Ardabil – City of Sufi and Mystics
Ardabil (Farsi: اردبیل, Azerbaijani: Ərdəbil) is the easternmost major city in the historical Azerbaijan and the capital of the homonymous province, newly founded in 1993. The city is situated about 1350 meters above the sea level surrounded by a dry steppe highland, at the foot of Iran’s third highest mountain, the Sabalan (4811 m, Farsi: سبلان , Azerbaijani: Savalan Dağı). The ascent of the Sabalans is comparatively easy, but recommended only in the summer months, as the rest of the year is too cold and most of the trails are covered ice or snow. The region around Ardabil has a reputation for a cold but very healthy climate. Numerous, sometimes sulfurous, natural thermal springs make this area a popular resort region. Already in the Middle Ages – most wealthy – visitors came to Ardabil expecting relieves from their suffers. However, agriculture can not be carried our without irrigation. Numerous myths and legends arose over the centuries around the region – in particular around the huge Sabalan. If we are to believe them, the religious founder Zoroaster might have written his holly book Avesta in this region. Whether even the name “Ardabil” might be derived from “Avesta”, can’t historically be proved. Even today Ardabil is famous for its fine and precious carpets and its silk production not only in Iran but also far beyond its borders. In 2010, the Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Ardabil – Historical Overview
Ardabil in pre-Islamic times
Unfortunately there are only a few reliable information about the pre-Islamic period of Ardabil available. The history of the city apparently reaches far back into the pre-Christian era. Already in Sumerian scriptures a settlement is mentioned, which is suspected to be a predecessor of today’s city of Ardabil. According to the Avesta Zarathustra was born on the banks of the river Aras. Herein, some historians already claim to see a relating to Ardabil. Doubts on this theory are justified solely by the fact that the Aras river is some 150 kilometers away from present Ardabil. Possibly the current name of the city is derived from “Artavil”, which in the sacred Avestan language means “holy/sacred place”. This would allow the conclusion that Ardabil already existed in around 1000 BC. This theory is supported by finds discovered in Ardabil and its surroundings. Numerous axes, daggers, arrows and swords as well as necklaces and jewelry can clearly be associated to this period. Most likely Ardabil was already an important commercial center in Achaemenid times (559-330 BC). According to another theory Ardabil was only founded in the fifth century AD by the Sassanid Emperor Peroz I. (“The Victorious”, Farsi: پیروز , ruled from 459 until his death in 484) and firstly called Firuzgerd. After the Islamic conquest it was renamed in Ardabil. However, it is certain that Peroz I. has extensively expanded Ardabil and provided it with a fortification. He also made Ardabil to the steady residence of the governor of Azerbaijan.
Ardabil in the Middle Ages
From the 6th century Ardabil developed more and more to an economic and cultural metropolis. During the Islamic conquest, starting from the year 633, Ardabil was the largest city in the northwest of Iran, even bigger and more important than for example Tabriz in the west or Derbent in the north located on the Caspian Sea. Nevertheless Ardabil was a frequent target of attacks from insurgent tribes from the nearby Caucasus or from the Russian armies during this period. In the beginning Ardabil could fend these raids pretty good. However, in the year 639 Ardabil was conquered by Islamic conquerers. The short-lived Sajid dynasty (889 – 929) occasionally even made Ardabil to their capital (up from 901, after Maragha and Barda). At this time the first Islamic coins were minted in Ardabil. In 929 the Sallarids (919 – 1062, Farsi: سالاریان) under the rule of Muhammad ibn Musafir (Farsi: محمد بن مسافر) took the city – it was the beginning of a restless time for Ardabil’s inhabitants. In the 10th century Ardabil turned to be more and more an influent and prosperous city, some cultural and educational institutions were established at that time. Nevertheless, the city of Tabriz, some 200 kilometers away from Ardabil, could gain more and more influence and became the most important cultural and economic center of the region. The Arab geographer and writer Ibn Hawqal (Farsi: بن حوقل) even describes how Ibn Marzuban (Farsi: ابن مرزبان), an officer in the service of the Buyids (934-1062), forced the inhabitants – who in his opinion were arrogant and cocky – to tear off the fortification and cary the wreckage away using their precious robes.
However, Ardabil could remain an important commercial center. A solid city wall with four gates surrounded the city, which was an important hub along important trade routes. Many artists and craftsmen settled in Ardabil. Besides artful carvings the city was famous at this time for its precious brocades made of silk, fine cloths and carpets. Dyeing with natural colorant carmine, which is obtained from the female scale insects, the craftsmen mastered in the highest perfection and made them famous far beyond the borders of the region. Ardabil went through 200 years of peace and prosperity.
The peace was ended in 1209 when Ardabil was sacked by Georgians. Around 12,000 civilians were reportedly killed in the massacre. Ardabil had scarcely digested that shock as it was again sacked, this times by the Mongols, after they could twice defend there town successfully. As almost everywhere, the Mongols raged in a gruesome way. They killed innumerable residents or abducted them and razed large parts of the city to the ground. But the way they came they left again and Ardabil could very quickly recover from the Mongol blow. Again Ardabil could enjoy years of peace and prosperity. Historians only mention a few rats bothering the inhabitants increasing the demand of cats. In 1252 Safi ad-Din was born in Ardabil – an ancestor and eponym of the Safavid dynasty (1501 – 1722) and founder of the famous (initially Sunni) Sufi Order.
Ardabil in the time of the Safavid, Afshar and Qajar
Among the Safavids (1501 – 1722) Ardabil enjoyed another period of prosperity and – initially – also of peace. Their first Shah Ismail I (Farsi: شاه اسماعیل, born July 17, 1487 in Ardabil, † May 23, 1524 in Tabriz), a descendant of Safi ad-Din, succeeded for the first time after centuries in uniting the empire. He made the Shiite form of Islam the sole state religion. The Sufi orders became the starting point of the Shia in Iran, not least due to the generous support of the Safavids who always devoted a special significance to the city. In tribute to Safi ad-Din they built the magnificent tomb for him and his family, which today is registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The German scientist, author and Orient traveler Adam Olearius (born September 24, 1599, † February 22, 1671) described Ardabil as “the center of trade and commerce of international significance”.
During the entire time of the Safavids (as well as later in 1915) Ardabil had to suffer from the endless attacks from the Ottomans. For this reason Shah Tahmasp I moved the capital from Tabriz to Qazvin (Persian: قزوين) in 1548, which is located approximately 480 kilometers southeast from Tabriz. As in 1722 the last Iranian ruler of the Safavid dynasty Shah Sultan Husayn (Farsi:. شاه سلطان حسین, born in 1668; † 1726) was forced to abdicate by the invading Afghans, his son Tahmasp II (Persian: تهماسب, born 1704, † 1740) had to fight simultaneously on three fronts.
In the east he tried to push back the Afghans, in the north-west he had to hold back the Russian troops, and the Ottomans were again making trouble in the west. Together with the Mamluk Nader Khan Shah Afshar (Farsi: نادر شاه افشار , born in August 1698, † June, 19, 1747), he succeeded in securing the eastern frontier against the Afghans. The general Nadir Khan also negotiated a peace treaty with the Russians and was able to strike back the Ottomans with great strategic tactics. The young and inexperienced Tahmasp II was not content with peace, in 1732 he attacked the Ottomans. As to be expected, he experienced a disastrous and humiliating defeat. General Nadir Khan took advantage of the situation and quickly dismissed the ruler. In his place he put Tahmasp’s just eight-month-old son Abbas III., which in fact made him the sole ruler. On March 8, 1732, Nadir Khan himself crowned himself as the first Shah of the Afsharid dynasty (Nadir Shah Afshar, Persian: نادر شاه افشار) and thus established the short-living dynasty of the Afshars (1736 – 1795).
In 1796 with Aga Mohammed Khan (Farsi: آقا محمد خان, Azerbaijani: Ağa Məhəmməd Şah Qacar, born 1742, † 17 June 1797,,) the Qajar took power. The clever and calculating new ruler moved the capital of the Persian empire from Sari (Farsi: ساری) to Tehran. Aga Mohammed Khan stabilized the empire and gained political success both internally and externally. However, he was also known as extremely brutal and ruthless. After taking the city of Kerman (Persian: کرمان), about 1050 kilometers southeast of Tehran, he massacred the people there so viciously it is still felt in the hearts of the people today. The number of victims differ, but this is what we know from historical information- Kerman had given refuge to Lotf Ali Khan (Persian: لطفعلى خان زند), the last ruler of the Zand dynasty (1750-1794) –. Even very cautious estimates report that he blinded at least 5000 men and beheaded more than 1000. It is said that he banished some 20,000 women and children into brutal slavery. He again showed his extreme brutality in Georgia’s capital, Tiflis, which he took after the “Battle of Krtsanisi”. Here he forced an estimated 22,000 inhabitants into slavery. He was also able to successfully defend an invasion by the Russian Empress Catherine II (called “the Great”), in which more than 60,000 soldiers of the cavalry and the infantry took part. Ardabil (as well as Tabriz) benefited from these successes, as trade routes were secured and fear of hostile attacks were diminished. The city once again experienced a time of peace and prosperity. In the early 19th century, the fortification of the city was extended and renovated to protect it against Russian and Ottoman attacks. The city was also outfitted with a large protection barrier. In 1813, the British diplomat and writer James Justinian Morier (born 1780 in Smyrna, today Izmir, 1849 in Brighton) visited Ardabil and estimated the population at 4000.
From 1826 to 1828 Russian troops occupied Ardabil. After the “Peace of Turkmantschai” (February 22, 1828) the Russians withdrew, with them the valuable library of Safi ad-Din. The Russian General Paskiewitch, along with a few other treasures, misappropriated the library on the pretext of bringing them temporarily for security purposes. Whoever would like to admire these precious books today has to make a trip to St. Petersburg, the city is definitely worth a visit. After the departure of the Russians, it was time for Ardabil to rebuild and heal. With the Russian invasions, formerly the Ottomans, tragic earthquakes and the ravages of time had all left their mark on Ardabil, especially on the magnificent architectural monuments. Nasser al-Din Shah (Persian: ناصرالدین شاه قاجار, born July 16, 1831 in Tabriz, † May 1, 1896 in Tehran), the last sole ruler before modern times generously promoted the rebuilding and restoration of Ardabil and it’s cultural monuments.
Ardabil in the 20th century
The 20th century brought Ardabil a new economic boost. After disastrous earthquakes, the viscious attacks of the Ottomans and the Russians, Ardabil could finally establish itself again as an important trade and cultural center. Just 40 kilometers from the Russian border, no trade by passed the city. Many traders, craftsmen, and artists settled down in Ardabil. Also many foreigners chose the small metropolis as their new residence. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the city boasted a population of more than 20,000. With the beginning of the First World War and the associated closure of the Russian-Iranian border, Ardabil lost more and more of its importance as an economic and trade center, but traditional craft and artistry gained significant importance. Above all, Ardabil’s exquisite and elaborately woven carpets secured a certain prosperity for the city. Even in the 1960s, Ardabil was the only city in the region with more craftsman than traders. Even today, crafts are one of the most important economic factors in the city, even though industry has also gained importance during the last decades. Every year, between 120,000 and 150,000 pilgrims visit the city, which gives many Ardabilian citizens a secured income. Today Ardabil has almost 500,000 inhabitants.
Important Sights in Ardabil
Although Ardabil has gained international significance in the course of its history, the cultural wealth of the city has been kept within reasonable boundaries in regards too monuments and other other historical structures. The Shrine of the Sheikh Safi-ad-Din is definitely worth a visit, but Ardabil can not compete with cities like Shiraz or Isfahan. Many of the once magnificent buildings were destroyed by wars, earthquakes or floods.
The Sheikh Safi-ad-Din Shrine Ensemble
(Official designation of UNESCO: Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil)
Year of Inscription: 2010
Reason of Inscription:
The cultural site…
• …represents a masterpiece of human creative genius.
• …exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design.
• …is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.
The Sanctuary of Safi-ad-Din is undoubtedly the most important and most interesting sight in Ardabil. The origins of the complex date back to the Sheikh Safi-ad-Din (Persian: شیخ صفی الدین, born in 1252 unsecured sources, in Ardabil, † 1334 ibid), who founded the first Sufi monastery of Azerbaijan. Originally, the complex had various classrooms and a residential tract, where Safi-ad-Din lived with his family, later his descendants. Safi-ad-Din built a first grave for his son, Muhyi ad-Din, who died in 1324. His successor Sadr ad-Din Musa (Persian: صدر الدين, born 1305, † 1391) was the first one who expanded it extensively. Among others, the mighty dome and the first ornate decorations were created during this period.
Most of the knowledge about the life of Safi dl-Dins lies in the dark. Most of the things we know about him derivers from the very extensive, but not very reliable, descriptions of his descendant Safvat as-safa (Persian: صفوة الصفا). He was probably taught by Sheikh Zahed Gilani (Persian: شیخ زاهد گیلانی, born 1216, † 1301) in Lehijan (Persian: لاهیجان) at the Caspian Sea before he moved to Ardabil. First, the monastery was designed Sunni. When the orientation changed to Shi’ite, is historically not clear. There are some indications that the new orientation took place under ad-Din’s grandson Shaik Junaid (Persian: شیخ جنید) with the aim of winning more followers among the Shiites. In the end it was Shah Ismail I (Persian: شاه اسماعیل, born 17 July 1487 in Ardabil, † 23rd May 1524 near Tabriz), a descendant of Al-Din and the first ruler of the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722), who started with Ardabil his extensive religious campaign and made Shiism the state religion. From this time the monastery was transformed into a grave complex. Shah Ismail was also buried here, like most of his descendants. This place became a highly visited pilgrimage site. Every year, the rulers of the Safavids made pilgrimages to the tomb, which they generously promoted and always extended and embellished.
The actual sanctuary includes a spacious and beautifully designed complex, which has frequently been extended over the centuries. In the beginning a “fore-forecourt” was reached from the northern side of the building complex through a two-story gateway in the beginning of the 20th century. This carefully landscaped, park-like courtyard offered pilgrimage simple accommodations. From there the actual forecourt was reached by a gateway, decorated with rich historical artifacts and magnificent safavid mosaics and tiles. The forecourt served the pilgrims as a meeting place in the past. Through a portal in the south-western wall (right) of the forecourt, the now dilapidated ruins of the monastery complex was reached. Crossing the forecourt, the main court is reached which was built during the reign of Shah Abbas I (Persian: شاه عباس, born 27 January 1571, † 16 January 1629). The entire surface of the facades is decorated in the upper part, with elaborate and beautiful very small-scaled mosaics. From the northeastern end of the courtyard, an octagonal room can be reached, where the dome has collapsed over the years. Originally it was a prayer room in which the dervishes also carried out their mystical ceremonies. The entrance is pointed in the directionof Mecca and served the praying pilgrims as a mihrab (usually a niche in the wall indicating the direction to Mecca). Therefore the once splendid room was often called Masjid-e Djannat Sara (“Paradise Mosque”).
On the south-east side of the main courtyard the Ghandil Khaneh (“Lantern Hall”) is located. The two-story hall was also used as a prayer room for the pilgrims and was full of lamps which gave the hall its name. On the lengths of the walls are numerous niches with splendid domes. Separated with an elaborately decorated lattice from the main hall is a half round extension with a dome which was reserved for the Shah during the ritual devotions. Previously, the famous Ardabil Carpet (also known as Twin Carpet) was situated in the “Lantern Hall”. The Ardabil Carpet (Persian: قالی اردبیل) was completed in 1539, making it the oldest dated carpet in the world. It was commissioned by Shah Tahmasp I. together with a slightly smaller carpet, which was finished shortly afterwards (hence the occasional designation “Twin Carpet”). In 1890 the precious carpet was sold to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Some years ago, a very elaborate copy of the carpet, which today can be admired in the Chini Khane (“Chinese House”), a annex in the eastern part of the plant, was made.
The central point of the complex is the Sheikh Safi-ad-Din tomb tower with the tombs of the founder of the sanctuary and some of his closest relatives. The graves of the family members are under small towers, each covered with a decorated dome. Above the tomb of ad-Din, the impressive grave tower was built. During construction, the body of ad-Din was not moved at any time, but was constructed around it. The round tower of burnt bricks is decorated with turquoise tiles, which have been so skillfully and artfully designed that from all directions it shows the name of Allah. Therefore the tower (to be precisely its dome) is often called Gonbad-e Allah-Allah (“Allah-Allah-Dome”). Slightly set back and also slightly lower than the main tower Ismail’s mausoleum is situated. A true masterpiece is his sarcophagus, which is completely covered with inlaid ivory, gold, wood, and lapis lazuli. The mausoleum directly beside the main tower is rather simply shaped. It has also been dome-shaped and contains several graves of family members, including the last retirement of the daughter and the wife of Safi ad-Dins.
The splendid buildings and architecture of the Chini Khane located in the east, earns far too little attention. The octagonal, domed room served as a banquet and exhibition room in the time of the Safavids. Originally a valuable library and a Chinese collection of porcelain, which gave the building its name, was located here. The priceless books were brought to St. Petersburg by the Russians in 1828, where it is still can be seen in the museum. Many of the valuable pieces of porcelain were also brought to Russia in 1828 and some to Teheran in 1935, so that only 805 of the original 1162 pieces remain in Ardabil. Nevertheless, the exhibition is today one of the two most important collections of classical Chinese porcelain outside China (together with the one at Topkapı Sarayı in Istanbul). It was mainly assembled by Shah Abbas and presented to the public after the year 1611. The valuable collection was thoroughly inspected and cataloged in 1956 by Dr. John Alexander Pope from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington described in his book “Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine”.
Winter: daily except Monday from 8:30 to 17:00
Summer: daily except Monday from 8:30 to 19:00
Entrance fee: 150 000 Rial
Phone: +98 451 22 66 5
(As of August 2017)
The ruins of the Fridays Mosque in Ardabil
Today there is not much left from the once most splendid mosque of the city, the Friday Mosque (Persian: جمعهمسجد). The remains of the mosque are located on a small hill, from which archaeologists hope to find further information and artifacts on the early history of Ardabil. The mosque is situated in the middle of a very old cemetery. The area is divided into two parts. On the one side the ruins of the presumably Seljuk mosque are situated, a bit away from them the minaret. It is assumed by many sides that in the early Seljuk times a mosque stood here, which was destroyed by raiding Mongols. The porch of the mosque was (re)covered rather late and served as a place of prayer for the believers until the 1970s.
The Bazaar of Ardabil
The bazaar of Ardabil is definitely worth a visit. The mostly covered bazaar was erected in the era of the Safavids and later thoroughly renovated and extended by the Zand. The profits from renting the shops and from some public facilities, such as bathing establishments, are mainly used for the preservation of the ensemble Shaik Safi ad-Din. In the past, some caravanserais were situated around the bazaar. Unfortunately, the bazaar is today divided by Imam Khomeini Avenue.
Museums in Ardabil
The Archaeological Museum Negarkhaneh Khatai (Persian: موزه باستانشناسي نگارخانه ختايي) was built in memory of Shah Ismail I. In honor of him, a monument has been erected in the courtyard. The artifacts from Ardabil and its surroundings area’s from various Islamic and pre-Islamic eras are shown here on an area of around 1700 square meters.
Winter: daily except Monday from 8:30 to 17:00
Summer: daily except Monday from 8:30 to 19:00
Entrance fee: 150 000 Rial
Phone: +98 451 444 58 85
(As of August 2017)
The Ethnological Museum of Ardabil (Persian: موزه ي مردم شناسي اردبيل) is situated in the historical bathhouse Zahir-al-Islam (Persian: حمام ظهيرالاسلام) from the 14th century. Numerous objects of everyday life, such as ceramics or all kind of tools and scenes from the life of the ancestors, as well as the way of life of the nomads from this region are shown here.
Winter: daily except Monday from 8:30 to 17:00
Summer: daily except Monday from 8:30 to 19:00
Entrance fee: 150 000 Rial
Phone: +98 451 444 58 85
(As of August 2017)
Other sights in Ardabil (selection)
Some historical bridges, most of them dating back to the time of the Safavids, lead across the Balıqlı Chayı (“the fish-rich river”), the river, on which Ardabil stretches. The most famous is the Pol-e Jajim (Persian: پل جاجيم, Azerbaijani: Kara Su Körpüsü). Her seven arches also gave her the nickname Yedi Göz (“seven eyes”). The Pol-Ebrahimabad (Persian: پل ابراهيم اباد , Azerbaijani: Ebrahimabad Körpüsü) has only three arches but is somewhat more elaborate in its construction.
The St. Marie Church (Persian: كليساي مريم مقدس ) is particularly impressive for its magnificent entrance. It was consecrated in 1876.
Approximately three kilometers out of the town, there is a tomb building in the small suburb of Karkaragh (Persian: کرکرق) dedicated to the father of Safi-ad-Din, Sheikh Jebra’il. The main building of the shrine was built in 1366 and has always been maintained and renovated by the villagers over the centuries. The room is about 4 meters wide and 6 meters long, its main entrance is aligned to Mecca.
Selection of important personalities from Ardabil
Shah Ismail I.
Shah Ismail I (born 14 July 1487, in Ardabil, † May 13, 1524 in Tabriz, reign: 1501 – 1524, Persian: شاه اسماعیل یکم) was the first ruler of the Safavids (1501-1722). Since the dynasty of the Sassanids (224 – 642) he was the first to reunite the empire to a great status. Ismail I, a descendant of Safi ad-Din, emerged from a religious environment. Starting from Ardabil, he made the Shiism the state religion throughout the entire empire. In 1510 Ismail I. reached the top of his power. At that time his empire had an expansion from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan in the east to the borders of Anatolia in the west and to the banks of the Euphrates in Iraq in the south-west.
In 1501 Ismail was able to conquer Tabriz and large parts of Azerbaijan. In the same year he crowned himself as Shah, and according to an ancient Persian tradition he gave himself the title of “Shahinsha” (king of kings). His first major campaign led him to Iraq in the north, which he easily conquered. In 1508 he moved on and conquered the Persian core land, the Fars, on his way to Isfahan, and conquered the north-eastern region of Chorasan in 1510, including Herat (now Afghanistan).
In the meantime, the Sunni Ottomans under Selim I (born October 10, 1470 in Amasya, † 21 September 1520 near Çorlu) were not really pleased with the events and saw their pre-eminence in the east of today’s Turkey and parts of Iraq threatened. Despite a brave counter-defense, the Ottoman army, which was numerically and technically superior to the Persians, over ran the troops and conquered the undefeated Shah. Ismail I fled eastward with his warriors. Selim I gave orders to persue them, but the weakened Ottomans mutinied very soon and forced the Sultan to return to Turkey. Thus, during the lifetime of Ismail the relations of power were clarified and the Persians had (largely) their peace from the Ottomans until the death of their Shah in 1524.
After his death Ismail I was buried in the famous mausoleum of his ancestor Safi ad-Din. His successors Tahmasp I (Persian: شاه طهماسب یکم, reign time: 1524 – 1576) and Ismail II (Persian: شاه اسماعیل دوم, government time: 1576 – 1577) did not inherit an easy legacy. The Ottomans took advantage of their inexperience and repeatedly attacked the east of the empire. Finally, in 1534, they were able to conquer the entirety of Iraq, blocking the Persian’s access to their highest and holiest sanctuaries, the Imam’s tombs.
According to the (historically unaudited) remarks of the Portuguese courier and research traveler António Tenreiro, Ismail I is said to have been extremely cruel and brutal. After the conquest of Isfahan, he was said to have massacred an estimated 5,000 citizens there. In contrast to that, he is described in some sources as a loving and caring father of four sons and five daughters.
Ahmad ibn Muhammad Ardabili
Ahmad ibn Muhammad Ardabili (Persian: مقدس اردبیلی, born around 1500 in Ardabil, † 1585 in Najaf, now Iraq) was a Shi’ite great-ayatollah (Mardsha-e Taghlid, Persian: مرجع تقليد) and jurist. Early on, the young Ahmad moved to Najaf, where he continued his studies he begun in Ardabil. After that he went to Shiraz and studied philosophy at Jamal al-Din Mahmud (Persian: جمال الدين محمود) who himself used to be a student of Jalaladdin Davanis (Persian: جلال الدين دوانويس) who was one of the leading and most important philosophers, jurists and theologians of the fifteenth century. From there, the inquisitive Ahmad ibn Muhammad returned to Najaf. This time he deepened his studies into Islam. From many of his students, he was later called Mohaghegh (Persian: محقق, “the researcher”) or Moghaddas (Persian: مقدس, “the saint”). His Shi’ite interpretation of the Koran still attracts great attention among the Islamic scholars. After his death, he was buried in the Imam Ali Mosque, one of the most important sanctuaries of the Shiites, in Najaf. Then in 1978 Ardabil founded the University of Mohaghegh (Persian: دانشگاه محقق اردبیلی) which was named after him in his honor.
Other important personalities from Ardabil
Nasrollah Nassehpoor (Persian: نصرالله ناصح پور, born 1940) is one of the most significant singers of the country. Already at an early age he enjoyed an extensive musical education from his father Agha Shakour, who himself was also a highly respected musician in Iran. Later he continued his studies in Tehran in the classes of some of the best musicians in Iran. In 1996, he founded the Nassehpoor Ensemble with his sons Parham, Peyman and Pooyan, with whom he celebrateed great success far beyond the borders of Iran. Nassehpoor also teaches classical Persian singing at the Tehran University of Art (Persian: دانشگاه هنر تهران).
Rahim Aliabadi (Persian: رحیم علیآبادی, born March 22, 1943) is a former wrestler of the so-called Greek-Roman style. He achieved his international breakthrough in 1969 at the World Championships in Mar del Plata (Argentina) where he won the silver medal in the class up to 48 kg. At the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 he also won a silver medal in the same weight class. Rahim Aliabadi ended his career as a wrestler after winning a gold medal at the Asian Games in Tehran in 1974.
Ali Daei (Persian: علی دایی, born March 21, 1969) is a former professional footballer. He played a total of 146 times for the Iranian national team from 1993 to 2006 and scored a total of 109 goals. Twice Ali Daei was honored as the world’s best scorer from the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (in 1996 with 22 goals and in 2004 with 17 goals).
Hossein Rezazadeh (Persian: حسین رضازاده, born 12 May 1978) is a former weightlifter and sports functionary. Hossein Rezazadeh holds two world records, one in clean and jerk (263.0 kg) and one in both lifts combined (472.0 kg). He was therefore nicknamed “the Iranian Hercules” by the Tehran Times. Ardabil Stadium, built in 2006, was named after him.
Universities in Ardabil
In Ardabil a large number of universities have have been established especially in recent times. The number of students from all over Iran and some from all over the world makes Ardabil a university city. Among the oldest and most prestigious are:
- Ardabil University of Medical Sciences (Persian: دانشگاه علوم پزشکی اردبیل ) was founded in 1993. It covers exclusively medical courses. Currently about 1900 students are matriculated.
- University of Mohaghegh Ardabili (Persian: دانشگاه محقق اردبیلی) was founded in 1978. It offers the largest selection of courses in Ardabil, spread over ten faculties. Currently about 11 000 students are matriculated.
- Islamic Azad University of Ardabil (Persian: دانشگاه آزاد اسلامی) teaches Islamic sciences and was founded in 1984. At present, about 15,000 students are matriculated.
- Payam Noor University of Ardabil (Persian: دانشگاه پیام نور اردبیل) was founded in 1988 and is part of a network of 502 local study centers throughout Iran.
Twin cities of Ardabil
- Tiszavasvári, Hungary (since 2011)
- Volgograd, Russia (since 2015)
Useful information for Traveling to Ardabil
Several banks are located in the city center at the crossroads of the Imam Khomeini Street and Sheikh Safi. Good exchange rates offer “Aryana Currency Exchange”. Azerbaijani manat can also be changed there.
Information for tourists
Very helpful is in the travel agency More Parvaz, 566 Kh. Imam Khomeini, Phone: +98 451 44 34 38.
Hospitals in Ardabil (small selection)
Kh. Ayatollah Talegani
Telephone: +98 451 333 52 44-8
Dr Fatemi Hospital
Kh. Imam Khomeini
Telephone: +98 938 336 1575
Bu Ali Hospital
Kh. Shadid Moddares
Telephone: +98 45 3325 2252
Official site of the city:
Sources and further literature
- Ehsan Yarshater – Encyclopædia Iranica (Teheran 1982)
- William Bayne Fisher; J. A. Boyle – The Cambridge History of Iran: The Land of Iran (1 ed.), Cambridge University Press (1968)
- UNESCO World Heritage Centre – Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil (2010)
- Mahmoud Rashad – DuMont Kunst-Reiseführer Iran (2011)
- C. Barbier de Meynard – Dictionnaire géographique et historique de la Perse
- A. Gabriel – Religionsgeographie von Persien (1971)
- Peter Kerber – Islamische Republik und jahrtausendealte Kultur (2015)
- Walter M. Weiss – Iran (2015)
- Claudia Stodte, Beate Schermbeck – Iran (2015)
- Michael Axworthy – Weltreich des Geistes. Von Zoroaster bis heute (2011)
- Hans-Peter Raddatz – Persische Hochkultur und irrationale Macht (2006)
- Hartmut Niemann, Ludwig Paul – Reise Know-How Iran, Reiseführer für individuelles Entdecken (2014)
- Kurt-Michael Westermann, Walter M. Weiss – Reise durch Iran (2014)
- Samieh Hezari – Trapped in Iran: A Mother’s Desperate Journey to Freedom (2016)