The land in which we live today, Iran, before it became known as the land of Ahura Mazda and the Aryans, was the first place of people who have gone through three great historical periods and were prominent in the culture of prehistoric times.
They had complex goddesses and practiced matriarchy in all its dimensions. The great empire of Elam in 640 BC was destroyed by the Ashurbanipal ruler of Assyria. The Aryans, who were migrating and gaining power at the same time, established their Aryan rule and conquered the Elamite lands with the disappearance of the native Elamite government.
What is left of that territory is now a name, barely hanging on to a small province of Iran, Ilam.
The inhabitants of Ilam are mostly Kurds, although there are also Lur tribes among them. The language of the Ilamians is also Kurdish and they speak it with a sweet accent.
Traditional clothing is more observed in rural and nomadic areas, but in the city of Ilam itself, we see both men and women who adhere to their traditional clothing, which has various colors and wear it.
The best time to go to Ilam is Farvardin and Ordi-Behesht (March 21th through April) or Mehr and Aban (August and September). Make sure that you have the necessities of cold weather with you and remember, the natural attractions of Ilam province are more than its historical sites. So you are dealing more with nature than with human constructions.
As ancient as they are, Ilamians are masters of what they provide as handicraft, some of which are very unique
Chit (weaving): What is used as a partition in today’s apartment houses, or at least is made with the same technique, is the traditional weaving of Ilamians. Chit is a black tent that encloses like a fence. Chit is woven using plant fibers (e.g. straw), goat hair, or colored wool yarn. The designs of the Chits are geometric.
The city of Ilam itself may not have a specific background, but its geographical area is full of tales according to historical sources and archaeological findings. For example, we know that at once upon a time, long before the Aryans living in Siberia decided to migrate to the Iranian plateau, the natives of this region had a huge kingdom whose culture claimed to be much higher than that of the Aryans. They called this land Hal-Tammati.
Later in the war between the Sassanids and the Arabs, the Sassanid armies could not protect Ilam and remained in a one-sided relationship with the Arabs until the Abbasid caliphate.
After the recognition of the Abbasid Caliphate in almost all of Iran, Ilam was called Ajam (non-Arab) Iraq due to its proximity to Dar al-Khalafeh (Capital of the caliphate) Baghdad.
For the pleasant summer, Ilam had it was the caliph’s summer residence, especially during the golden period of the dynasty. According to the documents of historians of this time, Al-Mahdi, the third caliph, was buried in Ilam, but the traces of his grave were destroyed and nothing is known for sure.
The Safavid, who rose to prominence against the Sunni Ottomans who had also succeeded in conquering Iraq, started their wars for religious power, to the detriment of the lands that were right on the battlefield of the two governments, and Ilam was one of them. After that, Ilam fell on another slope of history and struggling with that.
One of the most difficult historical periods of contemporary Ilam, after the conflict between the Kurdish governors and Lurs with Reza Shah, is the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. Since Ilam province has the longest borderline with Iraq after Khuzestan, it suffered from defending the border during these eight years.
Places to see in Ilam (the city), are not much but enough:
The castle Vali for instance, that was built during the Qajar period, is one of the well-built and beautiful buildings of the Qajar era in a city other than Tehran. At that time, the location of the castle was such that it was built at a height and away from the city center, but over time and with the development of the city, it became more located in the heart of Ilam.
Today, this castle has become the anthropological museum of Ilam. Anthropological museums are important in terms of recognizing ethnicities, cultures, livelihoods, traditional clothing, customs, and even dialects. Especially that Ilam is called the bride of Zagros. This title has indeed been said because of its climatic diversity, but tribes and nomads can also share in this colorful diversity.
One of the ceremonies that may be different from other parts of Iran and is unknown to other Iranians also is the “Chamar” ceremony.
Chamar is a sad chant that is played in rural and nomadic areas of Ilam province in mourning for lost loved ones.
This ceremony is performed during the war, burial, and mourning for the deceased. Chamar begins with a line-up of women mourners, drummers, and local poets. When the sun rises, they play the hautbois and tymbal, the flags and flagpoles are placed in different parts.
The mourners sob hard and go back and forth in front of the queue with this chant, and this continues.
The Chamar ceremony can be performed for up to three days. At the end and the third evening, the mourners are given dinner and everyone returns to their homes. The dinner given to mourners and musicians in this ceremony is known as “Shah and Shim”. Shim or Shin in Southern languages can mean wailing and mourning.
Although this ritual has been nationally registered by the people of Kermanshah, it is held in most districts where there are many Lak tribes such as Ilam. Most of the customs, ethnicity, culture, and anthropology of Ilam province can be seen in the castle of the governor of Ilam.
Falahahti Palace of Ilam is beautifully constructed architectural-wise. It has been built in the middle of a lush garden with an exclusive aqueduct. The administrative use of the buildings that were built over these gardens, especially the Department of Agriculture, has worsened the condition of this small Qajar palace. However, officials are trying to restore it.
In 2011, this palace became the agricultural museum of Ilam province. Since there are many ancient hills around the city of Ilam and rivers and alluvial lands, this region allows proper cultivation.
Since agriculture is very important for sedentism and beginning a civilization and later urbanization, this museum can show this importance to its visitors.