Hyrcanian Forest

According to UNESCO, Hyrcanian Forest form a unique forested massif that stretches 850 km along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The history of these broad-leaved forests dates back 25 to 50 million years, when they covered most of this Northern Temperate region. These ancient forest areas retreated during the Quaternary glaciations and then expanded again as the climate became milder. Their floristic biodiversity is remarkable: 44% of the vascular plants known in Iran are found in the Hyrcanian region, which only covers 7% of the country. Hyrcanian Forest (also known as Caspian Forest), extends from the south of Azerbaijan to about 900 km to the east to the Iranian northern provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan. This forest forms the outermost boundary of the west-Eurasian memorial deciduous forests to alpine thorn cushion corridors and forest-free dry vegetation of the Iranian highlands and Central Asia.

Hyrcanian Forest

The Hyrcanian Forest cover the northern slope of the Alborz Mountain in Iran at the southern edge of the Caspian Sea and it contains very rich ecosystems due to the particular orographic and climatic situation. Hyrcanian forest contain the most important and significant natural habitats for conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation. It also contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. It is outstanding examples in the record of significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms and significant geomorphic or physiographic features. It is also outstanding example representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, ecosystems and communities of plants.

Hyrcanian Forest

To date, 180 species of birds typical of broad-leaved temperate forests and 58 mammal species have been recorded, including the iconic Persian Leopard. The ecosystems of the property support populations of many forest birds and mammals of the Hyrcanian region which are significant on national, regional and global scales. To date, 180 species of birds typical of broadleaved temperate forests have been recorded in the Hyrcanian region including Steppe Eagle, European Turtle Dove, Eastern Imperial Eagle, European Roller, Semi-collared Flycatcher and Caspian Tit. Some 58 mammal species have been recorded across the region, including the iconic Persian Leopard and the threatened Wild Goat.

Hyrcanian Forest

Ferdowsi Shahnameh

The Shahnameh, Book of Kings, is an epic composed by the Iranian poet Hakim Abul-Qasim Mansur and completed around 1010 CE. It is structured according to the mythical and historical reign of 50 Persian Kings. The epic chronicles the legends and histories of Iranian kings from primordial times to the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century CE, in three successive stages: the mythical, the heroic or legendary, and the historic. Ferdowsi began the composition of the Shahnameh’s approximately 100,000 lines as 50,000 couplets each consisting of two hemistichs 62 stories and 990 chapters, a work several times the length of Homer’s Iliad, in 977 CE, when eastern Iran was under Samanid rule. It took Ferdowsi thirty three years to complete his epic, by which time the rule of eastern Iran had passed to the Turkmen Ghaznavids. The Shahnameh was written in classical Persian when the language was emerging from its Middle Persian Pahlavi roots, and at a time when Arabic was the favored language of literature. As such, Ferdowsi is seen as a national Iranian hero who re-ignited pride in Iranian culture and literature, and who established the Persian language as a language of beauty and sophistication. Ferdowsi wrote: “the Persian language is revived by this work.”

Ferdowsi Shahnameh

The earliest and perhaps most reliable account of Ferdowsi’s life comes from Nezami Aruzi, a 12th-century poet who visited Tus in 1116 or 1117 to collect information about Ferdowsi’s life. According to Nezami Aruzi, Ferdowsi Tusi was born into a family of landowners near the village of Tus in the Khorasan province of north-eastern Iran. Ferdowsi and his family were called Dehqan which means landed, village settlers, urban and even farmer. A thousand years ago during Ferdowsi’s lifetime, books were written and reproduced by hand, making book production labor- intensive and expensive. Adding illustrations increased the expense. A simple basic manuscript copy could cost as much as a horse – often an entire stable and sometimes the farm. Books therefore were not written for public consumption. Ferdowsi sought the patronage of the then rulers of Iran. The famed amount that Ferdowsi expected to receive for his Shahnameh was a gold piece for every verse.  It influenced not just Persian speakers but also the cultures of Turkic peoples in Central Asia, Azerbaijan, and the Ottoman Empire, as well as the Georgian, Kurdish, and Pashto literary traditions. The Shahnameh continues to be one of the main pillars of the modern Persian language.

Ferdowsi Shahnameh

Mount Damavand

Mount Damavand is located around 60 kilometers northeast of the city in the eastern side of the Lar National Park where it towers above the surrounding area. It is located in southern part of Caspian Sea. Mount Damavand has an elevation of 5670 meters and its summit shows a small volcano crater. It is the highest point in the Middle East and the highest volcano in Asia. Mount Damavand is described as being a strato-volcano meaning that it is built up from layers of volcanic rock. It stands in an area which has been volcanically active and it rises from the southern rim of a 9 km wide caldera which is especially a large crater formed, when a volcano collapses into itself. There are certainly no historical records of Damavand erupting and scientific evidence shows that its last eruption occurred in 5300 BC. There could be a temptation to describe it as a dormant volcano, but the summit of Mount Damavand does emit spurts of hot sulfurous gases known as fumaroles and at lower levels, hot springs emerge indicating volcanic activity fairly close to the surface.

Mount Damavand

Mount Damavand is the highest volcanic peak in the Middle East which is also a national heritage site and national symbol of resistance and has a significant place in Persian mythology.  In the topographic map of Iran, the location of Mount Damavand is marked as Central Alborz, an area known for some other prominent peaks such as Alam-Kuh and Tochal. There are more than 16 routes for climbing Mount Damavand the most popular being the southern route. Iranian Mountain Federation Camp in Polour village near Damavand usually serves as the first base for the mountaineers. There are shelters in all of the major routes including Bargah Sevom Camp on the southern route, Takht-e Fereydoun on the northeastern route and Sīmorgh shelter on the western route which is adored by mountaineers for its exquisite sunset view. There are several hot water springs and fumaroles from which hot sulfur emits forth, reminding the people that this beast of a mountain has a heart of fire beneath its snowy facade.  In the Iranian myth of origin, Damavand is cited as the kingdom of Keyumars, the first human being and lawgiver. Jamshid, the mightiest king of Iran’s mythical history flew from the zenith of Damavand in a chariot driven by the subdued demons. Zahhak, the most atrocious villain in Iranian legends was nailed to a wall in Damavand by the great hero Fereydun. Arash, the tragic hero, sacrificed his life in throwing an arrow from the peak of Damavand to expand the territory of Iranian Empire.

Mount Damavand

Nowruz

Nowruz is the Persian, or Iranian, spring celebration of the New Year. It’s the most important festival of the year in Iran, and it’s a public holiday there and in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania and other countries in South and Central Asia. It begins at the exact day, hour and minute of the spring equinox, when night and day are of equal length. This is usually on 21 March. It’s the day when winter changes into spring, and it feels like a new beginning. People prepare for Nowruz by cleaning the whole house, and everyone in the family helps out. Carpets, windows and curtains are cleaned. Anything broken is repaired or replaced. Silverware is polished. The house is decorated with flowers. By doing this spring cleaning, people wash away the bad things from the previous year and prepare for better things to come in the New Year. They also put on brand new clothes to symbolize a fresh start. After thousands of years in the making, Nowruz remains too beloved, universal, and deeply embedded in Persian culture to ignore.

Nowruz

Persians celebrate around a special table in their house. It’s called the haft-seen, which means “seven Ss”. On it, there are seven special objects, all of which begin with letter “s” sound in the Farsi language and which symbolize something. There are actually more than seven, but here are some of the most common.

Sabzeh: Some kind of sprout or grass that will continue to grow in the weeks leading up to the holiday, for rebirth and renewal

Senjed: Dried fruit, ideally a sweet fruit from a lotus tree, for love

Sib: Apples, for beauty and health

Seer: Garlic, for medicine and taking care of oneself

Samanu: A sweet pudding, for wealth and fertility

Serkeh: Vinegar, for the patience and wisdom that comes with aging

Sumac: A Persian spice made from crushed sour red berries, for the sunrise of a new day.

While these seven S items are the foundation of a haft-seen, the tradition has evolved to the point where there are several other things you can include. For example, It can be included a mirror symbolizing reflection, colored eggs for fertility, coins for prosperity, and, if we were feeling ambitious, a live goldfish for new life.

Nowruz