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Kaleybar

In recent year the city has become a tourist destination thanks to its proximity to Babak Castle. In addition, as a result of geopolitical developments Kaleybar is gradually replacing Ahar as the capital city of Qareh Dagh region.

Kaleybar, known as Badd or Baddayn (or Bedh) in Islamic chronicles, was the stronghold of Babak Khorramdin who, in 816 AD, revolted against Islamic Caliphate. Babak's resistance was ended in 836 when he was defeated by the Iranian General Afshin, acting on behalf of the Caliphate. The events of the two decades long tumultuous times subjected the town to the reports of early Islamic historians.

The first reference to Kaleybar has been by Al-Masudi in The Meadows of Gold, Babak revolted in Bedh region with the deciples of Djavidan ... Following a series of defeats Babak was blockaded in his native town..., which even now is known as Babak's country.

Ibn Athir in his book, The Complete History, has devoted many pages to the description of battles which took place in Kaleybar between the Armies of Caliphate and Babak's forces.

Yaqut al-Hamawi, writing in early thirteenth century, describes Kaleybar as the followin, County between Azerbaijan and Erran. This is where Babek resisted when he rebelled against Mo'taçem. We know these verses Bokhteri

God protects you, great warrior who, in the days of Babak, have reversed the doors of the ungodly;

It is you who have taken their city Bedh that you covered the shamelessness in it.

There was a near Bedd, says the poet Mo'çer, a place of an area of about three acres, every time we say the name of God, a hidden voice responds. This is where the Red-Wearing Ones, also called the Khurramites raised the standard of revolt led by Babak ', this is also they expect EI-Mehdi. At the bottom, flows a large river which has the property of curing the most inveterate fevers. The Arax river flows on the border. This county produces pomegranates of incomparable beauty, excellent figs and grapes that are dried on fires (because the sun is always obscured by thick clouds). 

Hamdallah Mustawfi, writing in mid fourteenth century, mentions Kaleybar as, A village of Azerbaijan, in the woods near a mountain which comprises a fortress. Below flows a river. The country produces wheat and fruit, and its inhabitants, who are Turks or Mongols, follow the rite of Schafey.

Kaleybar, perhaps, suffered enormously during Russo-Persian War (1804–13) and Russo-Persian War (1826–28) due to its proximity to the war zone. Moreover, through the involvement of Arasbaran tribes in armed conflicts during the Persian Constitutional Revolution, Kaleybar should have experienced a tumultuous period. The period has been described in the following books, which are dedicated to the contemporary history of Arasbaran region.

James Morier, the author of "The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan", travelling through Kaleybar in early 19th century described the city in the following words, "Kaleybar... was formerly a considerable place. Its extensive gardens have become a forest of fruit-trees, where the walnuts grow to an immense size..." More recently, Jamie Maslin, a Canadian traveler write, " ... was surrounded by steep green mountains, the peaks of which remained unseen, shrouded in a slowly drifting mountain mist. It was a great location and once again so very different from most people's perception of Iran - not dry and parched like its central deserts, but as lush and green as merry old mother England."

Zoğal festival

The micro-climate, generated by the surrounding mountains, is particularly suited for the production of zoğal (Cornus mas). The berries, which ripen in mid to late summer, are sold in numerous small shops alongside the Shahid Ansari Street. The smell of fermenting dark ruby-red fruits and the sight of menacing wasps perching on them is a vivid mental imagery a tourist may get as a lifelong pleasant impression. The local, though, would cherish the landscape of their town mingled with the vivid yellow blossoming zoğal trees in early spring.

The surplus berries will be sun-dried on flat roof tops and sold to the market as an ingredient of Erişte Aşı. Unfortunately, the local version of this thick soup is not offered in restaurants.

In recent years, the local government has organized Zoğal festivals as a means of promoting tourism.


Set attractively in a wide, steep-sided mountain valley, unassuming Kaleybar town makes a great starting point for random hikes and visiting nomad camps en route to the upper Aras River Valley. But by far its biggest draw is the extensive crag-top ruin of Babak Castle (Qaleh Babak). Known to some as Bazz Galasi, the castle has a unique emotional resonance for Azari people as the lair of their IX century AD national hero Babak Khorramdin. Occupying a cultural position somewhere between King Arthur, Robin Hood and Yasser Arafat, Babak is celebrated for harrying the anti-Shiite Abbasid-Arab regime between 815 and 837. Beware of visiting Kaleybar during Babak's controversial 'birthday celebrations' (last week of June). While culturally fascinating, all accommodation will be packed full and authorities might suspect you of being involved in stirring up political unrest among the higher-spirited Azari nationalists.

There are several access paths to the castle. The most popular route starts behind the seasonal Babak Hotel and takes two fairly strenuous hours with part of the route up dizzyingly steep stairways with fabulous views. Stronger vehicles can drive up an unsurfaced track to a summer nomad camp reducing the walk to under an hour. But in winter and spring, snow and fog can render any route hazardous or completely impossible.

Kaleybar
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