Khoy, an ancient city of sunflowers, snow-capped mountains

TEHRAN – Khoy may not be on every traveller’s radar, but it is a natural choice for eco-tourists as it offers many scenic hikes, scenic views in addition to colorful geological features. Khoy has long been a melting pot of cultural exchanges.

The ancient city is a destination for those interested in its pristine nature, authentic culture and architecture. Therapeutic hot water spas, salt mines and Christian centers are among its other charms.

The ancient city, located in northwestern Iran, is surrounded by vast sunflower farms shaded by towering snow-capped mountains. It is also full of mosques, churches, caravanserais, public baths, fortresses and centuries-old ramparts, each telling its own story.

The city is also a destination for lovers of Persian literature, who come to visit the mausoleum of Shams Tabrizi, a renowned Iranian poet and mystic who lived between 1185 and 1248.

The economy of the surrounding regions is mainly based on agriculture; various fruits, cereals, wood production and sunflowers. The latter is the nickname of Khoy.

Located near the ancient Silk Road in the province of West Azerbaijan, Khoy was greatly fortified at various times in its history, most recently by a decree of the Qajar rulers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

During bitter times in its history, Khoy was occupied by foreign military forces; for example in 1911 when the county was in conflict with the then Ottoman Empire, and at times during WWI and WWII by the Russians.

Here is a brief introduction to some of the sights in the city:

Motalleb Khan Mosque which is a huge, roofless 13th century structure made of simple bricks. The mosque is said to have the world’s largest mihrab, a semicircular niche in its prayer hall.

The entrance to this mosque can be hidden behind the bustle of street vendor stalls, a few meters from Imam Khomeini Square.

Darvazeh Sangi which includes a well preserved arched gate to the city. Made of black and white stone slabs, it is part of the old city walls.

The church of Saint-Sarkis which is said to date from the 4th century, although most of what visitors see there dates back to the Safavid era, when it mainly underwent restoration work.

Another attraction of Khoy is the Shams-e Tabrizi minaret, named after the 13th-century poet. The century-old monument is in a way hidden in the maze of certain alleys northeast of Qamsal Square.

The city’s bazaar complex features a labyrinth of covered passageways interconnected with a myriad of shops. The complex dates back to the Safavid era (1501-1736) and also contains four caravanserais.

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