Tabriz (pronounced [tæbˈriːz]) is the fifth largest city and one of the historical capitals of Iran and the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Situated at an altitude of 1,350 meters at the junction of the Quru River and Aji River, it was the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s, one of its former capitals, and residence of the crown prince under the Qajar dynasty. The city has proven extremely influential in the country’s recent history. Tabriz is located in a valley to the north of the long ridge of the volcanic cone of Sahand, south of the Eynali mountain. The valley opens out into a plain that slopes gently down to the northern end of Lake Urmia, 60 km to the west. With cold winters and temperate summers the city is considered a summer resort. The estimated population of the city is around 1,400,000 based on results of the Iranian census bureau. Tabriz is the fourth most populous city in Iran after Tehran, Mashhad, and Esfahan, and is also a major Iranian heavy industrial and manufacturing center. Some of these industries include automobile, machine tools, oil and petrochemical and cement production. With a rich history, Tabriz contains many historical monuments, but repeated devastating earthquakes and several invasions during frequent wars have substantially damaged many of them. Many monuments in the city date back to the Ilkhanid, Safavid, and Qajar periods,with the large Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex being named as a World Heritage Site in 2010. In addition to all of this there is an excavation site and museum in the city center with a history that dates back 2500 years, which is also regarded as one of the most historic cities in ancient Iran.
The magnificent, labyrinthine, Unesco-listed Tabriz bazaar covers some 7 sq km, with 24 caravanserais (sets of rooms arrranged around a courtyard) and 22 impressive timches (domed halls). Construction began over a millennium ago, though much of the fine brick vaulting dates to the 15th century. Hidden behind innocuous shopfronts, it's surprisingly easy to miss, but the open Ferdosi mall is a good entry point. Take a GPS waypoint below the tourist information office, then abandon yourself to the closest laneway. Tickets & tours There are several mozaffareih (carpet sections) according to knot size and type. The Amir bazaar, with gold and jewellery, is immediately behind the tourist-information office. The spice bazaar has a few shops selling herbal remedies, henna and natural perfumes. A couple of hat shops (in the Kolahdozan bazaar) sell traditional papakh (Azeri hats) made of tight-curled astrakhan wool. Other quarters specialise in leather, silver and copper, general household goods and fruit and vegetables.
It constructed for ruler Jahan Shah in 1465, the Blue Mosque with its intricate turquoise mosaics was one of the most famous buildings of its era. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1773, leaving only the main iwan (entrance hall) and Jahan Shah's tomb intact. Restoration has been slow, and though the main structure is complete again, the once-brilliant external mosaics are only visible on the original iwan.
This huge brick edifice off Imam Khomeini St is a chunky remnant of Tabriz’ early-14th-century citadel (known as ‘the Ark’). Criminals were once executed by being hurled from the top of the citadel walls. The Russians used it as a command post during their 1911 invasion. Unfortunately, it's being dwarfed by the even more humongous Imam Khomeini Mosalla being built next door and the whole area is presently closed off.
Poet Ostad Shahriyar is ostentatiously commemorated by the strikingly modernist Poets’ Mausoleum. Its angular, interlocking concrete arches are best viewed across the reflecting pool from the south. The complex also commemorates more than 400 other scholars whose tombs were lost in the city’s various earthquakes. Take bus 116.
Elgoli Park, 8km southeast of the centre, is popular with summer strollers and courting couples. Its fairground surrounds an artificial lake, in the middle of which a photogenic restaurant-pavilion occupies the reconstruction of a Qajar-era palace. The park can be reached by metro line 1.
Enter a time warp to late-'70s Tabriz in the preserved house of much-loved poet Ostad Shahriyar (1906–88). Surrounded by his everyday belongings, you almost expect the late poet to wander out of the bedroom. He is buried in the Poets' Mausoleum.
A trio of impressive 230-year-old mansions with two-storey colonnades, inner courtyards and decorative ponds makes up the Architecture Faculty of the Islamic Arts University. You might be lucky enough to find someone willing to show you around, but be prepared to tip them