Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Masouleh Village

Masouleh (ماسوله) is a village in Gilan Province and was founded in the 10th century AD. Historical names for the village include Masalar and Khortab. Masouleh is approximately 60 kilometers southwest of Rasht and 32 kilometers west of Fuman. The village is 1,050 meters above sea level in the Alborz mountain range, near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The village itself has a difference in elevation of 100 meters. Its population has declined since the latter half of the 20th century, reducing from 3,500 to 900 at the turn of the century. The native people of Masouleh speak Talesh, a Northwestern Iranian language spoken in the northern regions of Gilan, Ardebil and the southern regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan. 

The first village of Masouleh was established approximately around 1006 AD, 6 kilometers northwest of the current village and is called Old Masouleh. People moved from Old Masouleh to the current village because of pestilence and neighbor attacks. Masouleh-Rudkhan is the river passing through the village with a waterfall 200 meters away from the village. Many other springs are also found around Masouleh which is surrounded by dense forests from valley to mount. Fog is the predominate weather feature of Masouleh. 

The village has one old barbershop, a bakery and a bookshop that airs old songs. An engraving by Sohrab Sepehri, the great modern poet of Iran, in one of Masouleh’s corners states "We came here to write, but Masouleh can’t be written, Masouleh should be seen." While Masouleh had once been the Silk Road of the Gilan region and people from far and near gathered there for business to sell and buy merchandise, however, as of late there are fewer signs of the young and old selling dream dolls and colorful socks in the alleys of Masouleh as people have migrated from this once trade center due to unemployment and lack of income.  

Masouleh architecture is unique. The buildings have been built into the mountain and are interconnected. Courtyards and roofs both serve as pedestrian areas similar to streets. Due to its unique layout Masouleh does not permit any motor vehicles to enter as the small streets and many stairs virtually make it impossible for vehicles to operate in the village. 

The spectacular architecture of Masouleh is popularly described as "The yard of the building above is the roof of the building below". The terrace of each house is the courtyard of the house above. Buildings are mostly two stories and made of adobe, rods and bole. A small living room, big guestroom, winter room, hall, bathroom and balcony are usually found on one floor. A cold closet, barn and stable are located on the floor below which is connected to the upper floor by several narrow steps inside the building.  

In 2004 with the cooperation of Natural Resources Office and Iran’s Department of Environment, several hectares of land were allocated for building entertainment centers and villas for foreign tourists’ residence. Building a bridge between the old and new Masouleh and also the provision of sufficient drinking water for these centers had also been foreseen for the development of the area.  

In 2005 there were plans for building a park in the historical village. This would be an addition to the already existing meteorological office in the suburb of Masouleh which has already had an undesirable impact on the cultural heritage of the village. 

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