Most travelers to Iran tend to visit Esfahan, Shiraz, Yazd or some of the world famous destinations. In Iran there are, however, a number of other interesting places, perhaps less known outside the country, but offering pleasant surprises to those interested in history, architecture and folk traditions. One of such destinations is the city of Semnan, the capital of the province with the same name.
Semnan with a population of 130.000 is situated between the Alborz mountain range in the North and the Dasht-e Kavir desert in the South – along the ancient Silk Road once connecting Europe with the Far East. A number of Caravan-sarays in the area remind us of the camel caravans that used to stop in Semnan for a rest and a refill. Narrow lanes in the old quarters provided a natural protection against the sand blown by desert winds.
The Alborz mountain range north of the city is an ideal destination for hikers. In the mountain caves you may even come across stalactites and stalagmites over million years of age.
A majority of the historic buildings in the city date back to the Qajar-dynasty in the 19th century. Many of them are true masterpieces of architecture.
The Semnan University founded 40 years ago has brought fresh young winds into the city. The University has produced a number of world renown mathematicians and scientists especially in the field of medicine and natural sciences.
For linguists, the province of Semnan is a true treasure chest. Out of the numerous dialects and languages spoken in the province, the Semnani language is probably the most interesting one. The local dialect is as different from standard Persian as the old dialect of Rauma is from standard Finnish.
The best way to reach Semnan, 240 km east of Tehran, is to take the train or a bus. The journey takes a mere three hours.