Maragheh (Maragha)

Hulegu Khan, the grandson of Chinggis Khan and son of Tolui, set up his first capital at Khariyat-i-Maragheh in c. 1258. Translated Khariyat-i-Maragheh means “the village of the pastures.” Maragheh was and is still located close to Lake Urumiyeh in Iran; relatively close to the Iranian and Turkish border. Maragheh is located in the region known as Azarbaijan. The salt water Lake Urimiyeh offered the residents access to a hefty supply of fish. Hulegu chose Maragheh as his capital, opposed to Tabriz (approximately 70 miles north of Maragheh), because of the natural protection of the mountains and the lake. Once Hulegu setup Maragheh as the capital, he turned the small fishing town into an internationally known intellectual city. Overwhelmingly, Maragheh became known and recognizable to the world due to the construction of the Rasad Khaneh observatory.

Nasir al-Din Tusi at Observatory ca. 1562

The observatory was built on top of a hill right outside of Maragheh proper. Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274) was a scholar of high regard and it was Tusi that developed the construction plans for the observatory. Tusi was a philosophical, theological, and astrological thinker. Prior to the Mongol defeat of Maragheh, Tusi had served the Assassins. Once Hulegu defeated Nizari Ismalili (the Assassins) Tusi came under the rule of the Mongols. Among Tusi’s numerous contributions to the intellectual world and the city of Maragheh he also erected a university that was known and revered internationally. Tusi also prophesied that Hugelu would defeat Baghdad.

In addition to the conservatory other monuments were constructed in the city. ¬†Two preserved tomb towers were also erected. One of the tomb towers is clouded in village myth and was supposedly erected for Hulegu’s mother, Sorghaghtani Beki (built c. 1325-1328). However, this local legend has never been confirmed by reliable evidence. Another monument that still remain as a testament to the Mongol empire in Maragheh includes the monument known as Gharafieh Tower. This monument, located near the center of the town memorialized a Mongol regional commander named Shams al-Din Qara Sonqur. Today Maragheh is a small secluded town that remains hidden by Mount Sahand in the west and the industrialized Tabriz in the north.