An entrée for the Alborz mountain range and Dasht-e Kavir; home to the Cloud Forest, one of Iran’s most beautiful jungles
The fast-growing city of Semnan provides an easy entree for the Alborz Mountains and the immense Dasht-e Kavir desert while maintaining a relatively swift 240km drive via superhighway from Tehran. Seman’s strategic location on the Silk Road has both led to its prosperity and devastation throughout history ever since the Sassanian era.
Initially, Semnan may seem like a dull and unremarkable city of few-story high modern buildings and wide boulevards. But near the roofed bazaar, an array of preserved old historical buildings provide alluring insight into how the city might have looked before the modernization of the city.
Also known as Trikhaneh temple was founded during the Sassanid Empire and is placed in the south of Damghan. It was originally established as a Zoroastrian Fire Temple but was transformed to a mosque in the 8th century with the collapse of the Sassanid Empire, making it the first mosque to be established in Iran.
Tarikhaneh translates to English as “house of God” as ‘Tari’ means God in Turkic and “Khaneh” means house in Persian. The design comprises of a four-sided courtyard enclosed by cloisters of vaults sustained by marginally pointy arches set on rather stumpy round columns which are distinctive attributes of the Sassanian style architecture.
Nearby the Mosque are two square columns that are perhaps the remains of the original Sasanian construction and a single rod-shaped minaret belonging to the Seljuk period built around 1026 in place of the older 9th-century minaret.
The mentioned minaret is separated into six sections of adornment, each section constructed of a brick embellished with a different design. The diameter of the minaret is around 4 meters and although today the top of the minaret has collapsed, the height of minaret originally stretched to 30 meters.
Cheshmeh Ali, situated between Kalateh Roudbar and Astaneh is 30 km to the north of the historical city of Damghan. Cheshme Ali provides both historical and natural attractions. The Qajar king Fatalishah constructed a monument and a mosque near the ‘Cheshmeh’ meaning ‘spring’. These buildings positioned inside the river which are at the centers of the complex afford the river with a striking view. The mentioned Mosque is situated on the southern side of the complex. Surrounding the complex and the two banks of the water are tall trees used to adorn the scenery.
The climate of this leisurely site is rather agreeable and is visited by various tourists due to its quiet and attractive location. A wide range of plants including medicinal plants exists alongside apricot, walnut and plum gardens. The presence of Trees reproducing a variety of fruits in the neighboring villages, the mines in mountains producing stones, and the summits of these mountains themselves have fashioned the whole area into a commendable tourist stop. Mehrnegar fort and Mansour Kuh are additional historic strongholds that add to the charms of the Cheshmeh Ali region. The mountainous expanse of the area spawns various species of plants and in doing so attracts a wide range of animal life to the area.
The many sites and attractions of this area has brought new investment from the tourist industry to the area, the renovated asphalt roads to the cities of Mazandaran located in north of Cheshmeh Ali and also to the mentioned Damghan, electricity and available drinking water have all increased the lure of the area significantly as a booming tourist site. Although arguably, there is yet much more that can be done in terms of services and infrastructure.
One of the most visited natural sceneries of the province of Semnan is the Abr Forest of Shahroud, literally translating as ‘The Forest of Clouds”. This Forest is the most ancient and arguably most beautiful section of The Hyrcanian forest forming in third geological age.
The Abr Forest is situated between the forests of northern Iran, namely the forests of the province of Golestan and the semi-desert ecosystem of the province of Semnan. Its peculiar geographical position i.e. the adjacency of high and low altitudes has resulted in the lush green forests to be covered entirely with masses of clouds that can be viewed from above existing hills, hence the name. This phenomenon can be best viewed before sunset and just after sunrise when the forest is lost in the clouds.
Numerous overflowing springs, the high altitude of the forest, its mild temperature throughout summer and various plant and animal life within the forest are features that are rare in its surrounding areas and consequently add to its appeals. The outer areas of the Abr Forest used to be the destination of local shepherds from the Golestan province during summer. Today the Abr forest is officially protected and preserved by the government and human presence is little to none within the depths of the forest.
This Mosque in Semnan with its painted brickwork, four Iwans, and its great courtyard was established in the 1820s by Fathalishah Shah. The Floor of the courtyard is covered with different carpets on the morning of each Friday in preparation for the lunchtime prayers.
The bazaar with it’s two northern and southern Tekiyehs is constructed in the form of a cross, pinpointing the very core of the old city’s treasures. The mentioned word Tekiyeh is a roofed hall usually three stories high that act as cultural centers in a bazaar. The northern Tekiyeh in the Semnan Bazaar is called Tekiyeh Nasar which dates back to 1926 and is perhaps the more appealing of the two for tourists and would be even more so if the abandoned cisterns or “ab ambar” or the nearby underground bathhouse or “hammam” were to become available to the public. The southern Tekiyeh, known as Tekiyeh Pehneh is the entrance way to a great deal of Semnan’s main historical buildings. This Tekiyeh is also the center for religious mourning during Moharram.
Semnan Jameh Mosque
This mosque is renowned for its all-brick public prayer room that is elaborated with a remarkably tall west ‘Iwan’ and also its 32-meter tall minaret. While the west Iwan dates back to a reconstruction in 1424 the still surviving minaret is said to be more than a millennium old, though today it is faintly tilting. Within the complex, a clandestine “Chehel Sotun” great hall also exists that is older than the mosque itself. The withered interior of this hall is rather unadorned today and is not officially open to the public.