⦁ North west of Tehran
⦁ also known as Ardabil
⦁ situated near (60km) to the Caspian Coast
⦁ famous for the Ardebil Carpet
⦁ center of carpet weaving and silk production
⦁ city at an altitude of 1400m
⦁ ancient city with long history
⦁ numerous hot springs in the area
⦁ city population of 650,000
⦁ connecting flights to Tehran and Tabriz
Situated on a high plateau approximately 1400m above sea level, the city of Ardebil has a history dating back to the time of Piruz Shah of the Sassanids (459-484). For centuries Ardebil was an important trading post between Russia and the Middle East before the rise of the modern state of Iran. Captured by the Arabs in 642 and destroyed by the Mongols in 1220, Ardebil was briefly the capital of Azerbaijan during the 10th century before being superseded by Tabriz. During the Russo-Iranian war of 1828-30, Ardebil was occupied by Russian troops and many important sites were damaged and historical treasures looted.
Ardebil was the spiritual birthplace of Iran’s first Shiite ruling dynasty, the Safavids. During the period from the end of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th, a Sunni Dervish named Safi Al-Din founded the “Safavieh”, an order of Sufi mystics who later converted to Shiism and established themselves in opposition to the ruling Mongol dynasty.
Over the next century, the order grew increasingly powerful and militant, culminating in 1501 with the successful conquest of Azerbaijan, and soon after, the whole of Iran by the young Shah Ismail I, a descendant of Sheikh Safi Al-Din. The main historical attraction of the city of Ardebil is the mausoleum complex of Sheikh Safi Al-Din where Shah Ismail I and many of his descendents were also buried. The shrine was an important site of pilgrimage throughout the Safavid period (1501-1722) and underwent numerous improvements and embellishments to become one of the most beautiful of all Safavid monuments.
The floor of the shrine to Sheikh Safi od-Din in Ardebil, northwest Iran, is covered with a reproduction of the most famous carpet in the world – the Ardebil Carpet.
Facts about the Ardebil Carpet
⦁ Originally woven as a pair in either 1540 or 1586 making it one of the oldest carpets still in existence.
⦁ The carpets were commissioned by Shah Tahmasp (1514-1576) who ruled Iran from the age of 10. They would have taken about 4 years to complete.
⦁ They covered the floor of the Sheikh Safi Shrine for 3 centuries before being bought by a British traveller in 1890.
⦁ They each measure 10.5m by 5m and contain some 30 million knots.
⦁ The lamps at either end of the design are different sizes to create an illusion of perspective this is because they were intended to be viewed primarily from one side.
⦁ The 19th century British designer and socialist William Morris called it “the finest eastern carpet I have seen”. It was he who persuaded the Victoria & Albert Museum and public donors to raise £2,000 to purchase it – at the time an enormous sum.
⦁ It is thought that the V&A Ardebil was restored using parts of its twin.
⦁ The V&A carpet has recently been laid on the floor for the first time in over a century as the centerpiece of the new Jameel Gallery of Islamic art. The room in which it is displayed is fully lit for only 10 minutes every half hour.
⦁ The sister carpet was purchased in 1931 by J. Paul Getty who later donated it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
⦁ Modern carpet weavers were paid 100,000,000 Tomans to reproduce it for display at the Ardebil Shrine.
⦁ There is a copy of the Ardebil carpet in 10 Downing Street and Adolf Hitler had a copy in his Berlin office.
⦁ Both of the original carpets are signed and dated with an ode by the 14th century poet Hafez:
The Azerbaijan Region situated in north west Iran
⦁ Ardabil – population over 350,000
⦁ Tabriz – population over 1,200,000
⦁ Azeri is the local language
⦁ close to the borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iraq
⦁ area with a long history and numerous sites of antiquity
Iranian Azerbaijan consists of the three provinces of the country’s northwest tip; West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan and Ardebil. Bordering Turkey in the West and The Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the North, the population of Iranian Azerbaijan is mainly Azeri with important Armenian and Kurdish minorities. The primary language of the region is Azeri, which is akin to modern Turkish. Apart from the predominantly Christian Armenian population, Azerbaijan shares the religion of Shii Islam with the majority of Iran.
The region is mountainous, with most of the area situated over 1000m above sea level and many peaks exceeding 3000m in height. Lake Orumieh, a shallow salt lake some 5000 square km in area, is sandwiched between West and East Azerbaijan provinces and is Iran’s largest lake after the Caspian Sea.