Tabriz pronounced [tæbˈriːz] is the most populated city in the northwest of Iran, one of the historical capitals of Iran, and the present capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Tabriz is located at an elevation of 1,350 meters above sea level in the Quru River valley between the long ridge of the volcanic cones of the Sahand and Eynali mountains. The valley opens up into a plain that gently slopes down to the eastern shores of Lake Urmia, 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the west. With cold winters and temperate summers, the city is considered a summer resort.
Tabriz has a population of 1,549,453. It is a major heavy industry hub for automobile, machine tools, refineries and petrochemical, textile, and cement production industries. Tabriz is also a site for some of the most prestigious academic and cultural institutes in the northwest of Iran.
The city has a long and turbulent history with its oldest civilization sites dated back to 1,500 B.C. It contains many historical monuments representing the transition of Iranian architecture in its long historical timelines. Most of the preserved historical sites in the city are belong to Ilkhanid (of Mongol Empire), Safavid, and Qajar area, among them is the grand Bazaar of Tabriz which is inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2010. From the early modern era and on, the city has proven to be pivotal in the development, movement, history, and economy of three neighboring regions, namely that of the Caucasus, Eastern Anatolia, and central Iran. From the 19th century and on, it became the most important city in the country in numerous respects. As the closest Iranian hub to Europe, many aspects of the early modern modernisation in Iran started in Tabriz. Prior to the forced ceding of Iran’s Caucasian territories to Imperial Russia following the two Russo-Persian Wars of the first half of the 19th century, Tabriz was the main city in the legisture of Iranian rule for its Caucasian territories due to its proximity. During almost the entire Qajar period (up to 1925), it functioned as the seat for the crown prince as well.
The early history of Tabriz is currently not well-documented. Some archaeologists suppose that the Garden of Eden was probably located in present-day location of Tabriz. The earliest known inscription about Tabriz, referring to the city as Tarui or Tauris is on the Assyrian King Sargon II’s epigraph in 714 BC. Tabriz has been chosen as the capital for some rulers commencing from Atropates era and his dynasty.
A recent excavation at the site of the Iron Age museum, in the north of the Blue Mosque site, uncovered a grave yard of 1st millennium BC. More likely the city has been destroyed several times either by natural disasters or by the invading armies.
The earliest elements of the present Tabriz are claimed to be built either at the time of the early Sassanids in the 3rd or 4th century AD, or later in the 7th century. The Middle Persian name of the city was T’awrēš.
After the conquest of Iran by Muslims, the Arabic Azd tribe from Yemen resided in Tabriz. The development of post-Islamic Tabriz began as of this time. The Islamic geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi says that Tabriz was a village before Rawwad from the tribe of Azd arrive at Tabriz.In 791 AD, Zubaidah, the wife of Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, rebuilt Tabriz after a devastating earthquake and beautified the city so much as to obtain the credit for having been its founder.
After the Mongol invasion, Tabriz came to eclipse Maragheh as the later Ilkhanid Mongol capital of Azerbaijan until it was sacked by Timur in 1392.
Chosen as a capital by Abaqa Khan, fourth ruler of the Ilkhanate, for its favored location in the northwestern grasslands, in 1295, his successor Ghazan Khan made it the chief administrative center of an empire stretching from Anatolia to the Oxus River and from the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean. Under his rule new walls were built around the city, and numerous public buildings, educational facilities, and caravansarais were erected to serve traders traveling on the ancient Silk Road. The Byzantine Gregory Choniades is said to have served as the city’s Orthodox bishop during this time.
In the 13th century many western expediters who visit Tabriz on their way to the east were amazed by the richness of the city, its magnificent buildings and its institutions.
Marco Polo, who traveled thorough the Silk Road and passed Tabriz about 1275, described it as: “a great city surrounded by beautiful and pleasant gardens. It is excellently situated so the goods brought to here come from many regions. Latin merchants specially Genevis go there to buy the goods that come from foreign lands.”
During the Middle Ages, a Jewish community existed in the town. In the 16th century a Jewish Yemenite traveler to the town described the deteriorating conditions of Jewish life there.
From 1375 to 1468, Tabriz was the capital of Qara Qoyunlu state in Azerbaijan, until defeat of Qara Qoyunlu ruler, Jahan Shah by Ag Qoyunlu warriors. Ag Qoyunlus selected Tabriz as their capital from 1469 to 1501. Some of the existing historical monuments including the Blue Mosque belong to the Qara Qoyunlu period.
In 1501, Shah Ismail I entered Tabriz and proclaimed it the capital of his Safavid state. In 1514, after the Battle of Chaldiran, Tabriz was temporarily occupied by the Ottomans, but remained the capital of Safavid Iranian empire until 1548, when Shah Tahmasp I transferred it to Qazvin to avoid the growing threat of Ottoman army.
Between 1585 and 1603, Tabriz was occupied by the Ottomans before it was liberated by the Safavid king, Abbas I of Persia after which it grew as a major commercial center, conducting trade with the Ottoman Empire, Russia, and the Caucasus.
In summer of 1721, a large earthquake shocked Tabriz, killing about eighty thousand of its residents. The devastation continued later on 1724-1725 by the crucial invasion of the city by Ottoman army during which they imprisoned and killed about two hundred thousand of Tabriz inhabitants. The city was retaken later by the Iranian army. In coming years the widespread hunger and disease killed more of the city’s residents. In 1780, a major earthquake hit near Tabriz killing over 200,000 people. The tragic devastation reduced the number of inhabitants to about thirty thousand and turned the city to a mere ghost town.
At the end of the 18th century the city was divided to several districts each of which was ruled by a family, until 1799 when the Qajar Prince Abbas Mirza was appointed as the governor of the city. During the Qajar dynasty the city was the residence for the Crown Prince. The crown prince normally served as governor of Azerbaijan province as well. One of the most important events in this period was the war between Iran and Russia. With the last series of the Russian-Iranian wars, the city was captured by Russia in 1827 by General Prince Eristov, who marched into the city with 3,000 soldiers. After Abbas Mirza and Ivan Paskevich signed the peace treaty the Russian army retreated from the city however the Russian political and military influence remained a major thing in Tabriz and north-northwestern Iran up to the fall of Russian empire in the early 20th century. After the retreat of the Russian army, Abbas Mirza, Qajar prince of crown, started a modernization scheme launched from Tabriz. He introduced Western-style institutions, imported industrial machinery, installed the first regular postal service, and undertook military reforms in the city. He rebuilt the remnants of Tabriz and established a modern taxation system.
Tabriz was chosen as the capital by several rulers commencing from the time of Atropates. It was the capital of the Ilkhanate (Mongol) dynasty since 1265. During the Ghazan Khan era, who came into power in 1295, the city reached its highest splendour. The later realm stretched from the Amu Darya in the East to the Egypt borders in the West and from the Caucasus in the North to the Indian ocean in the South. It was again the capital of Iran during the Qara Qoyunlu dynasty from 1375 to 1468 and then during the Ag Qoyunlu within 1468–1501. Finally, it was capital of the Iranian Empire in the Safavid period from 1501 until their defeat in 1555.
During the Qajar dynasty, Tabriz was used as residence center of Iranian Crown Prince (1794–1925).
Tabriz was devastated by several earthquakes during its history (e.g., in 858, 1041, and 1721) and as a result, from numerous monuments only few of them or part of them have survived until now. Moreover, some of the historical monuments have been destroyed fully or partially within construction projects (e.g. the Ark of Tabriz is in danger of destruction now, because of ongoing construction project of “Mosal’laye Emam” in close proximity). Nonetheless, there are still numerous monuments remaining until now, which include:
- Aji Chay Bridge
- Amir Nezam House (Qajar museum)
- Arg of Tabriz
- Azerbaijan Museum
- Baghmasha gate
- Bazaar of Tabriz, a world heritage site.
- Behnam House (school of architecture)
- Blue Mosque (Goy Masjid)
- Boulourchian house
- Catholic church of Tabriz
- Constitutional Revolution House of Tabriz (Mashrouteh museum)
- Daneshsara (faculty of education)
- Document Museum
- East-Azerbaijan State Palace
- Ferdowsi street
- Ghadaki house
- Qari bridge
- Haidarzadeh house
- Hariree house
- House of Seghat ol Islam
- Imamzadeh Hamzah, Tabriz
- Imamzadeh Ibrahim
- Iranian municipalities
- Iron Age museum
- Jameh mosque of Tabriz
- Madrasah Akbarieh
- Maqbaratoshoara (tomb of poets)
- Mansoor bridge
- Measure museum
- Muharram museum
- Municipality of Tabriz
- Bohtouni museum
- Tabriz Museum of Natural History
- Nobar bath
- On ibn Ali’s shrine
- Ordobadi house
- Pahlavi street (Imam St.)
- Pol Sanghi (Stone bridge)
- Pottery museum
- Post museum
- Qur’an museum
- Roshdieh school
- Rug museum
- Ruins of Rabe Rashidi University
- Saheb ol Amr mosque
- Saint Mary Church of Tabriz (Armenian church of)
- Salmasi house
- Seventh-day Adventist Church Armenian
- Shahnaz street
- Shahryar literature museum (house of Shahryar)
- Sharbatoglu house
- Shohada Mosque
- Sorkheh-i house
- Tabriz Fire Fighting Tower
- Tabriz Railway Station
- Tarbiyat street
- Two Kamals tomb
Parks and gardens
Tabriz has 132 parks, including 97 small parks, 31 regional and 4 city parks. According to 2005 statistics, area of parks in Tabriz is 2,595 km2 also area of green spaces of Tabriz is 8,548 km2, which means 5.6 sq.m per person. The oldest park in Tabriz, called Golestan Baği, was established at first Pahlavi’s era in city center. Tabriz has 8 traveler-parks with capacity of 10.000 travelers, as well.
- Khaqani Park
- Ghaem Magham
- Golestan Park
- Mashrouteh Park
- Saeb Tabrizi garden
- Shah Goli park
- Shams Tabrizi garden
- Eynali state forest park.
- Baghmesha park.
An interesting park-like popular location is Eynally Daği, a mountain at the north-east extremity of the city. Eynali was a barren mountain on top of which there was a huge white rectangular antenna facing Tabriz city. The old building was claimed to be a shrine that housed the burial site of an Imamzadeh (a descendant of the profit of Islam). In recent years trees have been planted on mountain slopes and the place has the appearance of a vast park. Every Friday morning many walk the site to enjoy the relatively cleaner breezes and watch the ever growing jungle of highrise buildings on the flat, arid plateau. Generally, the brief picnic ends with drinking a few cups of tea that has been brewed on a smoking fire. Making fire is a challenge as the scanty vegetation consists of trees that have been planted in recent years and are jealously guarded behind barbed wires. However, the crowds enjoy the challenge as a pleasant part of the weekly ritual. In older times, only groups of young men would climb near the shrine. In more recent years the presence of women is noticeable.