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Steeped in history, the friendly city of Tabriz is located along the northern side of Mount Sahand and is renowned for its friendly locals who are ready to embrace everyone. The city is the capital of East Azerbaijan Province of Iran and is a treasure trove for visitors and history buffs. There are indications that Tabriz was home to civilizations right from the Stone Age. Today, it is an economic hub and thriving metropolitan in Northwest Iran, in Quru River Valley.
Tabriz has the distinction of being home to scores of museums and universities, and that is why Iranian scholars favor it over other cities in the country. Its poets and scholars are world renowned for their works.
While the younger generation in the city is conversant in English, the majority of the population speaks Azerbaijani Turkish. However, Persian is the official language and medium of education.
Located at an altitude of 1,340 m above sea level, Tabriz is surrounded by imposing mountains on three sides. It is about 619 km northwest of Tehran. Until the 1970s, it was second only to the Iranian capital, Tehran. The city is ideally located along the shores of Aji and Ghuri rivers, on a fertile plain. While it is in a seismic zone and has been devastated numerous times, the locals have always managed to rebuild it.
Tabriz has a semi-arid climate and receives an annual precipitation of about 280mm. It receives snow in winter and rainfall is common during spring and autumn. The salubrious climate, particularly the moderate summers, and lush valleys make Tabriz an ideal holiday destination.
Tabriz has etched its name in history, with the Assyrian stone tablets from the 3rd and 4th centuries BC mentioning the city. The tablets describe a castle town, which historians believe is a reference to Tabriz.
During the 3rd century AD, Tabriz had the distinction of being the capital city of Azerbaijan, a privilege it once again acquired between 1256 and 1353 when the Ilkhanid Dynasty from Mongolia ruled the region. This was the period when there was an influx of philosophers, artists and craftsmen into the city.
The city was once the capital of Iran. This was during the start of the Safavid era. However, later on Shah Tahmasp I, decided to shift the capital to Qazvin so that it is located further away from the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Over the centuries, the Russians, the Ottoman Empire and Iranians have fought to own Tabriz. In fact, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Russians occupied Tabriz on numerous occasions. The city regained its prominence as a commercial and trade hub after Iran warmed to the West in the late 20th century.
The city has always been steeped in culture and tradition, with Iranian writers and poets settling down in Tabriz. Many well-known writers and poets have drawn inspiration from the city and penned down their works. The city is the birthplace of the famous Azeri poet from Iran, Mohammad Hossein Shariar.
Music played an important role in the culture of Tabriz, but autocratic policies of the earlier Iranian governments stripped the city of this cultural identity. Once Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, who was a scholar, became the president of Iran, Tabriz enjoyed a cultural Renaissance. This saw a resurgence of traditional Azeri music forms, Ashugh and Mugham. Ashugh is a more popular music form and is often performed at concerts and other musical performances.
Tabriz offers a plethora of historical sites that will leave you in awe. While the city has faced numerous earthquakes, it has still managed to retain its historical treasures.
This iconic blue-tiled mosque was constructed in 1465, but was struck down by a massive earthquake in 1779, leaving just the blue-tiled archway at the entrance intact. The mosque has been reconstructed to its former glory and the Islamic calligraphy around the mosque is mesmerizing.
The bazaar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has retained its ancient ambience, thanks to its high dome ceiling and labyrinthine alleys. Here, you will find everything, right from cooking utensils and spices to jewelry and more. Be sure to check out the carpet section as the intricately designed and plush Tabriz carpets and rugs are world famous.
The imposing structure in the center of the city was constructed in the 14th century. It was built to be a mausoleum during the Ilkhanid Dynasty. However, in 1911, it was transformed into a military installation when the Iranians fought the Russians. The citadel suffered severe damage, as a result, but has been renovated since then.
This fascinating attraction boasts troglodyte homes that are located in the volcanic cliff face. Many families of the village still occupy these picturesque and quaint dwellings, though there are more modern homes now. You will find that the one hour car trip from Tabriz to Kandovan Village is well worth the time and effort.
Tabriz is not just about historical monuments and landmarks, but it is a place to commune with nature. Take leisurely walks along shimmering streams or sit at quaint and quirky cafés watching people go by.
Be sure to stop at this park, which has an outdoor pool and a palace. It is a popular leisure destination among locals who want to get away from the city. Formerly the summer residence of Qajar kings, today, El Goli Park is a family attraction with its numerous restaurants and cafés. It also has camping facilities, where you can sleep in tents that have basic amenities, like camping beds and electricity.
Located north of Tabriz, you can hike up the Eynali Mountain Range to get a spellbinding view of the city below. If you don’t feel like sweating it out, don’t worry. You can take a funicular railway or drive up to the summit where cafes and restaurants await you with piping hot Iranian tea and other hearty refreshments.
The Tabriz Grand Bazaar is a hot spot for bargain hunters and carpet lovers. However, do not miss the pedestrian malls located along Shahnaz, Tarbiyat and Ferdowsi streets where you can find clothes, handicraft, nuts, confectionery and even electrical appliances.
The winter snowfall makes Tabriz a fantastic destination to indulge in winter activities, including skiing, snowboarding and sledging. There are winter ski resorts that cater to tourists and locals.
The people of Tabriz love their food and this is evident in their preparations. Ash is a type of soup that is rich, warm and comforting. It is made with bouillon, assorted vegetables, spices and noodles. Then there is Abgoosht, which is another wholesome soup, made with lamb and chickpeas. This soup is regularly consumed in homes across Tabriz.
A holiday in Tabriz is incomplete without savoring Chelow Kabab, which incidentally is also the national dish of the country. It consists of kebabs, roasted tomatoes and occasionally roasted hot peppers that are combined and served on a plate of fluffy white rice.
Dolma is a distinctly Azerbaijani dish made from eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, meat, onions, and split peas. The dish is flavored with an array of aromatic spices, making it a mouthwatering preparation which is just tantalizing.
Be sure not to leave Tabriz without tasting the lip-smacking Tabrizi Kofte, which a meatball preparation served with rice and leeks.