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Geography and History

The province of Zanjan covers an area of 39,370 sq.km. To the east of this province is the province of Hamadan, to the west is the province of West Azarbayjan and to the south is the province of Kurdestan. To the north of the province are the provinces of Ardabil and East Azarbayjan. This province is actually located in the plateau north-west of central Iran. The townships of Abhar, Ijrud, Khoda Bandeh, Khoram Dareh, Zanjan, Tarom and Mah Neshan are the constituents of the said province. In November 2006, the population of this province was approximately 964,601 out of which about 58% resided in urban areas, around 42% were rural dwellers, and a number were non-residents.Zanjan province comprises of two regions-plain and mountainous. The former spanning various areas of the province, and the latter is the northern sector, enveloping many high peaks or summits. In the southern territory of Zanjan there is an alluvial plain, to the north of this vast plain are the Soltanieh heights and to the south of which stand the Qeydar heights. These form the limits of the said plain. There are many rivers flowing in this province-the most important of which being the Qezel Ozan River.


Climatically, Zanjan province, being under the influence of indirect air-currents, named as humid north-western ones, enjoys two different types of climate. A mountainous climate with cold and snowy winters, and temperate summers. Whilst the Tarom Olya region experiences a warm and semi-humid climate with warm summers and mild winters. The percentage of rainfall and humidity being higher than in the mountainous terrain, the spring and winter seasons having more rainfall than other periods of the year.There are long spells of ‘dry’ months in the province and two of the most important air-currents are the ‘Sormeh’ and ‘Garn’ or in other words ‘Harah’ and ‘Warm’. The most suitable seasons are spring and summer for spending time in this province regarding sight-seeing.

History and Culture

Zanjan province is said to be one of the regions of Iran, rich in historical background. That is remnants from the pre-historic period (7th millennium BC. till early 3rd millennium BC.), are evident here. Moreover, in the (2nd and 3rd millennium BC.) in the Ijrud (Zanjan) region distinctive elements portraying a thriving and progressive civilization in this central plateau of Iran has come to light. The evaluation of the black colored engravings on the buff or cream colored earthenware, brings to focus a link and continuity between the civilizations of the Damqan Hessar Hill, Sialk Hill (Kashan) and the Ijrud (Zanjan) civilizations.
In most prominent and spectacular historical vestiges of this period is a kind of gray black earthenware which complies to the period of Aryan migration to this region. This type of earthenware discovered can be said to be similar to a teapot with a long spout, found in all the tombs of that age and can be related to the funeral ceremonies.In accordance with Assyrian documents, this region was called Andya in the 9th century BC. and the inhabitants were probably in communication with the Lulubi and Gouti tribes residing on the slopes of the Zagross Mountain Range. Coins such as Derik and Riton discovered in Khoda Bandeh are the remnants of the Achaemenian era. During the Parthians and Sassanian periods, the valleys of Zanjan Road and Qezel Ozan proved to be flourishing and thriving areas of the region. Here the most important historical remnant that can be pointed out is the Tashvir Fire Temple.But advancing towards the Islamic period that is from the (7th to 19th century AD.) equivalent to the (1st century to 14th century AH.); brought about the Osman conquests in Iran. Existing texts and evidences reveal that during the Islamic period throughout ,i.e., during the reigns of the various dynasties such as, the Karganian, Saljuqian and Ilkhanan, specially from the (4th to 8th century AH.) this region thrived from economic, cultural and artistic point of view. One of the reasons that Soltanieh was chosen as the capital was due to the fact that this region was at its economic peak in the (7th and 8th centuries AH.). This territory was disheveled and ruined during the Mongol attack, but regained its importance during the reign of Soltan Mohammad Khoda Bandeh and become a renounced capital for the Ilkhan government.In accordance to the orders of Oligaito, a rampart was built around Soltanieh in the midst of which a huge fort was created. Oljaito also constructed a large dome which was to house his tomb and this dome is the renounced ‘Gonbad ‘ or dome of Khoda Bandeh. During the reign of Oljaito, Soltanieh was counted as one of the most important cities of the Ilkhanans after the city of Tabriz.In the 9th century AH. after the decline of Ilkhanans, the Sarbedarans came to power. But during the attack of Teimoor the Lame, the Zanjan region fell to ruins and it was only during the reigns of Shah Tahmasb Safavid and earlier in the reign of Mohammad Khan Qajar that this territory made relative advancement both culturally and economically.

Zanjan Province Townships

Abhar, Khoda Bandeh, Khoram Dareh, Mah Neshan, Tarom, Zanjan.


Abhar or ‘Abhar Chay’ as is colloquially known is one of the most ancient regions of Iran. Existing evidences reveal that this area thrived and flourished in the 2nd millennium BC., the Medes were responsible for unifying various tribes then existing. It was during the Ilkhanan era that this region also saw progress in the way of communications due to the fact that Soltaniyeh was selected as the capital during the said reign. Communication-wise this importance can be said to exist even today.The name of this city is derived from the Pahlavi language, a word pronounced as ‘Oher’- meaning a place for ‘blocking waters’. The original location of this city is known as ‘Tappeh Qaleh’ and stands on the right bank of the Abhar River. The said area is one of the ancient places of human settlement in Zanjan province, from the very beginning of the 4th millennium BC. The famous Abhar river flows across this region which enjoys a mountainous climate with cold snowy winters and moderate summers.

Khoda Bandeh

This township is located in the south-eastern part of Zanjan, experiences a mountainous climate with cold, snowy winters and moderate summers. One of the earliest human settlements dating back to the 4th and early 5th millennium BC. can be recorded here. Tribes such as Khoda Bandehloo and Afshar mingled with the natives of the area, bringing for the renounced Zanjan race. This township includes two cities named as Shoravard and Sajas, to make special mention of a great personality such as Shahabedin Sohravardi who grew up here.

Khoram Dareh

Khoram Dareh is located east of the Zanjan province, in the neighborhood of Qazvin. It experiences a moderate, mountainous climate with cold, snowy winters and moderate summers. Local air currents such as Sardmeh and the warm air current known as Shareh Taake have a share in influencing climate conditions here. Such that these air currents play an important role in agriculture too. The center of this township is the city of Khoram Dareh located between Tehran and Zanjan.

Mah Neshan

This town is located to the north west of Zanjan province. To its west it has common borders with the province of West Azarbayjan, to the north it is in the neighborhood of East Azarbayjan and to the south stands the province of Kurdestan. Part of this area is mountainous being in the skirts of the Zagross Mountain Ranges, and another part of which is located along the banks of the Qezel Ozan River.Climate wise this area experiences cold and mountainous weather, with cold, snowy winters specially in the heights and moderate summers. The center of this township is the city of Mah Neshan.


This township is situated in the north east of the province and is the neighborhood of Gilan province. Tarom is a vast, level and somewhat deep valley, situated in the lower basin of the Qezel Ozan River, ending in Manjeel basin of ‘Sefid Rood’ Lake Dam. This valley is situated between the two mountain ranges of Tarom in northern Zanjan and the slopes of the south eastern mountain ranges of Talesh. In spite of its natural beauty, Tarom is unfortunately an earthquake prone area, and the earthquake in the month of Khordad 1990. proved devastating.Due to the environment, that is mountain ranges and high summits this region is devoid of rain bearing winds; in the lower regions and along the banks of the Qezel Ozan River, dry and semi-arid conditions prevail, but in the higher regions a moderate and mountainous type of climate exists.


The township of Zanjan is composed of two large valleys known as ‘Zanjan Rood’ and ‘Sefid Rood’. In between which the Qanavol and Angooran Mountains lie. Zanjan has moderate summers and cold winters. The distance between Zanjan and Tehran is 328 km. Zanjan was founded during the reign of Ardeshir Babakan and was then called Shahin or Shahan. With the passage of time, this name changed to Zangan and later came to be called Zanjan. In the book named “Hoddodol Aalam” or “limits of the world”, (372 AH.), Zanjan has been described as a thriving, flourishing city with strong ramparts. In the 6th century AH. the Ilkhanans gained power in this territory and the city of Soltanieh was erected and thence known to be the capital of Oljaito.After the decline of the Ilkhanans, Amir Teimoor attacked Iran and reduced this city to Shambles in the year 786 AH. During the reign of Tahmasb Shah Safavid I in the year 930-984 AH. Soltanieh witnessed further decline. But during the reign of Fathali Shah (the Qajar King) built a summer palace in this city. Today, because of its strategic position both politically and commercially, this city has attracted many immigrants and hereby the increase of population has caused development and increase of city limits.

Historical Monuments  

Chalapi Oqli Historical Edifice, Khoda Bandeh

This two storeyed structure is located 500 km. south west of Soltanieh between Soltanieh and Khoda Bandeh. Researchers have affiliated this building to Soltan Chalapi. This complex or aggregate comprises of two sections, one being the Khaneqah and the other being the mausoleum. The Khaneqah consists of a central courtyard with chambers to the west and east of the courtyard. The place for public prayer here is paved with slabs of stone and mortar. The ceilings of the chambers are dome shaped. According to an engraving in the southern portico, this structure has been erected in the years (657-683 AH.) and has been endowed to the Khaneqah-e-Shamsieh.The mausoleum of this historical site is octagonal in shape. The brick works of the ceiling varies on each of these eight sides, besides this the brick work in other parts is simple, but reveals a beauty. This mausoleum has a high dome. From the point of view of the tombs here it is interesting to note that the Soltans’ tomb is in the center, whereas his followers are placed in accordance to their rank in circles around the main tomb.




Rakhtshooy Khaneh Historical Edifice, Zanjan

This famous edifice is located in Baba Jamal Choqoie Zanjan. It was constructed by two brothers named Mashad Akbar (an architect of those times) and Mashadi Esmail, (a mason). This construction can be divided into two parts. The first can be said to be the ‘care-taker’ and management, and then the wash room area. The former relates to the court yard and residential quarters, which encompasses two chambers along with an entrance. The latter portion is the wash room area, that again can be categorized into different sections-such as the water reservoir the ceiling of which is beautifully architectured.Another section is the main or original wash room, constructed from slabs of stone and mortar. Internally this building boast of unique architectural techniques. It can be noted that clothes can be washed here in four phases – beginning at the end of the water canal and ending on the other side. Beside foot baths can be observed, as well as a sewage system which had been planned under the foot baths, hence delivering the sewage water to the sewage system of the city. At present this public wash-house and historical relic has been renovated into a museum, which is on record in Iran.




Dash Kasan Caves, Abhar

This aggregate is located 10 km. south east of Soltanieh (Abhar). During this period three caves have been intricately dug out from the breast of the mountain side. Out of the remnants of this beautiful sculpture is worth mentioning of two dragons opposite each other and reaching a height of 3 m. Along side these are other engravings (in the Islamic style) such as flowers and paisley design in order to enchance the beauty of the altars situated in the cave.
Besides which the stone has been carved in an arched fashion. The remnants of these carvings are from the period of the Mongol Emperor Oljaito, as he had sent for Chinese craftsmen and ordered them thus. According to the theory held regarding these caves, they were utilized during two separate periods in history.




In the first the theory holds that these caves were a place of worship for the Sassanians.
The second being during the Ilkhanan dynasty, depicted by the carving such as dragons, grape wine leaves, and wine etched in the caves.Due to the fact that the green slabs of stone use in constructing the Soltanieh citadel were excavated from these caves, space was provided for carvings and the construction of tombs in the said vicinity which later on was turned into a mausoleum.




Qeidar Nabi Mausoleum, Abhar

This mausoleum is that of Qeydar Ben Esmail Ben Ebrahim one of the prophets of the Bani Israili clan. The construction of this structure dates back to 719 AH. and the dome of which was built in the year 751 AH. and its plaster molding was carried out in the 11th century AH. The so to speak encasing around the grave or shrine is an artistic and delicate carving of wood such as geometrical designs, flowers and paisley design can be observed in the carvings.There is also a special area for pilgrims around the shrine. In the courtyard of this mausoleum are chambers to be utilized by pilgrims who visit the shrine. On the sides of the southern entrance two flowers can be noted.




Soltanieh Dome Tomb, Abhar

The said lies south west of the Cohan Dej (Royal citadel). It was constructed during the reign of Soltan Mohammad Khoda Bandeh (Oljaito) in the years 704-712 AH. This structure has 8 elevated porticos and about 50 chambers, including an area which is also similar to a chamber. The dome of this construction weighs 200 tons and is situated on pillars, bearing an area of 50 sq.m. each if separated or cut across. This structure is made of a mixture of gypsum and to a lesser proportion limestone. Gonbad Soltanieh is erected in three floors which are defined as follows. The ground floor consists of the eight portions. The first floor comprises of the halls which run throughout this floor. On the third floor is the foundation column of the dome and the octagonal pillars supporting the minarets. The entrance to the cellar is from the southern portico. The layout or plan of this cellar is a complex one, consisting of 7 segregated sections, each part independent of the other. The principle factors regarding the artistic effects revealed in Gonbad Soltanieh are the inlayed brick-work, plaster moldings, engravings and tile works. All these together create harmony that is worth appreciation and artistic value. For example, the spectacular engraving here that stands 360 cm. high in which a verse from the Holy Qoran (Sureh Fath) has been inscribed in the beautiful script of ‘tholth’. On the upper or second floor of this structure engravings can also be observed, one of these inscribed with the (Ayeh 125 Sureh Mobarakeh Baqareh) from the Holy Qoran inscribed in the “Kufic’ script.




Ceiling of Soltanieh Dome


Zanjan Old Bazaar, Zanjan

This Bazaar is located in the ancient network of the city and consists of two portions such as the Bazaar-e-Bala or upper section and the ‘Bazaar-e-Paieen’ or ‘lower’ section (of the Bazaar). The Bazaar of Zanjan, was inaugurated during the reign of Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar in the year 1205 AH. and was completed during the reign of Fathali Shah,1213 AH. The Russian prince Alixis Soltikov visited this Bazaar in the year 1216 AH. In the lower bazaar besides local commodities, goods, from the surrounding villages were also sold.Today this section is used as a warehouse for imported goods. Two of the caravansaries or local, ancient inns of this bazaar are the Serai Malek and Serai Golshan. These have been repaired and renovated in the year 1345 AH. Two mosques are also a part of the aggregate, known as the Aqa Sheikh Fayaz mosque and Mirza mosque. Two public baths also exist here by the names of Buluri and Moini.The upper bazaar section consists of the Qeysarieh bazaars and the bazaars of Hojatol Islam, Imamzadeh and Abdol Ali Beig bazaar. This Bazaar has been divided into 8 segments (each to do with a specific guild) such as, jewel merchants, textiles, foot ware, hat ware, saddle-makers, fruit sellers etc. Five mosques are located here named as the Chehel Sotoon Mosque, Aqa Seyed Fathollah Mosque, Jame Mosque, Mallar Mosque and the Hojjatol Islam Mosque. This aggregate has on the whole got 940 shops. Due to changes in weather conditions in the city of Zanjan, the roof of this Bazaar has been architectured in such a way that climatic variations outsides, do not penetrate within the said structure.




Religious Monuments

Imamzadeh Esmaeil, Abhar

This Imamzadeh is located between the towns of Abhar and Takestan, he is said to be a descendent of Hazrat Ali Ben Abitaleb (AS). The facade of the Imamzadeh is octagonal, but internally it is square in shape and generally made of brick. It comprises of intricate architectural techniques and fine mirror work. The dome is finished in tile work and right around the mausoleum verses from the Holy Qoran can be noted. Architectural evidence show that this structure was built in the 9th century AH. and the artistic works probably date back to the late Safavid era.




Imamzadeh Zeidolkabir Mausoleum, Abhar

This is located in Ostad Motahari Avenue of Abhar. The tower and dome of which is pointed (or somewhat conical), it is constructed out of brick and is spherical in shape. This structure was repaired in the year 850 AH. It is said that this personality is the descendent of the second Imam of the Shiite sect. In the year 1365 AH. a place for religious rituals (Hosseinieh) has been built to the north of the mausoleum.




Qorveh Jame’ Mosque, Abhar

This mosque is located in the village of Qorveh in Abhar, and was erected during the Saljuqi era (5th century AH.).




Zanjan Jame’ (Seyed) Mosque, Zanjan

The Jame’ Mosque and school of Zanjan is situated in the old part of the city. The said construction was erected by Abdollah Mirza Dara, or the eleventh offspring of Fathali Shah Qajar in the year (1242 AH.). This historical site is of great value where planning and architectural feats are concerned. To the east and west of the court yard of the mosque sixteen chambers exist running parallel to each other. Facing towards south are rise chambers used as residential quarters for theology students. The ceilings of these chambers being artistically decorated with diagonal arches 2.5 m. from the floor. The portions have beautifully vaulted and have arched ceilings. The chambers have also been worked in tile dating back to Qajar era. This mosque has three places for nocturnal payers, or Shabestan each having an altar. The dome of this mosque is spectacular.




The picture of some other Old Mosques in Zanjan are shown below:


Khanum Mosque, Zanjan


Sajas Jame’ Mosque, Khoda Bandeh


Natural Attractions

Abhar Rood River, Abhar

This vicinity is within the limits of the eastern face of Garah Daq Mountains, in the rural area of Sajas, taking its source 30 km north east of Qeydar. In addition to smaller tributaries adjoining with, it flows eastwards and south east of Chaman Soltanieh. After gaining an increased flow of water in Zia Abad (Takestan) finally finds its way to the Hozeh Soltan Lake in Qom. Leisure spots with its natural beauty in this area are along the banks of the river.

Qezel Ozan River, Zanjan

This river finds its source in the mountains of Kurdestan, and meandering through the winter residing quarters (Qishlaq) of the Afshar terrain, finds its way to the suburbs of Khoda Bandeh. Thereby entering Zanjan province. Qezel Ozan forms a part of the two rivers that combine to form the Sefid Rood River, flows eastwards between the mountains of Talesh and the mountain ranges to the north of Zanjan. Near Manjeel it joins the Shahrood Hezar Rood, thereby taking the name of Sefid Rood, which now increases in water-flow, proceeds north. Ultimately flowing into the Sea of Mazandaran. Neeedless to say, the banks of the Qezel Ozan River form a wonderful site and is one of the noted leisure spots in Zanjan province.




Zanjan Rood River (Zanjan Chay), Zanjan  

This river originates from Chaman Soltanieh and the Aq Daq Mountains. After flowing through a part of the outskirts of Zanjan and the territory of Chaipareh, together with smaller rivers, joins the Qezel Ozan River near Rejeen. Throughout its course, leisure spots are found enhanced with gardens, greenery and natural beauty.

Culture and Art

Zanjan Anthropological Museum, Zanjan

This museum is located in the historical site of the beautiful edifice of the Rakhtshooy Khaneh in the renowned locality of Baba Jamal Charoqi of Zanjan. This is a remnants of the Qajar era and the museum displays fire exhibits related to the older times. Clothes or apparel that men and women wore, including handicrafts.





The Governmental universities in Zanjan province

University of Zanjan, Zanjan University of Medical Sciences.

The Islamic Azad universities in Zanjan province

Islamic Azad University of Zanjan.

Handicrafts and Souvenirs, Zanjan

These plain knives and a variety of pocket knives and switch blades, carpets, ‘Charoq’ (a local type of women shoe) filigree work, silver and a variety of ‘Kilim’ (a coarse carpet or rug) and ‘jajim’ or (loosely woven woolen carpet).


Charoq (Shoes)


Local and Regional Foods, Zanjan

In this respect, Zanjan province has an elaborate number of dishes, many of which can be traced down to the authentic villages and tribes. The various types of Aash are: Omaj Aashi, Soqan Aashi, Tandir Aashi, Aash Mast, Aash Dooq, Aash torsh, Aash Rishteh, Aash Balqur, Aash reshteh Torsh. Khoresht or types of curries such as: Khoresht Isfinaj or spinach, Khoresht Gowjeh Sabz, Khoresht Lubia Sabz, Khoresht Kadoo Halwai or red pumpkin. Kookoo-e-Shireen, Nargesi, Borani-e-Isfinaj, Seebzamini Bereshteh, Kaleh Joosh, Sheer Birinj, Halwa, Mashkafi, Kolarg, Kolas and a variety of other dishes.

Local Music and Dances, Zanjan

From ancient times the music of Azarbayjan owed its fame to the presence of the ‘Ashiqs’ who were self made artisans contributed to the local music by composing lyrics and displaying their ability on the musical instruments in use. They performed in various ceremonies thereby securing an income too. Beside this special form of music other tunes are also played by different performs, being the music played throughout the other parts of Iran.