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Elburz

Elburz: mountain range in northern Iran.

Elburz, seen from the north
Elburz, seen from the north
The Elburz (Har + borz: "mountain" + "high") is one of the two main mountain ranges in modern Iran. Essentially, it separates the Caspian Sea region in the north from the central plateau, which is a desert. The other mountain range is the Zagros, which separates the central plateau from Mesopotamia in the west. The two ranges connect somewhere west of modern Tehran.

Crossing the Elburz
Crossing the Elburz
Several river valleys lead from the Elburz to the north, to the Caspian Sea. They have eroded large areas of the mountain and have created impressive looking, deep gorges. One of these connects modern Damghan to Sari (the road once taken by Alexander the Great), another one connects Tehran with Amol. In the far west, the Elburz touches the Zagros; in the east, it reaches the holy city of Mashad. Beyond the Afghan border, it continues as the Hindu Kush, from which it is separated by the river Arius (modern Hari Rudi).

The Elburz from Tepe Hesar
The Elburz from Tepe Hesar
The average heighth of the Elburz is about 2,750 meters, but many peaks exceed 4,000 meters and are permanently covered with snow. The highest summit is an ancient volcano known as Damavand, which reaches 5601 meters and resembles Mount Fuji. There is an old joke that if you want to tease an Iranian, you must just ask why the Iranians have put a Japanese volcano on the 10,000 rial banknotes.

Hyrcania, terraces
Hyrcania, terraces
The Elburz is an important climate barrier between the arid central plateau and the moist, north facing slopes and coastal plain. There, one can find dense forests. This country, now called Mazandaran (ancient Hyrcania), has a subtropical climate. Farming can be done on dessa-like terraces. To the south of the Elburz, on the other hand, the climate is arid.

Gullies near the Caspian Gate
Gullies near the Caspian Gate
The last photo offers a view of the Elburz from the south, not far from the Caspian Gate. Note the incisions by the small rivers. They allow for agriculture in a long stretch of land between the mountain slopes and the desert. There are artesic wells too. For centuries, this narrow corridor has been used for east-west traffic (the Silk road).

This page was created in 2005; last modified on 3 November 2014.