The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
by Parviz Adhkâ´i and Eir.
Hamadân is one of the western provinces of Persia, situated to the southwest of Tehran between latitudes 33°59' and 35°48' north and longitudes 47°34' and 49°36' east. The city of Hamadân (the capital of the province) is located at 37°47' N and 48°30' E, at an altitude of 1,645 m on the eastern slope of the Alvand massif (q.v.; alt. 3,571 m; the Mount Orontes of the Classical sources). In the National Physical Plan (Tarh-e kâlbodi-e melli), which divides the country into 10 regions, it is identified as a part of the central Zagros sub-region (Mo´assasa-ye `âli-e pa‘uheš, p. 1). The province of Hamadân is bounded, clockwise, by the provinces of Zanjân and Qazvin to the north, the Markazi (Central) Province to the east, the province of Lorestân to the south, and the provinces of Kermânšâh and Kordestân to the west. According to the last national census (1996), Hamadân Province covers an area of 19,493 km2, constituting about 1.2 percent of the country's total area, with a population of 1,672,957 (Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân).
According to the national census of 1956, the present province of Hamadân used to be part of the province of Kermânšâhân, which was composed of the governorships (farmân-dâri) of Hamadân, Tuyserkân, Malâyer, and Nehâvand. The governorship of Hamadân had a total population of 695,283, of which 178,949 lived in eight cities (Zanjâni and Rahmâni, p. 23). It was upgraded to the general governorship (farmân-dâri-e koll) of Hama-dân in 1966, but in the following censuses it was promoted to the province (ostân) of Hamadân and its area underwent minor modifications: 20,172 km2 in 1966 and 1976, 19,445 km2 in 1986, and 19,493 km2 in 1996 (Zanjâni and Rahmâni, p. 6).
Hamadân is a mountainous region, located on the eastern flanks of the Zagros range, which stretches from the northwest to the southeast of Persia. The highest point, Alvand Kuh (q.v.), reaches an altitude of 3,580 m above sea level. A mass of granite and diorite, Alvand Kuh extends across the southern and eastern parts of the city of Hamadân and is its most prominent landmark. There are at least 12 other peaks in the Alvand range of more than 3000 m altitude. The lowest point of the province, where the river Gâmâsiâb flows out of the governorship of Nahâvand, descends to the altitude of 1,420 m (Ja`fari, pp. 77-79; Faraji, p. 1290; Fâtemi, p. 2). An interesting feature of the Hamadân–Kermânšâh area as far as the Bušehr region is that "the folds are extremely regular, straight in form and parallel in strike, and relatively packed together" (Fisher, p. 17).
(The Province of Hamadân, based on Sâzmân-e naqšabardâri-e kešvar, Atlas-e melli-e Irân, Tehran, 1994; and Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, Farhang-e âbâdihâ-ye kešvar XXII, Tehran, 1970).
Other major mountains include Mount Garu (3,316 m) in the Halilân rural district south of Nehâvand, forming the natural frontier between Hamadân and Lorestân; Mount Lašgardar (2,928 m) to the southeast of Malâyer; Mount Khângurmaz (2,868 m) in the Korzânrud rural district, northwest of Tuyserkân; Mount Siâh-darra (2,818 m) northwest of Tuyserkân; Mount Safid Kuh (2,475 m) in the rural district of Darjazin-e `Olyâ, northeast of Hama-dân; Mount Garmâ and Mount Sarmâ in Malâyer; Mount Almuqulâkh (2,997 m) between Asadâbâd and Bahâr, 36 km from Hamadân; and Mount Buqâti in the Sard-rud district of Kabudar-âhang, about 85 km northeast of Hamadân. Finally, the Kharaqân range forms the natural frontier between Hamadân and the provinces of Qazvin and Zanjân (Fâtemi, p. 2; Razmârâ, Farhang V, p. 480; Ja`fari, pp. 77-79, 120, 212, 232-34, 318, 342, 429, 472).
The governorships of Hamadân and Tuyserkân are perched on the north and south sides of the Alvand range, respectively. The plains are mainly situated in the northeast and east, extending from Hamadân to Âvaj (in the province of Qazvin) and also in the south, between Tuyserkân and Malâyer.
Hamadân's climate is characterized by fairly long, cold winters (between 120 and 140 days of frost) and mild summers. The weather becomes gradually milder as we move from the northern highlands and plateaus towards the south. The northern valleys and vast plains are also exposed to northern and northwesterly winds in the winter, blowing with an average speed of 4 m per second. They are generally humid and bring about rainfall (Razmârâ, Farhang V, p. 480; Faraji, p. 1290). The west-east winds blow in the autumn and the local winds (like the blind wind of Asadâbâd) are brought about by difference in air pressure due to differences in altitudes.
The temperature varies between minus 32 Celsius in winter to 39 Celsius in summer, with average temperatures between minus 4 (in December) and 25 (in July). Mountain tops are snow-covered from six to eight months of the year.
Precipitation has fluctuated between 280 and 420 mm in recent years, with an average of 315 mm. This has enabled Hamadân to sustain a relatively prosperous agriculture. The rainfall is almost equally divided into two periods of six months from November until April. There is practically no rain from June to September (Eslâh `Arabâni, p. 1291; Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, 1999, pp. 12, 14, 16, 18, 20).
Hamadân's rivers are generally fed by the snow accumulated on the mountains and the rainfall in the wet seasons. During the summer the river beds, except for major rivers such as Gâmâsiâb and Siminarud, are entirely dry or reduced to mountain streams. The Alvand highlands form the watersheds, and Hamadân's rivers may be divided into those flowing north and east of Alvand Kuh and those flowing south of it.
Rivers flowing north and east of the Alvand range are mostly seasonal and their discharge fluctuates enormously. The main rivers: 1) The Talvâr River begins its course on the slopes of Kuh-e Safid mountain in the northwest of the province and is a tributary of the Safidrud (called Qezel Üzen before reaching Gilân) River, the longest river in Persia (765 km), which flows into the Caspian Sea at Hasan Kiâda. 2) The Qara±ây (or Siâhrud) River, also known as Quri±ây in some parts of the province, begins its course on the highlands of the Zâgha Pass and Yâl-darra, between Malâyer and the city of Hamadân, and passes through the northern valleys of the Alvand, where it is joined by a number of other rivers, including Siminarud, Khâku, and Farjin; thereafter, it continues its easterly course, passes through Kurijân in the Hâjilu rural district, irrigating farmlands, and eventually flows into Lake Qom in the Central Province (Razmârâ, Farhang V, pp. 480-81; Ja`fari, pp. 153, 273-75, 329-31, 340; Qarâguzlu, pp. 20-22).
Rivers flowing south and southwest from the highlands of the Alvand range are more permanent. The principal rivers : 1) The Gâmâsiâb or Gâmâsâb, the name of Karkha River in its upper course, is one of the longest rivers in Persia. Its headwaters, Sarâb-e Gâmâsiâb, are in the valleys of the Alvand Kuh in the southeast of the governorship of Nehâvand. After passing through the plains of Nehâvand and irrigating farmlands, it is joined by the Malâyer River and, further down, by the Qelqelrud River; then, crossing the Zagros Mountains, in a southwest direction, receives the name Karkha and eventually joins the Kârun River. 2) The main sources of the Qelqelrud River are in the southern slopes of the Alvand Kuh; it is formed by the joining of several smaller rivers and streams before it flows into the Gâmâsiâb (Keyhân, I, pp. 74-76; Ja`fari, pp. 336-37, 414-17; Razmârâ, Farhang V, pp. 480-81; Schwartz and Miquel, p. 653).
The area is well supplied with water resources, provided by the Alvand Kuh. Besides the rivers, there are some 1,524 old qanâts (man-made subterranean canals carrying water from mountainsides to villages and farms). 3,027 springs, 6,172 deep wells, and 5,387 semi-deep wells are actually being exploited (Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, p. 21). Hamadân is fairly well supplied with underground water, especially in the regions of Bahâr, Qahâ-vand, and Nehâvand (Faraji, p. 1294).
The most important dam is Ekbâtân (formerly ˆahnâz) Dam, which was constructed in 1963 on the Yâlfân River in the `Abbâsâbâd valley at about 10 km to the southeast of Hamadân city. This dam has a reservoir of 12 million cubic meters and supplies some 2,400 liters of water per second, of which 2,100 liters go to agriculture and 300 liters are used for drinking (Desmet-Gre‚goire and Fontaine, p. 33). There are also some minor earth dams built for irrigation purposes, and several more are under construction (Faraji, p. 1295).
Vegetation and wildlife. In the past this region was mostly covered by natural forests (mainly oak) and woodlands, of which only a small part has remained, mostly in the valleys of Mount Alvand. This is estimated to add up to some 4.1 thousand hectares, compared to 905 thousand hectares of pastures, that is, almost 46 percent of the total area of the province; many are in the valleys and plateaus of the Alvand Kuh. More than half of these pastures are of poor quality, however (Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, p. 179).
On the other hand, the total area of agricultural land is approximately 950 thousand hectares, including some 630 thousand hectares for dry farming (Fâtemi, p. 123), which accounts for another 48 percent of Hamadân's total area. Only 6 percent of the province's surface is left with no vegetation.
Many of the wild plants found here have pharmaceutical applications. Among them gavan, or goat's thorn, which is very common in the valleys of the Alvand, is of significant economic value, as its gum, tragacanth (katirâ), is extensively used in both medicine and industry (Fâtemi, p. 34).
There are many scenic, grass-covered mountain valleys between the peaks, some with fountains flowing out and small lakes visited by migrating birds and other wildlife, forming semi-autonomous ecosystems. One such lake, Tâlâb-e Âqgol, a seasonal marsh located some 20 km south of Malâyer, is visited every year for four to five months by between 10 to 20 thousand birds, such as geese, ducks, herons, cranes, aigrette, and other migrating birds on their way from the wetlands of Siberia and Scandinavia to warmer territories (Fâtemi, p. 38).
There are also several wildlife reserves that are home to such birds of prey as royal eagles, golden eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, vultures and prey species such as partridges, wild fowl, hares, and rabbits, as well as larger mammals such as rams, wild goats, ibexes, wild boars, and predators such as wolves, foxes, jackals and hyenas. The predator-prey relationship seems, in general, according to the available data, to be fairly well balanced. The data for the years 1994-98 show no particular trends in the number of animals observed, except for a clear decline in the number of ducks and geese, from about 4,500 to about 2,200. The number of wolves, foxes, and jackals has remained fairly constant at around a hundred, while the number of hyenas has been remarkably stable at around twenty (Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, pp. 24-25).
As pointed out above, ample water-supply and more than average rainfall have enabled Hamadân to sustain a fairly prosperous agriculture. In fact, agriculture remains the principal economic activity in the province. Availability of primary products (both agricultural and mineral), has been conducive to industrial activity.
Agriculture. While Hamadân's area constitutes 1.2 percent of the area of the whole country, its share of land under cultivation is estimated to be 4.5 percent, which is more than 3.5 times its share of the surface. Around 48 percent of Hamadân is covered by agricultural land, of which about 52 percent is under cultivation. However, about two-thirds of the agricultural land is under dry farming (deym), which generally yields less than one third of the irrigated land, and about half of the area under cultivation is fallow. Wheat and barley account for the bulk of the area under cultivation.
Orchards account for about 6.1 percent of cultivable land. Annually about 2.2 to 2.6 million tons of agricultural products are produced in Hamadân, which is about 4.8 percent of the produce of the country as a whole (Fâtemi, p. 124).
Hamadân has been known for its handicraft industry, including tanning (see DABBÂGhÈ), carpet-weaving, ceramics (qq.v.), and knitting for a long time, and in 1998 some 1,443 production units were active in this field. Hamadân's contemporary industrial activity extends from light to heavy industry, including the production of food (dairy products, canned fruits, sugar, soft drinks), textiles, plastics, household goods, mining, construction and metallurgy. During the period 1994-98, a total of 453 industrial operation permits were issued. In 1995, there were 266 large industrial units in operation in Hamadân, employing 8,620 people (Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, pp. 188, 191-92). Large units producing agricultural and construction machinery, aluminum products, and steel are already operational or under construction.
Hamadân is fairly rich in minerals, including granite (the most important source of it in the country) and ornamental stones, limestone, silica, lead, zinc, and iron ore. In 1998, there were 142 active mines in Hamadân, including 52 sandstone, 36 silica, 19 ballas, 13 ornamental stones, and 14 limestone mines, employing 819 persons (Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, pp. 198-99).
There are 2,034 km of inter-city roads in Hamadân, of which 236 km are highways and 492 km are main roads; the rest are secondary roads. There are also 3,068 km of rural roads of which 2,507 are macadam (Markaz-e âmâr-e Irân, pp. 227-28).
Languages spoken. Hamadân has been a crossroads of civilizations for millennia and a mosaic of cultures and dialects live there side by side. The main language spoken, especially in the provincial capital and its surroundings, is Persian, which is also the lingua franca in other regions. In the northern parts of the province, however, the language mostly spoken is Azari, while in the northwest and west, near the provinces of Kurdistan and Kermânšâhân, people mostly speak Kurdish, while in some other cities such as Malâyer, Nehâvand, and Sâmen most people speak Lori and Lak (Faraji, p. 1296).
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