Six naturally preserved salt mummies were discovered in Cherabad salt mine, near Zanjan. It is estimated that the saltmen are between 1500 to 2300 years old. The best preserved one is a16 year old boy –wearing a cream and red striped woolen sweater—beside whom artifacts such as a bone-handled knife with its case, a belt, two clay jugs, and a sheep skin were found. Some archeologists believe the men died as a result of the collapse of the tunnel over which occurred repeatedly over the centuries. The discovery of the saltmen has provided invaluable information about the life style, tools (axes made form resistant steel), food (marine protein), textile industry, social costumes (men wearing earrings), of the people leaving in Achaemenid (550-330 BC), Parthian (247 BCE–224 CE), and Sassanid (224 to 651 AC) empires. Three of the bodies and their belongings are on display in Zolfaghari museum, in downtown Zanjan.
Along with Turykey’s Hagia Sophia mosque and Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Italy, Soltaniyeh dome is the largest brick structure in the world, and a World Heritage Site by UNCESCO. It is a complex constructed in 1302–12 AC in the city of Soltaniyeh, then capital of Ilkhanid dynasty, and was used as a mausoleum when the king Mohammad Khodabande, who ordered its construction, passed away. According to the UNCECO website, “Soltaniyeh is one of the outstanding examples of the achievements of Persian architecture and a key monument in the development of its Islamic architecture. The octagonal building is crowned with a 50 m tall dome covered in turquoise-blue faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets. It is the earliest existing example of the double-shelled dome in Iran. The mausoleum’s interior decoration is also outstanding and scholars such as A.U. Pope have described the building as ‘anticipating the Taj Mahal’.” The ancient capital of Iran, which is about 43 kms east of Zanjan, is just a half an hour drive from Zanjan.
The bazaar which is in the historic district of the city—downtown Zanjan—is one the longest traditional roofed structures in Iran. The 200 year old Bazaar has nearly 1000 stores, numerous wings, passages, historic inns, bathhouses, and mosques. It is still is the vibrant shopping hub of the city with traditional style shops preserving the magnificent architecture. Different segments of bazaar are dedicated to selling specific goods such as jewelry, shoe, carpet, traditional medicine, knives, Charogh, Filigree, cooper cookware etc. The bazaar is open from about 9 am to about a few hours after sunset, baring for a two hour siesta from 2pm to 4 pm. The shops in the bazaar are usually closed on Fridays and holidays but tourist can still walk through the passages and take pictures.
Katale Khor Cave
The thirty-million-year-old seven-story picturesque cave is located 165 km south of Zanjan. It is 105 kms from Ali Sadr cave in the neighboring Hamadan province, which has given rise to conjectures that these two are connected. Katale Khore, which literary means the place where the Sun rises, is decorated by stunning and colorful stalagmites and stalactites of varying sizes and shapes, and shows signs of being inhabited by stone-age human beings and mysterious extinct animals. Currently, a few kms of the cave is open to the visitors. It is about 2 hour drive from Zanjan, and the visit can take an additional two hours.
Chargogh is a kind of elegant shoe traditionally worn by Iranian women. They sport leather sole and lining, wooden hills and are decorated by colorful silk strings and tassels.
Perhaps the flagship souvenir of Zanjan are the handmade knives built by the powerful hands and creatives minds of the Zanjanian artisans. The deer-antenna handled knives, swords, and cleaver are known for their remarkable strength and attractive decoration.
Once of the most stylish handicrafts of Zanjan are the silver filigree jewelry, decorative plates, bowls, tea sets, mirrors, and photo frames that are fashioned by incredible patience of the artists who have inherited the craft and the exquisite patterns from their ancestors. The filigree owe their breathtaking splendor to the maturity gained through centuries of practice.
The coppersmiths of Zanjan make a wide variety of dishes, pots, kettles, and tubs. Eye-catching beauty of the handmade cookware and cutlery is the reason why many tourists by them in order to decorate their homes. Some others prefer to use the dishes to cook and serve food because they believe they have medicinal benefits.