East Azerbaijan is one of those provinces that has everything all together, from the Stone Age to the Qajar dynasty. Boundless untouched nature, covered with plants, tower tall trees, and high mountain peaks that not only bestow peace but also give you the thrill of adventure.
Its customs have survived the harshness of history and have a language that distinguishes it from other regions of Iran. Deep and enriched music put together by one special folk-dance, could turn your whole perspective of life in one second.
One of the oldest satraps of Iran from the Achaemenes time until now, which has preserved its rich past and has brought it all along the way, is Azerbaijan. East Azerbaijan is the most populous region of Azerbaijan in Iran with Tabriz as its Grand Capital.
At first glance, Tabriz may look like other cities in Iran, but it is very different from anywhere else. One of the main reasons for this could be the linguistic difference they have compared to the formal Persian Language.
The city of Tabriz witnessed the most game-changing events in Iran’s history. Standing still as its Sahand and Sabalan mount since God knows when and has been considered the capital of Iran in most post-Islamic dynasties. Presently, Tabriz is one of the five metropolises of Iran with a high economic and industrial status.
Tabriz was the main center of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the base for changing the fate of Iran from a purely 2500-year-old monarchy to the Constitutional and later during the Islamic Revolution to Republic. The Constitution House in Tabriz, which will be described later, illuminates this difficult path to a great extent.
Tabriz’s rich industries such as tanning, leather, and carpet weaving, as well as the proximity of this city to neighboring countries, have steered the wheels of this region’s economy and a good reason for why Tabriz is so prosperous. Due to the superb climate, which enriches the soil and vast hillsides, agriculture and animal husbandry has another place as well.
Not only Tabriz was where the Constitutional Revolution started and politically changed Iran’s power distribution system, but also was where the deepest and the perhaps most effective religious event took place, When Shah Ismail Safavid officially ascended the throne in Tabriz in 906 A.H., he declared the Twelver Shiite religion as the official religion (sect) of his newly established kingdom. The Safavid gave special credit to Islamic clergymen, and so, many books of Sharia were written in their time. However, due to its closeness to Christian cities in Georgia and Armenia, Tabriz has religious minorities such as Christians and Zoroastrians.
There could be dozens of Azari cuisine worth mentioning and explaining about, but let’s be content to talk about just one, a breakfast dish if you please. Kaymak, honey, and Barbari bread. I won’t say more. Judge for yourself!
Tabriz also has an enriched background in Carpet-weaving is very famous for its carpet weaving. Its carpets are world-famous and are exported to different countries. According to the available sources, in the third century A.H., the region of Azerbaijan was one of the largest centers of carpet weaving in Iran. Later, during the Seljuk and Ilkhanate periods, the art of carpet weaving became very popular in Azerbaijan. Based on available documents such as miniatures and some other works, it is clear that carpet weaving evolved in the Timurid period and then in the reign of the Safavid.
The celebrated Shah Abbasi flower (or Goljam) ornamented the carpets and became so popular during the Safavids and never failed to mesmerize. Yarns of silk increased the elegance, beauty, and quality of the rugs. Many of these carpets adorn museums of the world.
Another delicious souvenir of Tabriz is honey. Bee-growing plains are abundant in the province, producing honey of various qualities that can be considered as a common souvenir of this region.
Tabriz baklava is also called Istanbul baklava because its cooking method and shape are very similar to Turkish baklava.
The people of Tabriz are very noble. Hospitality, liberalism, and honesty are in their blood. Just to set an example of their hospitality, let me say that if a stranger steps in their footsteps, they will do their best to welcome them, invite them for supper and treat them as if they are one of their closest and most dear relative.
Tabriz has many places to visit. Planning could be hard but remember if you want to catch the atmosphere of Tabriz walking the side-walks or sitting in a café in the below zero temperature would do.
Tabriz Constitutional House
The constitutional revolution in the country was a unique event and that all Iran, hand in hand, put an end to the unequivocal dictatorship of the kings and treated him/her as any other, bringing them down from the high position of being the shadow of God on the earth. It was the first step towards democracy and handing over power to the majority of people. This hierarchically happened in Iran, the explanation of which is beyond the scope of this section. But what is important is to know that Tabriz has been one of the main centers or one of the starter points of the revolution.
According to history, Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar, a traitor who, after the recognition of the Constitution by his late father Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar, with the help of Russians, cannoned the newly formed parliament. Tabriz was the first to oppose. National heroes such as Sattar Khan and Baqir Khan alongside other intellectuals and supporters of the constitution, gathered at the house of Haj Mehdi Koozeh Kunani, next to the traditional bazaar, and collaborated to get out of this occurrence and started a civil war and conquered Tehran. Haj Mehdi was a pro-constitutional businessman who financially supported the core of the resistance. He gave his two-story house, which was built in the style of Qajar architecture, to the constitutionalists.
This house is the narrator of the Constitutional Revolution and has shown the history of the leaders and documents related to this tumultuous period.
Tabriz Grand Bazaar
Tabriz Bazaar is the largest and most important indoor market in the whole world, and this is considered a star record for Tabriz and Iran in the field of architecture. The area of this large market is about one square kilometer and is registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
At first glance, Tarbiat Street may not seem worth visiting compared to other places in Tabriz, but its background is very high. This street, which has become a sidewalk today, was built during the time of Mohammad Ali Khan Tarbiat, the mayor of Tabriz, and is almost the center connecting the markets and the important rows of the bazaar to the city-center.
This street has a slightly non-Persian air which acquaints you with a new Tabriz. The sculptures located in Tarbiat Street have tried to introduce the popular industries of that time to the present day, such as carpet weaving.
The House of Parvin Etesami
For those who strongly follow the process of poetry in Iran, the birth-place and where celebrated people lived is interesting. Parvin Etesami can be considered the most famous Iranian poetess who was born in Tabriz and lived in a family that respected literate and culture a lot. Under the supervision of her father, who was a poet and translator, her interest in composing poetry grew and flourished.
Parvin’s father was one of the famous people of Tabriz, which is why his house is the result of the architecture of the first Pahlavi period, an open and vast house with a large pool in the middle.
Among the poets, Parvin had a very short life and died at the age of 35 due to tuberculosis, not in Tabriz, but in Qom, inside the shrine of Fatima Masoumeh. Parvin is famous for composing her debut poems and is far from the normal and personal feelings of the poet and has mostly focused on oppression and advocating for the oppressed.
The House of Shahriar
“You came, I would easily give you my life, you were far from being loyal, there is nothing left from me so why now? You’re that one single panacea for all the wounds yet you came after I have died, my dear stonehearted, couldn’t you have wanted this sooner, why now? My lifetime wasn’t long enough to go back and forth with you wanting me one day and hating me the other, I was your guest, you have opened the door but why now? I have given you my youth, there is nothing left but senility, why now? When the fault in our stars scattered our love, the sky didn’t disintegrate, why now? Oh, Shahriar, you never traveled without your beloved, this is the path of love, you want to be alone? Why now?”
Alongside other poet-friendly cities of Iran, such as Shiraz and Khorasan, Tabriz also shined bright like a diamond. Shahriar, who borrowed his pen-name from the Hafez, is one of the most famous contemporary poets, master of two languages, Persian and Azari. His “Haidar Baba” is well-known to even non-Azari speakers and narrates the sorrows and sufferings of his people.
Although Shahriar spent most of his life and fame in Tehran, after marriage, especially in his last years, he returned to the cradle of his homeland, Tabriz, and found peace with his fellow citizens that he never encountered in Tehran.
Shahriar’s House is a very simple place, free from that usual splendor which we often see around famous people. It shows the humbleness of his personality you know. A collection of personal belongings, a place to sit, his books, and his handwriting all around, that’s was the life of a poet he wanted.
This building, which is very glorious in appearance, as its name suggests, is the eternal place and tomb of poets and famous people who, according to the poetess Jaleh Esfahani, sang their tune and left the stage. Poets such as Shahriar, Asadi Tusi (the poet of Garshaspname), Khaqani, and Salman Savoji rest there in peace.
Amir Nezam House
Amir Nezam House, which is not far from the Maqbaratoshoara is also called the Qajar Museum. Amir Nezam was one of the prominent figures of the Nasserite era, an intellectual of his time who, in addition to diplomatic services and foreign consultations, also showed interest in cultural issues and made every effort to publish exquisite Persian books.
Amir Nezam House with two floors was registered as a national monument of Iran and after restoration, it was reopened as the Qajar Museum, where each hall deals with a specific subject. Amir Nezam House has beautiful decorations and has sash windows on the upper floors.
One of the well-known symbols of Tabriz is El-Golu or as it is called by its old name, Shah Golu. El-Golu Lake has been one of the great water reservoirs of Tabriz since the time of the Aq Qoyunlu and its water was to irrigate the eastern gardens of Tabriz. During the Safavid period, the surrounding buildings and the lake itself were restored to facilitate irrigation within a better system.
During the Qajar period, when Tabriz was where the heir to the throne would live and rule, the area around El-Golu was decorated in such a way that it became a recreation area. Then the mayor of Tabriz rebuilt the pergola mansion in the middle of the lake.
National Museum of Azerbaijan
The region of Azerbaijan, with its long history, should have had a museum, to display ancient objects with a rich historical background. Therefore, during the second Pahlavi period, a plan called the National Museum of Azerbaijan was drawn by the Frenchman Andre Godard, who is also the architect of the Hafez monument, and was put into operation in 1963.
The National Museum of Azerbaijan is not far from the Blue Mosque of Tabriz. It has three floors, the first is entirely dedicated to the prehistoric and pre-Islamic era in objects dating easily back to 7000 years ago. Even the bodies found in the local cemetery near the site of the museum are up to 3000 years old. Museums have good narrators, showcasing everything they have and leave the judgment to you.
The second floor of the National Museum of Azerbaijan is dedicated to the post-Islamic era and displays works of art, decorations, or writings that have survived from that time. We know very well that Tabriz has long been the capital or where the Viceroy would live. That is why this part of the museum is so important. Beyond the objects placed behind the glass enclosures, we can see the history of a city, sieged and repeatedly occupied by the Ottomans, the Russians, and even the local Qajar forces, yet stood with its head held high as a waving flag.
But the third floor, which is the basement of the museum, is an exhibition to show Ahad Hosseini’s sculptures. Through his special insight, Ahad Hosseini embodied the history of men through time and created a visual novel.
Blue Mosque of Tabriz
The reputation of this mosque is not because of its special architectural features, but because of its simplicity and extensive use of blue mosaic tiles, which have given it a special color. It’s a special kind of blue like how sapphire is.
As the Mongol Ilkhanate gradually lost control of all of Iran the unification it has got lost too. Local governments emerged and Azerbaijan was constantly rotated between two. The Blue Mosque was built sometime during the reign of Qarah Quyunlus (1466 A.D.) The design of the building is generally Azeri, but the insistence on using dark blue color for exterior facades and interior tiles has made it different from other structures and has given it a spiritual air, especially since the latticed windows were fixed at the highest place of the walls. They let in a little light and create a mystical atmosphere, perfect for those who’d like to pray in peace.