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Even by Iran's super-hospitable standards, Sanandaj is a remarkably friendly city. It's the capital of Kordestan province, a good base for visits to Palangan and a great place to learn more about Kurdish history and culture. You will see plenty of men wearing tra­ditional cummerbunds and baggy Kurdish trousers. Yet it's a modern, noticeably pros­perous city with a large, fashionable popula­tion of students ever anxious to try out their English. In Sanandaj's Sorani-Kurdish 'ju-an' means 'beautiful' and 'deso hoshbe' means 'thank you'.

Originally known as Senna (as it still is to local Kurds), the city was of major importance in the Middle Ages but withered to nothing in the chaotic post-Chaldoran era. Until the 17th century it was only a small village, when the governor of the region, Suleyman Khan Ardalan, built (or renovated) a fortress there, known as "Sena Dezh", which gave the town its Persian name. Some sources date the origin of the fortress to the period of Abbasid rule (750–1258). dej (fortress) was built and Senna-dej slowly developed into Sanandaj. From here the powerful Ardalan emirs came to rule the last autonomous principality of Iranian Kurdistan up until 1867. Under the Ardalans the town developed many fine XIX century buildings, though most have since been lost to rapacious XX century development.

The economy of Sanandaj is based upon the production of carpets, processed hides and skins, milled rice, refined sugar, woodworking, cotton weaving, metalware and cutlery. The population of Sanandaj is mainly Kurdish, but the city does also have an Armenian minority

Busily commercial Ferdosi St links the twin centres Enqelab and Azadi Sqs. From the latter, Abidar St slopes up into the folds of a rocky ridge that was the city's historic defence and is today the pleasant Abidar mountain park.

Getting There & Away

Savaris to Kamyaran (1 hour), Kermanshah (2 hours), Qorveh and Hamadan wait in neat, well-organised queues in the main bus terminal area, 4km east of the centre. Minibuses leave from behind and long-distance buses from a half-hidden section to the left. Several bus companies have handy central ticket offices around Enqelab Sq.

Getting Around
Fast-filling shuttle taxis from Enqelab Sq run east to the main terminal and north along Taleqani Sq to the Marivan terminal. From Azadi Sq they run down Pasdaran St and up Abidar St.

For Abidar mountain park things are made complicated by the one-way system: some cars up Keshavarz St divert and continue up Abidar St past Jim Jim leaving you to walk the last 15 minutes or so.