Arasbaran is a mountainous area in the north of East Azerbaijan Province in northwest of Iran. This region is famous for the unique and intact nature. Since 1976 UNESCO has registered 72.460 hectares of Arasbaran as biosphere reserve. Enjoy the photo gallery!
Arasbaran is a large mountainous area stretching from the Qusha Dagh massif, south of Ahar, to the Aras River in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran. The region enjoys great history as well as magnificent nature and landscapes; peaks as high as 2,200 meters, alpine meadows, rangelands, forests, rivers and springs. Since 1976, UNESCO has registered 72,460 hectares of this region as biosphere reserve.
Related article with more information about Arasbaran:
The other Iran | Photo Series: Spring in Iran – Arasbaran, East Azerbaijan Province
Kaleybar is a city of 9.030 inhabitants (2006) in East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This county produces beautiful pomegranates, excellent figs and grapes that are dried on fires (because the sun is always obscured by thick clouds). In recent year the city has become a tourist destination thanks to its proximity to Babak Castle.
Kaleybar was the stronghold of Babak Khorramdin who in 816 AD revolted against the Arabs. Babak’s resistance was ended in 836 when he was defeated by the Iranian General Afshin. This events got the town into the reports of early Islamic historians.
The spoken language in Kaleybar is the Azeri dialect of Turkish. The name Kaleybar could have Tati origins, meaning a town built on rocks. The Kaleybar region with mountainous terrain, shepherding and cultivation of hillside possess the isolating features for the development of a sophisticated whistled language. The majority of males are able, and perhaps addicted, to masterfully mimic the melodic sounds of musical instruments using fingerless whistle. Melodic whistling, indeed, appears to be a private version of the Ashug music for personal satisfaction.
The mountainous region of Qaradagh, due to its remoteness and inaccessibility, was a guardian of Ashugh music. This frequent allusions of this music to mountains, with the intention of arousing an emotional state with a tone of mild melancholy, is consistent with the geography of Kaleybar.
Aşıq Hoseyn Javan, born in Oti Kandi near Kaleybar, is a legendary Ashik. Hoseyn Javan’s music emphasizes on realism and beauties of real life in line with the mainstream world view of Arasbaran culture.
The locals cherish the landscape of their town mingled with the vivid yellow blossoming zoghal (cornelian cherry) trees in early spring. The berries will be sun-dried on flat roof tops and sold to the market as an ingredient of ash reshteh. Unfortunately, the local version of this thick soup is not offered in restaurants. In recent years, the regional government has organized zoghal festivals as a means of promoting tourism.
The relatively well preserved Babak Castle at an altitude of 2300m is located some 3km away from Kaleybar. This Sassanid era fortress is named after the ninth century Iranian resistance leader, Babak Khorramdin, who resisted Arab armies until year 839.
The mountain ranges south-west of Kaleybar are still used as summer camp of pastoralists belonging to Arasbaran Tribes. This provides an opportunity for observing the relaxed idyllic life style of bygone times. They generally welcome visitors as long as their cultures and mode of life is not ridiculed. The visit should be on sunny days when the shepherd dogs feel lethargic.
- The other Iran | Castles in Iran since pre-Islamic times
- The other Iran | Photo Series: Spring in Iran – Arasbaran, East Azerbaijan Province
Arasbaran, formerly known as Qaradagh or Qaraja dagh, is a large mountainous area stretching from the Qusha Dagh massif, south of Ahar, to the Aras River in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran. The region is confined to Aras River in the north, Meshgin Shahr County and Moghan in the east, Sarab County in the south, and Tabriz and Marand counties in the west.
Since 1976, UNESCO has registered 72,460 hectares of this region as biosphere reserve. Arasbaran is home to 215 species of birds, 29 species of reptiles, 48 species of mammals and 17 species of fish. The local flora include hornbeam, sumac and berberis. The large walnut and cornelian cherry (zoghal) trees, wildly grown alongside water-streams, provide an important income source for inhabitants but there are also more exotic plant species, such as redcurrant, truffle and herbs with application in traditional medicine.
There were several Turkic tribes in this area and characteristic aspects of their culture, developed around Nomadic pastoralism, have persisted to our times. Nomadic population at present has been estimated to be about 36000.
The spoken languages are Azerbaijani or Oghuz, a branch of the Turkic language family but most inhabitants are familiar with Persian language.
Arasbaran carpets are in between Persian carpets and Azerbaijani rugs. Still, there is also an indigenous style known as Balan Rug. The peak of carpet weaving art in Arasbaran is manifested in Verni (Azerbaijani rug), a carpet-like kilim with a delicate and fine warp and woof, which is woven without a previous sketch.
Verni weavers employ the image of birds and animals in simple geometrical shapes, imitating the earthenware patterns that were popular in prehistoric times. A key décor feature is the S-element that means “dragon” among the nomads. At present, Verni is woven by the girls of Arasbaran Tribes, often in the same room where the nomadic tribes reside and is a significant income source for about 20000 families.
Many elements of the indigenous culture, particularly local music, have survived to the present day. More recently a slow but persistent cultural revival has been in progress. The Ashughi music is central to this shared identity.
A recent study has indicated that Mikandi valley, Aynali forests and Babak Castle have the highest potential for ecotourism. Another potential touristic attraction could be the summer camps of semi-settled tribes of Arasbaran, known as Ilat, who spend 5 months of year in uplands for grazing their livestock. There are also cornelian cherry (zoghal) festivals in Kaleybar and a yearly pomegranate festival in Mardanaqom village with Ashugh music performances.
See also: List of biosphere reserves in Iran