Maku Free Zone
is a town in the northwestern Iranian province of West Azerbaijan. The Karasu
River in Turkey lies to its north, and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, an
exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan, is to its east. Turkey and the Iranian
town of Khoy are to its west and south respectively.
Zangmar River cuts through the town nestled in a valley. The southern part of
Maku, located in the foothills of Sabad Mountain, is not fully developed, but
the northern section is much larger and better developed.
is flanked by mountains in the south and north and plains to the east and west.
The area is home to a famous monolith called Jodaghiyeh. The fact that the
region has been home to an ancient civilization with a rich history and boasts
a variety of cultural and natural attractions means it does have the potential
to become a tourism hub. A perfect climate complete with rich fauna, beautiful
rivers, caves, falls, ancient forts and castles, and other historical
monuments, handicrafts, and colorful plantations, and most importantly the
hospitality of local people, can set the stage for the influx of tourists which
would call for the development of more recreational facilities in the
History of Maku:
oldest historical monuments of the town date back to the Urartu, corresponding
to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van. Stone chambers in Sangar,
a village situated between Maku and Bazargan, ancient summer resorts which dot
the landscape, cuneiform inscriptions dug out in villages in Bastam and near
Bazargan, findings of German scientists, the deciphering of cuneiform writings
by local and foreign archeologists and statements by historians such as Moses
Chorenazi and Piotrowski prove that Urarturs were the first people to take up
residence in the region. Their main center of population was built near Bastam.
Armenians brought the rule of Urarturs to an end, they took control of the
land. Armenia annexed Maku. Ancient churches, chief among them the Saint
Thaddeus Monastery, and the ruins of the ancient Armenian-inhabited cities in
Armavir along the Aras River are proof that Armenians had once been the
dominant force in the region.
seven centuries ago, Bishop Zakaria and his brother Botros took power and spent
a fortune on fortifying the castle. They set up routes and built bridges and
turned the region into a trade hub. The defenses of the castle were so strong
that they drew the surprise of every visitor.
over a century Armenian princes used the fortifications of the castle to fend
off all attempts at invasion of the region. Even Tamerlane was unable to occupy
the castle. Zakaria renovated the routes that led in and out of Maku and built
four arched bridges across the river.
conquered Maku after the downfall of Tamerlane. There was always infighting
raging among rulers of the dynasty. Ismail took advantage of such feud,
defeated them and subsequently set up the powerful Safavid Dynasty. It was
during the reign of this young Safavid king that an Ottoman sultan massacred
the Shiites in Asia Minor and took his troops east to invade Azerbaijan.
Despite enormous bravery by the young Safavid king and the commanders of his
army, the Iranian army was defeated and the castle was destroyed.
was a stronghold of the Bayat Clan when the Qajar kings were in power. There
are many speculations about the origin of the word Maku. Armenians believe it
is a variation of an ancient word that meant pastureland. Some claim it is a
combination of Mah (moon) and Kuh (mountain) and some others suggest that the
name is a variation of an ancient word that meant the residence of the
is a list of some historical monuments in the region with the potential to draw
Baghcheh Jook Palace:
Jook Palace, located 2 km outside the town, was built by European and Russian
architects during the reign of the Qajar Dynasty.
Kolah Farangi Building:
Farangi Building is well within town limits and dates back to the Qajar era
Shirin va Farhad Stone House:
va Farhad Stone House, located 7 km away from Maku, features two rooms carved
into the rocks. It is believed that this monument dates back to the Sassanid
Saint Mary Church:
Mary Church is seven centuries old and located in the village of Baroon, 20 km
from the town.
Church is an Armenian church located 20 km to the south of Maku. Kara means
black in Turkish. The reason why this house of worship is called Kara Church is
that it is faced with black stones. Of course some of the original black stones
on the façade of the building have been replaced with white stones during
renovation. The church was damaged in an attack on Iran by Genghis Khan in 1230
and later by an earthquake in 1319. Each year the internationally-famous church
draws a large number of Christians both from across Iran and abroad to the
region. Two kilometers to the
northwest of the church there is a small chapel which is said to have been the
site where the first Christian has fallen.
remains of forts which bear inscriptions dating back to the Safavid era still
stand in the old town.
The Aras River which marks the Iran-Azerbaijan
border is also nearby. A namesake dam has been built across the river which is
an ideal place for fishing and eco-tourists.