Khoy, city of colors and flowers

January 10, 2018

Encircled with vast sunflower farms and snowcapped towering mountains, khoy has long been a destination for those who are interested in its virgin nature, genuine culture and architecture.

The northwestern Iranian city is also filled with centuries-old mosques, churches, caravanserais, bathhouses, fortresses, and ramparts, each telling their own tales.

Khoy may not be on every traveler’s radar, but it is a natural fit for eco-tourists as it offers loads of scenic hikes, panoramic views besides colorful geological features. Therapeutic warm-water spas, salt mines and Christian centers are among its other charms.

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

A sunflower farm near Khoy

The economy of its surrounding regions is primarily based on agriculture; various fruits, grains, timber productions, and sunflowers. The latter is what Khoy is nicknamed for.

Located in near the ancient Silk Road in West Azarbaijan province, Khoy was enormously fortified at different eras of its history, most recently by a decree of Qajar rulers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

During bitter times of its history, Khoy was occupied by foreign military forces; for instance in 1911 when the county was in odds with the then Ottoman Empire, and some points during World War I and II by Russians.

Here is a brief introduction to some of the city sites:

Motalleb Khan Mosque which is a 13th-century huge and roofless structure of plain brickwork.The mosque is said to have world’s largest mihrab that is a semicircular niche in its prayer hall. The entrance to this mosque may be hidden behind the hustle and bustle of street-vendor stalls, just few meters from Imam Khomeini Square.

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

St. Sarkis Church that is believed to date from the 4th century though most of what visitors see there date back to Safavid era when it dominantly underwent restoration works.

Shams-e Tabrizi Minaret, named after the 13th-century poet, is another attraction of Khoy. The centuries-old monument is somehow hidden in the maze of some alleys northeast of Qamsal Square.

A bust of Shams Tabrizi with a centuries-old minaret named after the 13th-century Persian poet in the background.

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

Khoy has long been a melting pot of cultural exchange.

AFM/MQ/MG

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