About 1050 meters above sea level, where the air is thinner, cooler and less polluted there is the 1000-year-old mountain village of Masuleh located right up to a beautiful green valley. Masuleh is a city in the capital of Sardar-e Jangal District, in Fuman County, Gilan Province, Iran. Historical names for the city include Māsalar and Khortāb. It was founded in the 10th century AD. The village is located approximately 60 km southwest of Rasht and 32 km west of Fuman and near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The first village of Masuleh was established around 1006 AD, 6 km northwest of the current city, and it is called Old-Masuleh (Kohneh Masuleh in Persian). People moved from Old-Masuleh to the current city because of pestilence and attacks from neighboring communities.
Notable for its traditional wooden buildings, clustered on the northern slopes of the valley, Masuleh is registered as National Cultural and Natural Heritage in Iran, one of the sites of the UNESCO. The village is rich in tangible and intangible heritage. The surrounding mountains provide many opportunities for trekking, climbing and other activities.
Masuleh structure is unique. The buildings have been built into the mountain and are interconnected. Front yards and roofs both serve as pedestrian areas similar to streets. No motor vehicles are allowed to enter Masuleh, simply because there is no room for them. The small streets and many stairs just wouldn’t make it possible for vehicles to enter. The rare architecture of Masuleh is popularly known as « The yard of the building above is the roof of the building below ». Houses are mostly two stories (1st floor and ‘ground’ floor) made of adobe, rods, and bole. A small living room, guest room, hall, toilet, and balcony are usually found on 1st floor. Closets, barns, and stables are located on the floor below, which are connected to the upper floor by several narrow steps inside the house.
Since this place is one of Iran’s top tourist destinations the number of people in the village is mostly visitors than habitants. Iranians who live in close by cities usually take day trips here to picnic; those who live farther away will spend the night at one of the site’s few hotels or rent a room at a local family. It takes you no more than half a day before you knew the whole place and the whole place knew you. Habitants usually sit in a cafe drinking tea and smoking a water pipe in their spare time of the day. At nighttime Masuleh is magical. When it gets dark and colorful lights are in full flare. Patterned Persian rugs are lit up. And the air is filled with a mixture of sweet fruit tobacco and shish kebab. The atmosphere changes, shoulders lowered. It is the night that is the Persians primetime, families gather and laughter gets louder and louder.
The landscape surrounding Masuleh is lush and mountainous with a frequent covering of dense fog, so much so that many of the homes in the town are covered in bright yellow clay so they can be seen better through the haze. Fog is the predominant weather feature of Masuleh.
If you’re searching for natural attractions besides the architecture, you won’t have to look far. Masuleh is surrounded by green mountains, mesmerizing jungles, waterfall, and several rivers. Masouheh-Rood-Khan is the river passing through the city, with a waterfall located just 200 meters away from the village. Some peaks around the village can be climbed. If you hike up in the hills, you will encounter the true shepherds and get the feeling of traveling back in time. The climate is bitterly cold in winter, with snow sometimes reaching three meters deep, but the climate in summer is extremely pleasant and bracing. Fog is the predominant weather feature of Masuleh.
Writer: Golnar ZAMANI
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