Local authorities target tourism boost for enigmatic Karaftu caves, Zivieh hill

May 9, 2021 - 20:0

TEHRAN – Local authorities hope to boost travel to the enigmatic Karaftu caves and the neighboring Zivieh archaeological hill when the tourism sector backs on track in the post-coronavirus era. 

“Tourism infrastructure of the Zivieh ancient hill and Karaftu caves in the western Kordestan province needs to be strengthened to facilitate tourism for the post-corona era,” the provincial tourism chief, Yaqub Guylian, said on Sunday while visiting the sites.

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, the number of tourists visiting these monuments was growing, but sadly, after the pandemic, the number of visitors has declined sharply, the official said. 

Allocating some budgets to reviving and restoring these tourist spots could attract domestic and foreign tourists to the region after the crisis of coronavirus comes to an end eventually, he added. 

Constructing proper access paths, setting up eco-lodge units, establishing traditional restaurants and tourist camps around the sites in collaboration with the private sector, would be supported, he explained. 

Located 50 kilometers to Saqqez, the Zivieh ancient hill and castle was the residence of the Medes and Scythians and was considered their capital, and its history date back to the first millennium BC. 

Set on the side of a large cliff, 42km from Takab, the Karaftu cave ensemble was used for habitation from early Sassanid times (224–651). The enigmatic caves were formed naturally but were modified by inhabitants over the centuries. In ancient times, these caves were important from an economic point of view, as they were situated on the Silk Roads. Today, the caves are also significant for a Greek inscription found in them, as this is one of the few examples of such a script preserved in situ in Iran.

Tourism industry in critical situation

Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan in October 2020 warned that Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism would be in a critical situation if the crises caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus continue.

Last August, the tourism minister said that the tourism sector of the Islamic Republic had suffered a loss of 12 trillion rials (some $2.85 billion) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also noted that the coronavirus pandemic should not bring traveling to a complete standstill. “Corona is a fact, but can the virus stop tourism? Certainly not. For us, the coronavirus is a new experience in dealing with crises that teaches tourism experts around the world how to deal with such a disaster, and thankfully governments are turning this into an opportunity for better planning.”

Optimistic forecasts, however, expect Iran to achieve a tourism boom after coronavirus contained, believing its impact would be temporary and short-lived for a country that ranked the third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.

The latest available data show eight million tourists visited the Islamic Republic during the first ten months of the Iranian calendar year 1398 (started March 21, 2019).


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