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West Azarbayjan

West Azarbayjan


Geography and History

The province of West Azarbayjan is located to the northwest of Iran covering an area of 43,660 sq. km. The following form the townships of the said province: Orumieh, Oshnavieh, Bukan, Piran Shahr, Takab, Chaldran, Khoy, Sardasht, Salmas, Shahindej, Maku, Mahabad, Miandoab and Naqadeh. In the year 2006 , this province had a population of about 2.8 million of which approximately 60% resided in urban areas, 40% is rural areas and the rest accounted for being non-residents. The capital city of the province is the city of Orumieh with a population of approximately 435,000.This province has a mountainous terrain in which the relief varies. Having common borders with the countries of Turkey and Iraq. The high Zagross Mountains span over an area from the north west to the south east. The water obtained of melting snow, from these majestic mountains flow through the various valleys in the vicinity; ultimately, flowing into the three main sectors such as the Lake Orumieh, the great fault of Khoy and the Khoy valley and the valley of the Kloy (Zaab) River. These are the most low-lying areas of the province.


Climatically the province is influenced by humid air currents of the Atlantic Ocean and in the winter months the Mediterranean air currents have an effect here, bringing down the temperature. Generally the climate is variable such as being approximately 34º C in hot summer months and dropping to -16º C in the winter season, such that the cities of Orumieh and Maku have dry summers and cold winters, Mahabad has dry, long summers and extremely cold winters, whereas Naqadeh and Miandoab experience semi-humid climate with mild summers and cold winters.

History and Culture

The province of West Azarbayjan engulfs one of the ancient civilizations in the country. Various ancient and historical monuments together with the lifestyle and culture of a number of tribes or clans inhabiting the territory bring about this environment. Mosques, churches, fire-temples and historical upheavals throughout the passage of time have intermingled in creating a strong basis.Besides it is worth mentioning that from the religious aspect, the ‘Shiite-sect’ mostly are the inhabitants of  Orumieh and the northern cities, whereas the Sunnite sect are prevalent in the southern areas of the province. Other minorities such as the Assyrians and Armenians abide by their churches and each one of these, including the Azari and Kurds have their own traditions and culture.

West Azarbayjan Townships

Bukan, Chaldran (Siyah Cheshmeh), Khoy, Mahabad, Maku, Miandoab, Naqadeh, Orumieh, Oshnavieh, Piran Shahr, Salmas, Sardasht, Shahindej, Takab.


The said township lies between the two provinces of West Azarbayjan and Kurdestan . Its capital being the city of Bukan that lies en route from the city of Miandoab to Saqez. Bukan lies alongside the Simineh Rood River.Buke in the Kurdish language means bride and Bukan is its plural. As this area forms a cross-road when rural people after a marriage ceremony wanted to take their bride, they were compelled to cross en route from this vicinity to the other. Crossing this village they used to dance and sing all together around the pool which is at present even exists and is considered to be a sight seeing area.

Chaldran (Siyah Cheshmeh)

The township of Chaldran is to the northwest of Iran, with the city of Khoy to the south and Maku to the north. From the south, it is about 150 km. away from Turkey. In the year 920 AH., Shah Esmail Safavid and Soltan Saleem Osmani signed a treaty in the Chaldran plain. Chaldran has gold, mercury and asbestos quarries.


Khoy is one of the ancient regions of Iran with a moderate climate. The capital city being Khoy located 807 km. from Tehran. The word Khoy means ‘salt’, as the primary settlers in this region were the Medes due to the presence of a salt quarry here, called it as such. According to ancient records Khoy was a place having great importance, and was one of the branches of the Silk Road connecting east to west and passed through this city in pre-Islamic ages.


Mahabad lies to the south of the province and Lake Orumieh. The center of which lies 873 km. from Tehran. In its mountainous terrain it experiences cold weather, whereas in the plains it is warmer. Mahabad was formerly known as Savojbolaq Mokri. In the year 1038 AH., during the end of the reign of Shah Abbas I, Bedaqal Soltan chief of the Mokri tribe, shifted the center of his rule to Mahabad, and interesting relics of the time have survived in this city.


The township of Maku is the northwestern most region of Iran, is mountainous and beautiful. Maku is within international borders from three sides, its capital is the city of Maku, located 939 km. from Tehran. With a moderate climate and at an altitude of 1,294 m. above sea level. The city is in a semi-circular shape with the mountains sheltering it. In its primary stages, during the reign of Shah Abbas I, the city was no more than a fort dating to the year 1012 AH.


Located in the south west of Lake Orumieh in a fertile plains. Its capital city being Miandoab, placed at 823 km. from Tehran and to the south of the province, midst the plains. Climatically it has a moderate and somewhat humid weather. The city being engulfed by two waters such as Zarineh Rood and Simineh Rood Rivers, hence the name Miandoab (between two rivers). In this territory, various tribes have ruled.


Naqadeh is in the midst of the townships of Mahabad, Piran Shahr, Oshnavieh and Orumieh, and is the axis of communications due to its position. This city had had many historical upheavals and various historical relics and vestiges have been excavated in the Hassanloo hills lying near the city which is of great importance in this area. The antiquity of these have shown to be 2000 years BC.Various clans or tribes namely the Assyrians, Kords, Manas, and the Turks have immigrated to this vicinity and made settlements. That is till the Qarah Papaq (Black Cap) Clan immigrated to the region (during the reign of Fathali Shah) from Caucasian. This clan settled down in the vast plains of Soldooz and remaining in the region of Naqadeh cultivated wheat, rice and other agricultural products there.


The township of Orumieh lies between the western banks of the Lake Orumieh and the country of Turkey. The capital of which is the city of Orumieh. This city is located 951 km from Tehran and 13 km. west of Lake Orumieh on a green plain. Situated at an altitude, this territory is thereby separated from Turkey. Orumieh has cold winters and moderate summers. The area bears ancient relics some of which date back to 2000 BC. A few historians believe that Orumieh is the birthplace of the prophet Zoroaster. Ancient geographers believe it to be the third most important city of Azarbayjan, ranking after the cities of Ardabil and Maraqeh. Ancient relics are present here, but due to historical upheavals some of these valuable evidences have been completely destroyed.


In this territory many tribes or clans such as the Lullubi, Huraiyan, Assyrians, ‘Orartoie and the Medes existed in the historical ages. In an inscription related to Koorush (Cyrus the Great) it is stated that the area of Oshnoonek or Oshnavieh paid a revenue to Koorush. In Kolushir (to the south west of Oshnavieh), there is an engraving 170 cm. in height, bearing inscriptions in the two languages of Orartoie and Assyrian dating to the 8th century BC. (a decree from the Orartoie ruler of the times).In its historical past this city had been a battlefield between the Russians and the Ottomans and there has been evidence to plenty of upheavals which has caused many damages to lives and properties of the people. After which followed famine and a devastating earthquake leaving heavy damage behind, such that the city was completely ruined, only to be reconstructed by the inhabitants.

Piran Shahr

This township was formerly known as Khaneh and due to the tribe of Piran who had their settlement within these limits, which was later on changes to Piran Shahr (the city of Pirans). Its capital city is Piran Shahr. Piran Shahr is on the border towns between Iran and Iraq, and the high mountains of Siyah Kooh and Shiphan lie respectively to the northwest and south. The River Zaab takes its source in these mountains.


Salmas is situated on the plains its center being the city of Salmas (formerly known as Shahpour in the Pahlavi reign), which lies 854 km. from Tehran. In ancient books Salmas has been noted for being a city with good bazaars and a mosque constructed of stone. Excavations here from the hillock of Bitan have related Salman to the Medes. In the Achaemenian times, Salmas was known as Zarvand. Due to the fact of its position, that is stranding between Iran and Rome, this city after the fall of Khosrow Ashkani came under the hands of the Sassanians.


Sardasht is situated in the southwest of the province and near the borders of Iran and Iraq. It has natural beauty and the inhabitants of this area believe Sardasht to be the birthplace of Zoroater. This area was formerly known as Zartosht, whereas after the Arab invasion to Iran, the name changed to Sardasht.


In the Sassanian era, 30 km. from the fire-temple of Azar Goshasb, a fort named Sa’ien Dej was constructed and was utilized by those who visited the fire-temple for worship. After the Arab attack its name was changed to Sa’ien and later on this region proved to be an accommodation for pilgrims to Karbala.


The township of Takab is one of the historical sites of the province, well worth visiting. These historical relics are from the pre-Islamic period. The famous ‘Takht-e-Soleiman’ castle which is 45 km. northeast of Takab, is where the large fire-temple from the Sassanian era is located known as Azar Goshasb (one of the three large fire-temples of the Sassanian periods).
The remnants of which remains within a rampant, in addition to a natural spring and a large pool. It is believed that the city of Sheez stood here, but due to the volcanic eruptions of the Zendan Mountains or for some other unknown reason, this city was turned to rubble and is no more.

Historical Monuments

Baqcheh Jooq Palace, Maku

This palace is located at a distance of 8 km. between Maku and Bazargan border town and is situated in a vast garden covering about 11 hectares. This palace was built at the end of Qajar era under the orders of Iqbal-ol-Saltaneh Makui, one of the commanders of Mozafaredin Shah. This edifice can be divided into four portions:
The gateway and courtyard having a relatively small vestibule with a ceiling adorned with paintings.The main palace in two floors, having a gable-roof and numerous halls and chambers adorned with paintings, plaster moldings and mirror-work.
A building constructed of stone or the kitchen of the palace finished in polished stone.
Lastly, miscellaneous areas such as storage spaces and toilets.
The facade of the edifice is enhanced with statues of plaster and banisters made of same material have enhanced its beauty. Due to the fact that this palace is located on the transit road of Turkey-Europe, thousands of tourists visit this place annually.




Embossments of Baqcheh Jooq Palace


Hassanloo Hill, Naqadeh

This hillock lies 12 km. to the north east of Naqadeh next to the Hassanloo Village. It is about 20 m. higher than Godar River which is flowing at its foot. Its radius being approximately 250-280 m. In some researches carried out in this regard, it is believed that there have been ten different periods in which this area had been inhabited, of which the fourth period 800-1300 BC. is of higher archeological value. It has come to light that the structures of this period were all constructed of stone. Remnants such as castles, defense ramparts, a few halls and small chambers have been discovered.Within the castle, a courtyard surrounded by large and small chambers, pillared halls and lengthy porticos exist. Besides chambers which were interconnected, and a large hall (also known as a place for worship) that stood near the entrance to the courtyard, there were also storage places, kitchen quarters and an artillery area. Surrounding the western portion of the courtyard were about 15 chambers both large and small.The reputed Gold Cup or Goblet of Hassanloo (known as the ‘Jaam-e-Zarrin-e-Hassanloo’, 21 cm in height, 6 cm in circumference , weighing 590 gr. of pure gold was discovered is this hillock. A variety of pots, swords, spears, toiletry vessels (used by women), articles of stone, earthen ware, glass ware and metal ware have been also found in this area.




Khatoon Bridge, Khoy

This bridge was constructed at 2 km. southeast of Khoy on the river which is 40 km. from Khoy – Salmas Road in the years 1170-1200 AH., under the orders of Ahmad Khan Donbeli. The bridge is made of brick and is 59.40 m. in length, 8.70 m. in width, and 6.48 m. in height. The bridge has undergone repair in recent years.




Panj Cheshmeh Bridge, Maku

This bridge is located 5 km. from Maku on the Zangmar River, and is a monument from the Safavid era. This bridge was constructed in order to facilitate communications between Tabriz and Maku, and the surrounding rural areas. This bridge is built on simple lines and made of stone.




Segonbad Tomb, Orumieh

This historical structure is to the southeast of Orumieh and the date 580 AH. can be noted on three inscriptions in the Kufic script placed on the entrance door. There is a possibility that the brick tower of Segonbad was constructed in the 6th century AH.




Takht-e-Soleiman Castle, Takab

The aggregate of the Takht-e-Soleiman monument is placed on a natural high land, about 20 m. above the surrounding plain. All the structural relics have been constructed within an oval shaped rampart. The exterior rampart with 5 m. thickness, 14 m. height and outer circumference of 1,200 m. has 38 conical defense towers. The outer wall is a remnant from the Sassanian period. During the Ilkhanan reign, a new gateway had been constructed adjoined with the former southern gateway. Within the oval rampart there are two square plots, with uniaxis and different centers. In the centers of the southern square there is a lake and the northern square an ancient fire-temple respectively. Eivan-e-Khosrow is placed to the north western direction of the lake and to its southern side is Eivan-e-Garabaq-e-Khosrow. Takht-e-Soleiman was destroyed during the Roman conquest in 624 AD.In archeological surveys around the area of the fire-temple a variety of coins, tiles and a huge copper cooking vessel (a remnant of the Islamic period), have been discovered. The Soleiman prison which consists of the remnants of a pre-historic and the Medes temple is included in this aggregate. Sites such as dormant volcanoes, thermal springs and streams around Takht-e-Soleiman are worth surveying.






Religious Monuments

Imamzadeh Barkeshloo Mausoleum, Orumieh

This mausoleum is in a village 12 km. from Orumieh and dates back to the Zandiyeh period or early Qajar era. From the architectural point of view this mausoleum is uniquely interesting.




Motaleb Khan Mosque, Khoy

Situated in the central part of the city, this mosque is related to the Eilkhani era. After being destroyed, it was reconstructed in the Qajar period. It has beautiful plaster moldings and engravings.






Orumieh Jame’ Mosque, Orumieh

This historical mosque has been repaired from time to time and is located in the center of the ancient bazaar of this city. The ancient dome of this mosque has been related to the period of the Saljuqians and its altar to the Eilkhanian era 676 AH. Evidence of broken articles found in excavations from the base of the 40 pillars in the domed nocturnal area, have further fortified this theory. These pillars have been repaired for several times. There are old arcades around the courtyard of the mosque which belong to early Zandiyeh period. Its engraving also indicates the date of construction, i.e., 1184 AH. Kufic inscriptions around the dome, and plaster molding of the altar can be accounted as special adornments of this mosque.The new parts have been constructed in recent decades.




Sardar Mosque, Orumieh

The Sardar or Sa’atloo Mosque has been constructed during the Qajar period. In the year 1951 a huge clock was affixed on the entrance and was then reputedly known as the Sa’atloo Mosque. It has interesting architectural design which was constructed of brick during the Qajar period. The mosque is in two sections, the basement and a long hall. Interesting architectural affects can be noted in this structure.


Tile Works of Saradar Mosque


Qarah Church (Tatavoos Church), Maku

This church is situated in the village of Qarah Kelisa, district of Siyah Cheshmeh, Maku. It is the tomb of the sacred Thaddeus. According to historical records of the Sassanian period, some of the Armenians were the followers of prophet Zoroaster, whereas some were sun worshipers. In the year 43 AD. two men by the name of Tatavoos and Batholemus preached on Christianity in the vicinity of Azarbayjan, thereby gaining number of followers (3500 people ) including the daughter of the monarch of the time.In order to stop the advancement of Christianity, the Armenian ruler ordered for their massacre in the year 66 AD. It is said that their bodies were buried in the vicinity of this church. In the year 1329 AD. , the church was renovated and in the year 1810 AD. was repaired. This church comprises of two sections, one is the ‘Black Church’ which is the older section, and the other being the ‘White Church’ is larger than the other and is the new segment. The black church has mythical artistic efforts on its structure whereas in the new church the engravings differs.


Qarah Church (Tatavoos Church)


Qarah Church


Sorop Serkis Church, Khoy

The said church dates back to the 4th century AD. , and is on the Cultural Heritage Organization records.






Natural Attractions

Aras River, Maku

The bordering Aras River flows for about 135 km. between the province of West Azarbayjan and the Republic of Nakhjavan. This river takes its source in the Min Gol Mountains of Turkey. On following its course, it ultimately flows into the Caspian Sea. The river has a length of 1072 km.




Orumieh Lake, West Azarbayjan

The province of West Azarbayjan has the largest lake of Iran in its territory, known as Lake Orumieh. This lake is at an altitude of 1,267 m. from the sea level, with a length of 130-140 km, the width being approximately 15-50 km. and at an average depth of 50-60 m. Its waters are extremely salty (twice the salinity of the oceans), consequently the lake never freezes.
From olden times, local physicians made use of the water (because of its mineral content) and coastal sludge, in treating skin diseases and rheumatoid disorders. The best season for bathing in these waters are from the end of June till the third week of August, when the lake begins getting cold.


Mosht-e-Osman Rock, Orumieh Lake


Lake Orumieh has numerous islands, both large and small totaling to 102 in number. The most important of these being the following, Kaboodan (Qoyoon Daqi), Ashk, Espeer, and Arezoo.Kaboodan Island: This island is one of the largest islands of the lake Orumieh, located to the east of which and covering an area of about 3,175 hectares. Its vegetation being generally short scrubs and a variety of trees bearing wild fruits and nuts. Mammals such as wild goat and wild sheep exist on this Island. It is protected by the Department of the Environment as a National Park.Ashk Island: This island lies to the south of the Island of Kaboodan and 40 km. from the port of Golman Khaneh. This island has a ‘sweet water’ spring and provides a natural habitat for resident and immigrant birds. One of the rarest species of wildlife known as the ‘Iranian follow deer’ is found here. The Island covers and area of 2,115 hectares and its vegetation is similar to that of the Island of Kaboodan.


3 Rocks, Orumieh Lake


Espeer Island: This island covers an area of 1.151 hectares, located to the west of the Kaboodan island and 27 km. from the port of Golman Khaneh. This island provide a natural habitat for birds. The island also has one jetty. These islands have facilities for swimming and water sports.


Kaboodan Island


Coastal Area of Orumieh Lake


Culture and Art

Orumieh Museum, Orumieh

The said museum was constructed in the year 1967 in this city. It comprises of various sections exhibiting ancient, historical articles, two segments which are devoted to anthropology and a library.





The Governmental universities in West Azarbayjan province

Orumieh University, Orumieh University of Medical Sciences, Orumieh University of Technology, Payame Noor University of Piran shahr.

The Islamic Azad universities in West Azarbayjan province

Islamic Azad University of Orumieh, Islamic Azad University of Salmas, Islamic Azad University of Khoy, Islamic Azad University of Piran shahr, Islamic Azad University of Mahabad.

Tribal Area and Special Villages, West Azarbayjan

The province of West Azarbayjan has its own special attractions regarding rural and tribal spaces or settlements. These are counted as valuable area for sight-seeing specially for tourists. Such as the rural areas of Marakan, Band, Siyah Cheshmeh, Khooshaku, Sahulan, Isa Kandi, etc., to name a few having a further attraction of wildlife present here.
The rural areas of Chanqaralu, Tamatran, Qarah Kelisa, Qatur, Chaldoran, etc., have many historical and interesting features in addition to the rural aspects. Around the township of Mkau are settlements of the Jalali tribe. This clan is divided into two being Milan and Qezelbash tribes respectively. Tribes are on move annually from their ‘summer residing quarters’ to ‘winter residing quarters’ and vice versa during specific months. The tribes of Piran Shahr are divided into 3 groups namely Mamesh, Mangoor, and Piran. These tribes have their own life style and move from one place to the other depending on seasonal changes.


Qezelbash Girls and thair Handicrafts