Iran: Ardabil

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This documentary takes us to Ardabil; an ancient green city in northwest of Iran which has the Islamic culture and architecture integrated in itself.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: In the calm of the mountain foots of Talesh and Sabalan, in the midst of a vast green field, spreads the city of Ardabil, with mild summers and cold winters.

Its history goes back to Firouz, one of Sasanit Kings. At that period it used to be called "Artavil" meaning the holy land.

In ancient times this city was in the way of the Silk Road, which leads us to believe that it has a 3000 year civilization.

Ardabil is inhabited by warm and welcoming people who speak the Azari Turkish language. The population is mainly Muslim with a Christian minority constituted by Armenians for the most.

The Sheikh Safi Mausoleum, one the precious monuments of Iran's history, is the home, the convent and the tomb of Sheikh Safi-al-din, the ancestor of the Safavit monarchs. This ensemble was constructed, in the 8th century, by Sadr-al-din Musa, Sheikh Safi's son.

The ensemble of Sheikh Safi mausoleum comprises four courtyards: the largest courtyard, or the "Baghcheh (green) courtyard", the "Large courtyard" around which the main buildings are situated, the "Small courtyard" which is in between the Baghcheh and the Large courtyard, and the south courtyard which is called "Shahidgah" (Martyrs' place).

TIME CODE: 05:00 _ 10:00

Narration: This valuable ensemble which has been registered in the UNESCO'S World Heritage records includes other buildings, namely Sheikh Safi's Tomb, King Ismaeel's Tomb, the Jannat Sara (Paradise house) Mosque, the Harem, the China House, the summerhouse, and few other places.

Sheikh Safi-al-din of Ardabil, the grand ancestor of Safavit monarchs was one of the respected native Sadats (descendents of the prophet) of Ardabil. He was born between years 648 – 658 of the solar calendar, and passed away in year 745 when he was about 81 years old. King Ismaeel the Safavit is the founder of the Safavit dynasty.

The outer façade, beneath the dome, is a brick cylinder, about 17 meters high, with an octagon foundation that ends into a low altitude dome in the shape of a semi sphere. On the tower's façade the word Allah has been artistically inscribed and repeated on topaz tiles. For this reason they call it the "Allah Allah dome".

The tombs inner wall that leads to the dome are stucco decorated and covered by canvas drapes which are painted upon with floral patterns in the style of the Safavit era and nailed to the walls.

The sheikh's grave, in the middle of the octagon enclosure, is covered with a wooden case with exquisite inlaid and fretwork on it, and on the upper edge of the case inscriptions have been engraved containing, among other, the name of the tomb's owner.

Ghandil Khaneh (Stalactite house) used to be where the reading and interpretation sessions of the Quran took place. This part has two sections, each having a small dome as their roof. It has two stories with five wooden windows in each, bestowing a fascinating beauty to it.

It has been said that King Tahmasb the 1st, one of the famous Safavit rulers ordered the weaving of an exquisite carpet, having thirty three million knots, for the Stalactite house. After being spread on the floor, the carpet's design was copied on the roof with gold.

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

Narration: This carpet was taken to London by an Englishman named Kay Abbot and till this day, as the most exquisite carpet of the Safavit Era, it is kept in the Victoria and Albert Hall Museum in London.

The reason this section was called Stalactite house was the existence of lucid stalactites that passed the light to the entrance.

In this part of the Stalactite house a sign is attached which is said that King Ismaeel the Safavit used to hold it in his hand during one of his wars called the "Chaldoran war."

The northern and southern small domes of the hall, though made of plaster, are so artistically painted that they feel like a marvelous garden which absorbs the spectators' mind. The roof of the summer house which is situated in front of the Sheikh's tomb also ends into a smaller roof with ornamented gutter.

The hall of the Stalactite house has altogether twelve false arches and the floor false arches are thirty centimeters high. The walls and the roofs of the false arcs like the rest of the hall constituents have stucco decorations and oil paintings. On the lower part of the walls, above the plinth exists also stucco worked inscriptions of Quran verses, legends, names of holy saints and the Sheikhs pedigree of rules of life.

The entrance of the main court, is located on the eastern wall of the central corridor, with ornamented Mogharnas ( miniature concave arches worked on top of each other within a big concave arch on top of an entrance) coming downward from its tip. Over the end of the tile works, on an inscription we notice the name "King Abbass", and it is for this reason that this entrance is called the Abbasi Portal.

The Abbassi entrance opens into a rectangular courtyard covered with smooth and polished stone. It is known as the main court of the Stalactite house.

In the center of the courtyard is a shallow basin in the shape of a rose leaf, dug out of stone.

The Stalactite house reaches into another building, in a totally asymmetrical way, called the China House. One of the early buildings of the Sheikh Safi ensemble, this house was at first the place religious rituals of the Dervishes. Under the rule of King Abbas the 1st, changes were implemented and the house turned into a place for keeping precious books and antiques, in particular Royal china porcelains.

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

Narration: The valuable china porcelains kept in this place were all ordered by King Abbas the 1st to be manufactured by Chinese artisans. Over each of them is a seal with the phrase: "Dedicated to the Sheikh Safi Sanctuary by the servants of King Abbass and his successors." In the second round of the wars between Iran and Russia (1826 -1828) part of this treasure, on the orders of Giribidov, Russia's plenipotentiary minister, was taken to Saint Petersburg. They exist right now in the Armitage Museum.

Today, this part is used as a museum. The various entrances to the China House ensemble are made of the flung open facades in the shape of half dome porticos.

Each portico is a pentagon with five deep pantries, having inlaid and fret worked doors. One of the sides has a window with a deep sill.

In this edifice, on a false roof made of wood and plaster several compartments on the wall, starting from three meters above the ground and reaching up to the roof and arched depths, are arranged, where they keep precious objects. The front borders of these raffs are also made of wood, on which flower patterns with golden color on blue background have been drawn.

On the northern rib of the court is a portico with a big juniper wooden door. On the north of this portico which resembles a summerhouse is another juniper door which opens to the Jannat Sara (paradise house), an octagon shaped building .

Some say that this building used to have a dome on top of it and was a place where the Dervish performed their Sama dance. Others have described it as a mosque without roof. Whatever it was and still is, it has been close to five hundred years that no one has ever come to the middle of this place, enthusing the honor of the endeared one, to do the Sama, and the flow of time has become dust showing off on the rainbow.

The precincts on the east and north of the China House is known as the "Martyrs' place" graveyard.

The Martyrs' place was at first a common graveyard in front of the sanctuary. But after the victory of King Ismaeel the 1st over Farrokh Yassar, the King of Shirvan, the bodies of Sheikh Heydar and his war commanders, who had been killed years ago in the Shirvan wars and buried there, were transferred to this place. From then on the graveyard was called Martyrs' place.

What is known today as the Ardabil Anthropological museum is actually one the most ancient bathhouses of Iran, constructed by a person named Zahir-al- Islam during the Ilkhani era between 654-750 lunar calendar.

The building of the bathhouse which is adjacent to the Sheikh Safi mausoleum is within the Alighapoo square.

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

Narration: The number of museum statues which counts to around thirty and are wearing traditional clothing, the rituals and traditions of the people, and the means of subsistence of the ancient people of this region, are all put to the show.

The House of Reza Zadeh is named after a person by this same name who used to be one of the wealthy and respected citizens of Ardabil. The house belongs to the late Ghajar era and lies in the Ochadegan ancient precinct. It is a pleasant and luxurious house in two stories, with spacious guest houses and bright summerhouse which divulgates the hospitality of its owner.

The Amini family didn’t suspect that, years later, from the top of the minarets of the mosque they had built it in their own time, would the spiritual tune of Azan (call to prayer) resound in the old neighborhoods of Ardabil.

The Mirza Aliakbar Mojtahed mosque was at first built by the Amini family in the middle of the Bazaar the market. This building had been erected on a large number of columns. Years later an individual who used to preach in this same mosque did some reparations on it and from then on the mosque was named the Mirza Aliakbar Mojtahed mosque in his memory.

The Ebrahimi House is a magnificent historical mansion with a luxurious court, beautiful Orsis (buildings whose glass windows give on to the court), and artistic stucco decorations. It was built in year 1340 (lunar calendar). It is a wonderful edifice where the sunshine rays on the colorful glasses of the Orsis carry away the contemplator into daydreaming.

The Seven Springs Bridge of Ardabil is built over the Balighlochay river. The bridge has seven brick passageways, and breakwaters made with rocks.

Two kilometers north of the city of Ardabil, in the Kalkhoran village, lies the tomb of Sheikh Amin-al-din Jibrael, grand ancestor of the Safavit monarchs.

In the privacy of Khalkhoran's Sheikh you are allowed only to be silent. That is because Silence used to be the Sheikh's creed, and he always abstained from giving speeches. It is for this reason that the guest in this house is confuted to remain silent.

The mausoleum's structure was built in the tenth century in the lunar calendar. The Sheikh's tomb is located in a vast enclosure known as the Bagh-e-Sheikh (Sheikh's garden) in the shape of a square. It has a portico, porch, and an Andarooni (interior space) composed of two small chambers.

All surrounding walls inside the mausoleum are covered with tiles in all kinds of designs, and in the upper part, one sees the inscription of verses and legends.

The outer façade of the mausoleum, on the east side of the structure, has three doors, four windows and three porticos and a small false arch which is absolutely symmetrical to the west side. And on the wall the name of "Allah", "Mohammed" and "Ali" have been inscribed on topaz colored tiles. This structure could be considered as one the best examples of Islamic tombs.

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

Narration: The vast green plains, spreading below the mountain feet. The smooth stretch of mountainous green in the neighborhood of humid clouds and the breeze blowing over the cold snow … all of these, put together, foster the heartbroken Ashighs; Ashighs are mystique singers who play music and sing love songs.

(Here is the same lover who was singing about Sheikh Safi)

One of the great reasons for the shaping of civilization lies in the existence of rivers and lakes on the surface of the earth.

The Shoorabil is a beautiful lake worthy of being discovered. "Shoor" means salty and the lake used to have a salty water in the past, thus the name.

Every year thousands of birds migrate from the cold north to the warm south, with the first signs of autumn. A large number of them are guests to the surroundings of Shoorabil and spend the winter in the hope of spring.

Honey is an electuary from the mountain foots of Sabalan and has been in existence just as long as the sweet nectar of flowers. The Sabalan honey, the sweetest souvenir of Ardabil, is produced from the slopes covered with wild hyacinth, sweet basil, penny royal, red thyme and yellow flowers of Sabalan and Talesh, a souvenir of which you will never forget the smell and taste.

The beautiful city of Sar-eyn is located twenty eight kilometers west of Ardabil and of its main attractions is a place called the Ghahveh-Souyee hot mineral spring. They say that in the past the city of Sar-eyn was in the way of the Silk Road and for the travelers of this commercial road a coffee house had been built with a number of rooms. The mineral spring came out of the earth inside the coffee house and gradually the coffee house had been named Ghahveh- Souyee, which at present still hosts the travelers.

Cheshmeh Sardabeh (Sardabeh spring) is located at twenty five kilometers north-west of the city of Ardabil in the village of Sardabeh.

In the Sardabeh region is also a waterfall by this same name, which is 15 to 20 meters high, having an exclusive beauty. There is also the Sardabeh hot spring water which has healing properties. Every year it hosts thousands of native and foreign tourists. The existence of a waterfall which is frozen most of the year beside a hot water spring that boils out of the earth is a marvelous parade of the power of the almighty.

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

Narration: At 25 kilometers from the Sabalan Mountains lies the city of Meshkinshar, a city with a pleasant climate, people of understanding, and a rich culture, an ancient city which has been home to many of the distinguished and eminent figures of the country.

With due attention to the relics discovered from the city's historical surroundings, it has been estimated to be more than 10000 years old, (8000 years before Christ.)

The historical region known as Ya'ra lies in the north-west of the Pirazmian village and 31 kilometers east of Meshkinshahr. The city of Ya'ra has three main attractions, namely the military fort, the sanctuary and Ghoosha tappeh (Ghoosha hill.) the fort and the sanctuary date back to 1450 before Christ, and Ghoosha tappeh dates back to 7000 years before Christ.

In the nearby neighborhood there are gravestones with monotonous patterns of human faces that are mouth-less. They vary in size between 2 meters and 40 centimeters and they count to around 100. This place is situated at the extremity of the Meshkinshahr plain.

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

Narration: Kohne Ghal-eh (the old fort) is the name of a historical fort in the vicinity of Meshkinshahr.

About 150 meters away from the fort is the famous petro glyph of "Soro shekan dashi". On this petro glyph, with Pahlavi script, is written about a person named Nerse Hormoz, a Sasanit king, on whose order this structure was built within 6 years, in the Khyav region. At a period of time this fort used to be the life line of the warriors who entrenched in Sabalan. This fort has always been in control of the army and garrisons.

Kohne Ghal'eh has a very large court with four brick walls built on a base of rock. It has six towers with small crib like chambers designed for stalling a rider and his horse.

The Fandoghloo forest starts from the east of the Owlya Mausoleum located on the road linking the city of Namin to the city of Astara, and ends in the east of the village of Hoor; having a north-west south-east orientation. The Fandoghloo forest is part of the woods of the east of the Ardabil province, which are the continuation of the semitropical woods of the Gilan province. The forest's name comes from the fact that fandogh (hazzlenut) trees are most abundant in it. However other fruit trees such as greengage, meddler, quince and all kinds of berries grow in it.

In the south-most regions of the Ardabil province, where forest and mountain meet, lies the beautiful city of Khalkhal, which is 114 kilometers away from the capital.

TIME CODE: 40:00­_45:00

Narration: The Heyran Path, is one of the routes connecting Ardabil to Astara. This path has on one side the mountain covered with thick vegetation, and on the other side, a valley.

Nature's beauty in this region fascinates any spectator. The road resembles a huge serpent that embraces the mountain, and in company of the Aghchay river and the beehives rises up to the summit.

The city of Namin, which is near the Khazar sea, spreads over the mountain foot and the lower fields. It is said that this city used to be covered with trees and forests. And because of its vicinity to the sea, it had a humid and rainy weather, reason why they called it Namin, meaning humid.

Dasht –e- Moghan is the name of a green and fertile plain in the north-most region of the Ardabil province. The plain is so green, wet, and virgin that it could host any kind of plant. That is why they call it the granary of Azarbyjan. In the historical books we read that Nadershah Afshar coroneted himself in this region and chose it as his capital.

The Neor Lake is the biggest sweet water lake in the Ardabil province. It is located in one of the valleys of the Baghro mountain, 48 kilometers south east of Ardabil, in the direction of Khalkhal. It is composed of two lakes, a small one and bigger one, which in the spring season join to form a single lake.

Sheikh Heydar, a descendent of Sheikh Safi-al-din Ardabili is the father of King Ismaeel. From the book the king wrote himself in the Kufi script we learn that in the thick of a fight Sheikh Heydar is hit by an arrow and killed. Ghezelbash soldiers wrapped his body in a winding sheet and buried him in the village of Esfandyar, in the Dehkandi region of Tabarestan. But later king Ismaeel opened his grave and took his remains to somewhere around Khyav and buried him in a magnificent tomb.

This tomb is in the shape of a round tower upon which legends narrate that in the past it was covered with a golden dome. The structure was built in the early 8th century and on the exterior it is ornament with topaz tiles on which Quran verses from the Fat'h chapter and also the word Jalal- Allah in various fonts including the Kufi are inscribed.


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