An ancient castle in northwestern Iran to be restored

TEHRAN – Zahhak Castle in Hashtroud, East Azerbaijan province is set to undergo rehabilitation works, the provincial tourism chief has said.

Built around 2000 BC, Zahhak Castle is one of the lesser-known tourist attractions in the North West Province. It was used as a government building and later as a fire temple during the Parthian period (247 BC – 224 CE).

Reinforcing stone foundations, repairing walls and documenting excavated relics are part of the project, Ahmad Hamzehzadeh announced on Wednesday.

Due to the fact that Zahhak Castle is the only remaining Parthian period work in the northwest of the country, the restoration of this historic castle is still on the agenda of the Department of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and craftsmanship in the province, he noted.

Perched atop a hill near Hashtroud in northwestern Iran, the castle contains depictions of animals and symbols that show what life was like for royalty in ancient Iran. It includes a square-shaped brick hall built in the Parthian period. At that time, Zoroastrianism was the religion of the ruling kings, who probably used part of the castle for a fire temple.

The castle is named after a Persian legend, Zahhak is the name of an Arab king who conquered and ruled ancient Iran. The story is told in the Shahnameh, or Book of Kings, written by Ferdowsi. Kawa is the hero of this particular story, who rescues his Kurdish people in Iran from Zahhak’s control.

Zahhak Castle also served as a military defense during the Parthian era given its position close to the Iranian border with other northwestern nations including Turkey and Armenia.

Steeped in history and culture for millennia, Tabriz, which is the capital of East Azerbaijan, includes several historical and religious sites, including the Jameh Mosque of Tabriz and the Arg of Tabriz, and the historical bazaar complex of Tabriz, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to name a few.

The city became the capital of Mongol Il-Khan Mahmud Gazan (1295-1304) and his successor. Timur (Tamerlane), a Turkish conqueror, took it in 1392. A few decades later, the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen made it their capital when the famous Blue Mosque was built in Tabriz.

The city retained its administrative status under the Safavid dynasty until 1548 when Shah Tahmasp I moved his capital west to Qazvin. Over the next two centuries, Tabriz changed hands several times between Persia and the Ottoman Empire. During the First World War, the city was temporarily occupied by Turkish and then Soviet troops.

The ancient city was declared a World Craft City of Carpet Weaving by World Craft in 2016. It also held the title of Islamic Tourism Capital 2018.