Arasbaran is a large mountainous area stretching from the south of Ahar, to the Aras River in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran. Arasbaran is the territory of about 23,500 nomads who are mainly living in the buffer and transition zones (2000). Economic activities in the biosphere reserve are mainly agriculture, animal husbandry, horticulture, apiculture, handicrafts and tourism, but business activities can also be found in urbanized areas.
Diversity of Animal Species in Arasbaran Forests
Arasbaran is home to 215 species of birds, notably the Caucasian black grouse, grey partridge, black francolin, and common pheasant, 29 species of reptiles, 48 species of mammals, notably wild goat, wild boar, brown bear, wolf, lynx, and leopard, and 17 species of fish.
There is an effort going on to revitalize, the extinct sub-species of Caspian red deer local to the area. The local flora include hornbeam, sumac, and Berberis. A unique characteristic of Arasbaran forests is the ubiquity of edible wild trees. For instance, a patch of forest between Aghaweye and Oskolou includes hazelnut trees. The large walnut and Cornus mas trees, which grow wild alongside streams, provide an important income source for inhabitants.
More exotic plant species, such as redcurrant, truffle and herbs with application in traditional medicine significantly add to the ecological importance of Arasbaran region.
Another potential tourist attraction is the summer camps of semi-settled Tribes of Arasbaran, known as Ilat. Other attractions in the Arasbaran region are hot springs and cold springs, which, thankfully, have gained popularity among tourists and travelers.
These places, generally known as Ojaq, are located in areas with rapid variation in the land topography and are in some way linked to Djins via established narratives. Most of these sites possess any significantly conspicuous landmark. At some sites, which are considered sacred by many villages, people will occasionally gather to slaughter sacrificial animals or offer a simple meal of freshly baked bread and cheese with tea. At some sites, they have collected medium sized rocks around some trees and hang colored threads or ribbons from the trees.
Carpet weaving stands out as the acme of Azeri art and people of Arasbaran have significantly contributed to this artistic tradition.The acme of carpet weaving art in Arasbaran is manifested in Verni, which was originated in Nagorno-Karabakh. Verni is a carpet-like kilim with a delicate and fine warp and weft, which is woven without a previous sketch, thanks to the creative talents of nomadic women and girls. Verni weavers employ the image of birds and animals in simple geometrical shapes, imitating the earthenware patterns that were popular in prehistoric times. At present, Verni is woven by the girls of Arasbaran Tribes, often in the same room where the nomadic tribes reside and is a significant income source for about 20000 families.
Major Historical Sites
Some of the Major historical sites of Arasbaran are: Babak Fort, Jowshīn Fort, Ahar Bazar, The mausoleum of Sheikh Shaabe-deen, Khoda Afarin bridges, Zahak Castle, Amir Arshad’s residence, Qanto, Kordasht bath.
UNESCO has registered more than 70,000 hectares of land in the Arasbaran region as a “Biosphere reserve”. UNESCO has designated the Caucasus Mountains near the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia as a biosphere reserve. In fact, this area lies between the Caspian, Mediterranean, Caucasian, high mountains with a height of 2200 meters, semi-arid plains, pastures, forests, alpine meadows, springs and rivers.