UNESCO joined the festive ceremony attended by President Hassan Rouhani and representatives of the international community to celebrate the designation of Tabriz as Capital of Islamic Tourism in 2018 by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
President Rouhani in his opening remarks highlighted the development of tourism as one of the means of fostering inter-cultural dialogue and constructive interactions in the world: "Tourism will make the nations truly understand the world and the history of the past, and in fact, provide better understanding of human connections in the past and make it possible to understand the present and future of the world”.
Ms. Esther Kuisch-Laroche, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office in Tehran attended the ceremony and expressed her support by saying: “At UNESCO we are delighted that Tabriz is the capital of Islamic tourism for 2018.
Tabriz has always been a place of cultural exchange since antiquity. Its historic bazaar complex, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, was one of the most important commercial centres on the Silk Road. In addition, the city hosts many other cultural and historical treasures. It is my hope that many tourists will come to Tabriz this year to discover the beauty of the city and the region.”
The historic bazaar complex of Tabriz consists of a series of interconnected, covered, brick structures, buildings, and enclosed spaces for different functions. Tabriz and its Bazaar were already prosperous and famous in the 13th century, when the town, in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan, became the capital city of the Safavid kingdom. The city lost its status as capital in the 16th century, but remained important as a commercial hub until the end of the 18th century, with the expansion of Ottoman power. It is one of the most complete examples of the traditional commercial and cultural system of Iran.
On December 23, 2015, the final day of the three-day 9th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers in Niamey, Niger, OIC ministers of tourism approved the selection of Tabriz as the capital of Islamic tourism in 2018.
In September 2016, Tabriz was declared a World Craft City by the World Craft Council, which, along with Isfahan, makes it one of Iran’s only two cities to boast the title.