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Rasht

Rapidly expanding Rasht (also spelt Resht) is the capital of Gilan Province and by far the largest city of the Shomal (Caspian littoral) region. Gilan is mountainous and its population is concentrated in the plain of the Sefid Rud delta, around Rasht. Gilan has remained relatively isolated through the centuries and its inhabitants have developed their own customs and their own dialect, known as Gilaki dialect which remains noticeably distinct from Farsi, its reversed adjective-noun order causing much amusement for other Iranians.

Rasht is the largest city on Iran's Caspian Sea coast. It is a major trade center between Caucasia, Russia and Iran using the port of Bandar-e Anzali. Rasht is also a major tourist center with the resort of Masouleh in the adjacent mountains and the beaches of Caspian as some of the major attractions.

Historically, Rasht was a major transport and business center which connected Iran to Russia and Europe, and was therefore entitled the "Gate of Europe". The city has a history that goes back to the 13th century but its modern history dates back to the Safavid era during which Rasht was a major center of the silk trade with numerous textile workshops.

Rasht has become an important industrial centre, particularly for the processing of agricultural products. Until the XX century, the town was known for high-quality patchwork (resht work) used for wall hangings, saddle cloths, floor coverings and for the gloriously coloured tents used in court circles when hunting. Today, Resht is known only for its reputation as perhaps the wettest place in Iran, its good food (one well-known restaurant is Moharram, close to the new Masjid-e Jameh), and a more relaxed attitude to separation of the genders. It's mildly amusing to watch local tourists driving with arms outstretched to feel the drops. But year-round downpours and steaming summer humidity don't otherwise appeal to most foreign tourists.

The city has precious little in the way of historical buildings, but is a useful transport hub from which to visit the lush mountain forests, rice paddies and thatched-house villages of the emerald-green Gilan hinterland, most famously at Masuleh. It's also a great place to taste the garlic-stoked, vegetable-rich Gilan cuisine.

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