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Tabriz, a city shaped by history and nature

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Wilson Jone |
Tabriz
Iran   Modern shopping malls and nice architecture are coupled with good restaurants

Mountainous, green and big, Tabriz is a relaxed city in Iran, filled with friendly people and a UNESCO-listed bazaar. It’s the perfect introduction to Iran for everyone. Welcome to Tabriz!

Tarbiat StreetIran is the cradle of civilization and Tabriz is the capital of one of its most famous provinces. Some say it is the birth place of Zaratushtra, which might be true, but we know for sure it's the capital of Aturpatgan or East Azarbaijan as the province is known too, and with more than 1,700,000 people it was the second largest city in Iran until the early 1970's. What's more, it was the capital city of the country on several occasions.

TabrizThanks to its location in a valley to the north of the Mount Sahand, it was a perfect destination for settlers. The valley nicely continues into a plain that slopes down to the northern end of Lake Orumieh, making it a perfect place on a trade route too. Tabriz is closer to Azerbaijan and Turkey than to the rest of Iran, but for some reason it has always been a haven for literary and cultural figures of Iran who at the very least visited it at one point in their lives. No wonder then that Tabriz hosts the Mausoleum of Poets.

Saint Stepanos MonasteryBut Iran respects other religions too. The Saint Stepanos Monastery was built to commemorate the apostle who was stoned to deat in Jerusalem, or al-Quds as it is also known. The monastery has been built along the bank of Aras River where the trees and the great weather converted that religious into the attraction for tourists. One of the most beautiful monuments in Tabriz, if not the most beautiful, is Saat Tower, Tabriz Clock Tower.

Saat TowerIt was built under supervision of German architects in 1934 with the four-faced clock at the top of a 30 meter tower that rings every 15 minutes. Looking like a flying eagle with open wings, the Saat Tower is still used for the meetings of city council and special occasions. With construction of a new municipal building, part of Saat Tower changed to a museum. With little rainfall throughout the year, every green thing is welcome in this part of Iran.

El Goli ParkAnd here comes El Goli Park, the most attractive public park with a 5.5 hectare lake. For tourists there are tents equipped with electricity and comfortable camping beds, a luna park, lanes for cycling, exercise equipment, huge entertainment center, handful of restaurants and cafes, and a five-star hotel - with a revolving restaurant. But Tarbiat Street is most probably the street where you can feel the city's atmosphere at its finest: a lot of friendly people, modern shopping malls and nice architecture coupled with good restaurants.

Tabriz BazaarThe Tabriz Bazaar, with 5,000 shops at one place, is the largest covered bazaar in the world, dating back some 1,000 years ago, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you watch closely here you can see the original calculator, the abacus, which some shopkeepers still use to calculate. Find a tree-shaded courtyard and have a glass of fresh fruit juice and watch people passing by. If you want something more modern there is Laleh Park Mall, and of course, Amir Bazaar - for gold and jewelry - and Mozzafarieh, a carpet bazaar, is a must.

Old bridgeThe Blue Mosque (Masjid-e Kaboud) is on the north side of town and unfortunately that a 15th-century structure was destroyed partially in an earthquake. However, its marble slabs decorated superb mosaic tiles are well-worth visiting. To go from the Tabriz Bazaar to north of Tabriz you have to cross Qari bridge, (the Old bridge). The brick structure with arched vaults and rams head dates back to the late 18th, early 20th century, and it was named after an old woman wanted a better access to north of Tabriz across the river.

Kandovan villageFood! You simply must taste their food. You should start at Haj Ali Chelokababi at the Bazaar and some say they serve the best kebab in the world. Rahnama Dairy is a simple place at the main bazaar with unforgetable breakfasts with must-asal (yogurt and honey) and khame-asal (cream and honeycomb). Full and happy head to the Kandovan village to see homes carved inside rocks, some of them being 700 years old. Most of the cave houses are two to four storeys in height. This remarkable place looks like a movie set.


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