Kaleybar is a city of 9.030 inhabitants (2006) in East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This county produces beautiful pomegranates, excellent figs and grapes that are dried on fires (because the sun is always obscured by thick clouds). In recent year the city has become a tourist destination thanks to its proximity to Babak Castle.
Kaleybar was the stronghold of Babak Khorramdin who in 816 AD revolted against the Arabs. Babak’s resistance was ended in 836 when he was defeated by the Iranian General Afshin. The events of the two decades long tumultuous times subjected the town to the reports of early Islamic historians.
The spoken language in Kaleybar is the Azeri dialect of Turkish. The name Kaleybar could have Tati origins, meaning a town built on rocks. The Kaleybar region with mountainous terrain, shepherding and cultivation of hillside possess the isolating features for the development of a sophisticated whistled language. The majority of males are able, and perhaps addicted, to masterfully mimic the melodic sounds of musical instruments using fingerless whistle. Melodic whistling, indeed, appears to be a private version of the Ashug music for personal satisfaction.
The mountainous region of Qaradagh, due to its remoteness and inaccessibility, was a guardian of Ashugh music. This frequent allusions of this music to mountains, with the intention of arousing an emotional state with a tone of mild melancholy, is consistent with the geography of Kaleybar.
Aşıq Hoseyn Javan, born in Oti Kandi near Kaleybar, is a legendary Ashik. Hoseyn Javan’s music emphasizes on realism and beauties of real life in line with the mainstream world view of Arasbaran culture.
The locals cherish the landscape of their town mingled with the vivid yellow blossoming zoghal (cornelian cherry) trees in early spring. The berries will be sun-dried on flat roof tops and sold to the market as an ingredient of ash reshteh. Unfortunately, the local version of this thick soup is not offered in restaurants. In recent years, the regional government has organized zoghal festivals as a means of promoting tourism.
The relatively well preserved Babak Castle at an altitude of 2300m is located some 3km away from Kaleybar. This Sassanid era fortress is named after the ninth century Iranian resistance leader, Babak Khorramdin, who resisted Arab armies until year 839.
The mountain ranges south-west of Kaleybar are still used as summer camp of pastoralists belonging to Arasbaran Tribes. This provides an opportunity for observing the relaxed idyllic life style of bygone times. They generally welcome visitors as long as their cultures and mode of life is not ridiculed. The visit should be on sunny days when the shepherd dogs feel lethargic.
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