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The Caspian

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Gilan Province


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The western province of Gilan is mountainous and its population is concentrated in the plain of the Sefid delta, around the provincial capital of Rasht. Gilan has remained relatively isolated through the centuries and its inhabitants have developed their own customs and their own dialect, known as Gilaki.

From Tehran, the road to Gilan passes through Qazvin and Rudbar from where it follows the course of the Sefid to Rasht. As one progresses towards the coast, the olive groves give way to the terraced rice paddies and then to tea plantations.

Lushan, Gilan

Lushan, Gilan
( Photo by N. Kasraian )

Rice and Tea Plantations

Rice and Tea Plantations, Gilan
( Photo by Nicol Faridani )

Some 7m below sea level and 15 km inland from the Anzali Lagoon, Rasht is the largest city in the Caspian provinces (population approximately 390,000).

Rasht grew into a town around the 14th century, and soon became the major settlement in Gilan province. Until the 20th century, Rasht was known for its silk, but the activity has almost completely disappeared. Only 324km north-west of Tehran, today, it has become a favourite weekend resort for the Tehranis who enjoy the climate and the scenery. Rasht is also an important industrial centre, particularly for the processing of agricultural products.

The close proximity of Russia has had a strong influence on the history of Gilan, and Rasht has been occupied on several occasions by the Russian army, the last time at the end of World War II.

The small town of Lahijan is on the road between Ramsar and Rasht and is set at the foot of the mountains. Lahijan is famous for its tea and is quite picturesque. Here one can still find many traditional wooden Caspian houses with sloping, channelled brick roofs and walls of pastel shades such as violet.

Lahijan was once the only settlement of any size in Gilan, but it fell into decline after the 14th century, when Rasht grew into a town and eclipsed it.

Bandar-e Anzali came into prominence in the early 19th century as a result of the increasing Russain dominance over trade in the Caspian Sea. When traders from Western Europe were most active in the region, the river port of Langarud, 96km to the east, was the main outlet to northern Persia. Around 1800 the Russians established their trading post at Bandar-e Anzali, taking advantage of its unrivalled natural harbour. Since then it has become the only major port along the southern Caspian coast, and today is the only one actively trading with the former Soviet states. The town bears a remarkable physical likeness to the Azerbaijani port of Baku, its main trading partner in the northern Caspian Sea.

Bandar-e Anzali, Gilan

Bandar-e Anzali, Gilan
( Photo by N. Kasraian )


Caspian Coast

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