0102 GMT February 23, 2020
The discovery of historical buildings and natural attractions in Markazi province has led to a rise in the number of domestic and foreign tourists to the province.
In an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Gholamreza Moqaddam, a tourism expert of Markazi Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department, said that in the year to mid-March 2015, the number of foreign tourists to the province grew 10 percent year-on-year.
He added there are 850 historical buildings in Markazi province, all of which have been registered on National Heritage List.
"However, a large number of the provincial attractions, sites and resorts remain known to domestic and foreign tourists. Markazi Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department is going all-out to better present them nationwide and internationally."
Moqaddam, who has worked as a tour leader in the region for years, said, "A large number of tourists know about the province's historical buildings and edifices such as the historical market of Arak which extends for 720 meters and dates back to the Qajar era or a 70-million-year cave in Delijan titled 'Chal Nakhjir'. This is while few people know anything about a village in the province called 'Sar-Sakhti Pakal' in which the magnetic field is reversed. The village boasts two hectares of oak trees.
"In the past eight years, a large number of tourist sites and attractions were identified in the province. Tourists can find plenty of information on many of them in books or on the Internet whereas there are areas, resorts, sites and buildings that even tour leaders are not aware of."
He noted another example of such areas is a historical village called 'Vafs' — located in Komijan — which has striking similarities to Masouleh in Gilan province, except that it is located in a desert.
"For years, a large number of tourists thought that the house of the Founder of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini is the only attraction of Khomein, while in 2006, an underground habitat was discovered in Tahyaq (located 20 kilometers off Khomein) which amazed many archeologists."
Moqaddam added the underground shelter from the Ilkhanid era is located beneath the shrine of an Imamzadeh (a descendant of a Shia Imam).
"It had been unknown to many of the local inhabitants until it was found by the son of the shrine's trustee while digging under the building. Having a large number of tunnels and rooms, the settlement was inhabited for 150 years. Experts maintain that the dwellers sought refuge there to flee Mongol invasion."
He further said some experts believed that the underground district was home to a single household but further excavation (some 600 square meters) revealed that the entire area stretches about 5,000 square meters and served as a dwelling for a large number of people.
"The underground site is not yet open to the public. Only after the completion of the excavation can people visit it."
Other underground places have also been found in the region the details of which have not yet been disclosed due to security concerns, Moqaddam said.
He added Khomein is known as 'The City of Resistance' because there are up to five fortresses in each village of the county which is unique nationwide.
"Due to their large number, the forts had remained unnoticed for years. This is while, each has the potential to attract a great number of tourists."
Moqaddam said Markazi province has 14 three- and four-star hotels, seven recreational complexes and four roadside welfare complexes.
"In addition, 32 travel service offices are currently active in the province."