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Urmia, previously known as Uroumieh is one of the largest cities of west Azerbaijan that is in vicinity of Chahar chay river.
According to latest census of Iran in late 2016 it is listed as one of top 10 populated cities of Iran. Most of its citizens are already predominantly Azeri who speaks in either Azeri or Turkish, or even Assyrians. It is well noted that the Christian history of Urmia is well preserved, and is especially evident in the city’s many churches and cathedrals.
According to studies of Richard Nelson Frye, the name of this region comes from Urartian origin while other archaeologists such as T.Burrow was of the opinion that name of Urmia comes from Indo-Iranian Urmi which has been translated in to “wave” and Urmya or “wavy”.
However, these both studies are based on local Assyrian folk etymology for the name which related MIA to a Syriac word of meaning to water. As of 1921, Urmia was also called Urumia, although it named Rezaeiyeh in Pahlavi era for a little while because it was his favorite city.
According to studies of Mr. Vladimir Minorsky, there were villages in the Urmia Plain as early as 2000 BC, with their civilization under the influence of the Kingdom of Van. Excavations of the ancient ruins near Urmia led to the discovery of utensils that date to the 20th century BC.
In ancient times, the west bank of Urmia Lake was called Gilzan, and in the 9th century BC an independent government ruled there, which later joined the Urartu or Mana empire. In the 8th century BC, the area was a vassal of the Asuzh government until it joined the Median Empire.
In 16th & 17th century during the Safavid, the neighboring Ottoman, who were the archivals of the Safavids made several incursions into the city and captured it on more than one occasion, but the Safavids successfully regained control over the area.
When in 1622, during the reign of Safavid Shah Abbas I Qasem Sultan Afshar was appointed governor of Mosul, he was forced to leave his office shortly afterwards due to the outbreak of a plague.
Due to the presence of a substantial Christian minority at the end of the 19th century, Urmia was also chosen as the site of the first American Christian mission in Iran in 1835. Another mission was soon underway in nearby Tabriz as well. During world war I, the population was estimated by Dr. Caujole to be 30,000, a quarter of which (7,500) were Assyrians and 1,000 Jews.
The city has been the home to various Ethnic groups during its history. The population of Urmia in the early Islamic period was mostly Christian, however, at the beginning of the 20th century, the city had a significant Christian minority (Assyrians and Armenians) with the Christian population of the town consisting of 40–50 % of the total population.
According to Macuch, and Ishaya, the city was the spiritual capital of the Assyrians, who were influenced by four Christian missions that had been established in the city in the period from 1830. Unfortunately a large number of the Assyrians and Armenians were killed in 1914 during the Armenian and Assyrian genocides, which resulted in a change in the city’s demographics.
During the Pahlavi era, Reza Shah invited Iranian Assyrians to return to the region, and several thousand did return. There are around 5,000 Assyrians remaining in the city, or around 1% of the population. It is interesting to know that until the Iran Crisis of 1946 and the Establishment of State of Israel in 1947, several thousand Jews also lived Urmia, and their language is still spoken by an aging community somewhere.
There are several activities to do in Urmia and we would like to introduce the most popular ones to those are interested in traveling to explore unique places. Here is the list of places to visit:
- Jame Mosque of Urmia
- Natural History Museum – Displays the animals native to the vicinity of Urmia.
- Urmia Museum – Archaeological museum
- Urmia Museum of Crafts and Classical Arts.
- Urmia Museum of anthropology
As travel consultants, we would highly recommend to visit urmia in few days by going through the old bazaar in order to get acquainted with local culture and visiting historical sites. We would also suggest to take some day trips to visit other unique places such as Sahulan lake, Tappe Hasanlu, Median Temple as well as Karaftu cave.