reconstruction like making a new entrance to the mosque but the new parts doesn’t look good.
- Behnam House, Maqsoudieh St.. The edifice was built during the later part of the Zand dynasty (1750–1794) and the early part of the Qajar dynasty (1781–1925), as a residential house. During the reign of Nasereddin Shah Qajar (1848–1896) this building was substantially renovated and embellished with ornamental paintings. The house consists of a main building, referred to as the Winter Building, and a smaller structure, referred to as the Summer Building. The Winter Building is a two-story symmetrical construction standing on a basement. Like many traditional houses in Iran, this house has an inner (اندرونی, andaruni) and an outer (بيرونی, biruni) courtyard, the former being the larger of the two. In the course of a 2009 renovation project, some hitherto unknown miniature frescoes were discovered in this house which were restored by specialists. The Behnām House is part of the School of Architecture of Tabriz Art University.
- Rob-e-Rashidi, Abbasi St. It is ruins and remnants of an educational and scientific complex was built 13th century when Tabriz was the capital of Ilkhanid dynasty. Scientists, physicians, writers, and poets from all around the Ilkhanid territories brought here to built a big dominant scientific complex. They had schools for teaching the latest scientific discoveries of the time. An encyclopedia calls Safina-yi Tabriz is also written here. The recovery of the complex and its renovation is incomplete and some other constructions are going on the site.
- Gholestan Garden, Mohagheghi St.. Is good place to relax under the shadows of trees.
- Tabriz Meuseum of Natural History, Azadi Blvd St. (A ten minutes walk from Abrassan Sq. toward Tuba Mosque). is a museum of natural history with taxidermy samples from wild life of Iran and some other countries.
- Tabriz Cartoon Museum, Mohaqeqi St.. is a museum and gallery for caricature. There is also an annual international caricature competition held in here.
- Canonical palace This beautiful palace was built approximately 60 years ago.
Around Tabriz there are many historically and scenery interesting places to visit. The mountainous region of south Azerbaijan offers breathtaking views and excellent treks among castles, rocky paths and remote villages.
Kandovan Touristy village, Osku-Kandovan Rd. (Convenient wayː Darbast taxi, which costs about 20 USD; Economical wayː Take the minibus next to Golestan park, which costs about 2 USD). This village is famous because of man-made cliff dwelling which is still inhabited. The troglodyte homes, excavated inside volcanic rocks in foot hills of Mount Sahan. It is similar to dwellings in Cappadocia, Turkey. a troglodytic village 2 hours away from Tabriz. Great for discovering both the odd beauty of the place and the daily life of an Iranian village, among sheep, donkeys, hens and cats… Women in printed chadors can go outside and playing kids are all around. Mullahs obviously don’t bother going there too often. Resistant walking shoes are mandatory if you want to climb up the village. A living example of human adaptation to exceptionally unusual natural surroundings, Kandovan village is located 50 km to the south of Tabriz, Osku, on the northern slopes of a valley at the foothills of Mount Sahand. A river originating from the Sahand peaks passes through the valley. There are a number of natural springs to the north of the river, the water from which has traditionally been used for the treatment of kidney stones, according to the locals. The physical structure of the village looks like images from fairy tales. Natural cones, scattered over a vast area, serve as human dwellings on rock formations which themselves seem to have been the work certain sculptors. The road from Tabriz goes through this natural artwork. On getting nearer to the dwellings, the visitor finds out that large families are living inside two or three of these hollow interconnected cones with features such as openings on their surface playing the role of actual windows. The lowest cones are used as stables and those on top as the living quarters. The interiors of the dwellings, usually divided into a living and a bed room, are dimly lit; however, the villagers are used to it. The interconnecting corridors are very narrow. From the outside, the dwellings look so similar to each other that one may easily get lost in the village. Steep pathways and steps are made of rock pieces for animals as well as human beings. As the legend goes, the first people to settle here were the soldiers involved in military operations nearly 800 years ago, who found the cones by chance and used them as their temporary camouflage and accommodation. However, among archaeologists, it is considered to be of Pre-Islamic Period.
Lake Urmia (Sharafkhaneh Port about an hour north of Tabriz). A salt lake with salt beaches and improbable bathing spots (gender separate, of course). Numerous migratory birds stop there on their long trip for some rest and food. The lake is drying because of the many dams on the feeding rivers, so check for the status of the lake before heading towards the lake.
Babak Castle, Babak Castle Rd., Kaleybar (You need to rent a taxi for a day from Tabriz or take minibus trip.). A 9th-century castle in the peak of Jomhour in the middle of Arasbaran Forrest. It is nested on a rocky peak at an altitude of 2,700 m. Babak was one of the Iranian heroes fighting the Arabs invasion, around 9th century. The road goes up to the foot hills of the Jomhour castle and from there it takes 2-hours hiking walk to get up to the peak where the castle is, but definitely worth it. The castle has an interesting military design which made it impenetrable for invaders back in the days. It has also nice view to the forests around. It is better to visit it in summer time to avoid the harsh winter weather of the Azerbaijan region.
Mount Sahand. A big dome topping at around 3,700 m. Interesting to climb in summer, or for skying in winter
Saint Stepanos Monastery, Border line, West of Jolfa. (Take a three hour ride from Tabriz to Jolfa, then turn left at the border and drive about thirty minutes along Aras river westward.). This 9th-century Armenian church is north of Tabriz and south of Aras River, close to the Iran-Nakhichevan border. Along with two other Armenian Churches in the region (St Thaddeus and the Chapel of Dzordzor) it is inscribed a UNESCO site in 2008.
Takht-e Soleymān (5-hour ride from Tabriz towards the south, The rout passes through Bonab, Shahin Dezh, and Tekab). It is remnants and ruins of seventh century Iranian Royal Palace and Zerdostian Temple dated back to 224-651 AD inscribed a UNESCO site. It includes a lake in the center of palace and the ruins of the Sasanid palace around the lake. There is a royal prison located several miles away from the palace. Takhte Soleyman is named one of the 10 best ancient ruins by The Guardian newspaper. The name means the Throne of Solomon, in earlier ancient period known as Shiz or Adur Gushnasp, literally “the Fire of the Warrior Kings.
Hike in El-Goli park (Southeast of Tabriz, Shah-Gulu (Bus line: 130)). El-Gulu or as local calls Shah-Gulu is a grand park in south east of Tabriz. There is a big rectangular artificial lake in the middle of the Park with a restaurant. This place used to be a summer palace for the Iranian royal families during the time that Tabriz was the capital of the state and once it was the resident for the crown prince. Nowadays the palace in the middle renovated in the form of a restaurant and a small amusement park is constructed in next to the park. In summer time many residents came to the park and dust hike through the pedestrian pathway around the lake or have their dinner in the Forrest hills next to the lake.
Hot springs and Hydrotherapy Resorts in the north-west of Iran. Important and rich hydrotherapy centers such as “Sare Aine”, Boostan Abad, and specially the coastal strip along Urmia Lake enjoy great popularity among all tourists. Situated 20 km off the city of Ardabile, Sare Aine Spa forms one of the most significant health resorts in Iran. Moreover, hot springs rich in phosphoric and other mineral properties, located in this region, substantially contain various medicinal benefits. As a picturesque natural phenomenon comprising distinctive medicinal and healing features, Urmia Lake definitely constitutes one of the main attractions around Tabriz.
Baghlar Baghi Amusement park (Chay-Kenar Blvd.). Is the biggest amusement park in Tabriz normally operating in Late Spring, Summer, and early Automn.
Hike in Eynali Artificial Forest (in the north of Tabriz). There is a paved hiking road from the foot hill of Mount Eynali to its first peak. Many residents hike through the red during weekend. There is also an Eynali cable – a gondola lift which lifts visitors from the foot hills of Mount Eynali to the peak. The top station which calls The Roof of Tabriz has a view of all of the city. There are couple of sites in the top station including an old shrine (Zoroastrian Temple), a monument for the unknown soldiers (war heroes), two windmills and a restaurant which calls “Roof of Tabriz.
- If you want to spent lots of money, the Tabrizi carpets are among the finest in the world, and you will find masterpieces in shops and inside the Bazaar. Tabrizi rugs are among the most decorative rugs and frequently use colors like pink, red and cream. Rugs here are about 50% less than what you pay in the West, but you can typically only take 2-3 rugs back to your home country without paying a customs fee.
- Gold and Silver Jewelries are also handcrafts of Tabriz.
- Tabrizi nuts and Dried Fruits are quite famous in the region. There are couple of famous stores which are known nation wide including: Tavazoe (in Abrasan Square, Imam Ave.), and Rex (Shahnaz Sq., Imam Ave.)