A New Ashuradeh is Underway in the Islamic Republic of Iran by Antonia Mosqueda
Ashūradeh Island is the only island off the Iranian coast in the Caspian Sea. Located in Gorgan Bay, Ashuradeh’s surface comprises of 2,000 acres. The western end is known as Miankaleh, after the peninsula of Behshahr country in Māzandarān, a Province of Iran. The eastern end is located in Bandar Torkaman in Iran’s Golestan Province. The photos below are of the Bandar Torkaman area, home to a Sunni majority population, on the Caspian. We enter here before taking a boat to Ashurehdeh.
Officials of Golestan Province have recently proposed a plan to revive the Island, making it a future spot to attract tourism. However, after informing readers on a bit about this Island’s history and what its economy presently sustains, I would like to throw in some of my two cents: in hopes that before Iran gets moving on this promising development, to cater to tourism and the people of Iran, it considers all other life encompassed by the Caspian on this sugary little Island.
Below are photos near the boardwalk and pier. We then took a little speedboat to the Island.
A Little History on Ashuradeh:
Historically, Ashuradeh was somewhat of a hot spot for gamblers and hostile invaders, pre-revolutionary era. In 1837, Russian military forces took over the island and occupied it despite Iran’s disapproval. The Russian Army maintained a military post on the island for a few decades; remnants of the old post exist, as a haunting historical marker and reminder of what once was. You can see evidence of this history in my photos:
Beyond this, the small island housed up to 300 families, at one time: the little village that once was is, for the most part, deserted today. I was also informed by a local that the island used to be a discrete getaway for wealthy tourist during the shah’s time; yet, hardly any markers but a few shanty old buildings remain from that time. In the photos are pics of old structures and a seemingly new mosque for workers and inhabitants on the island.
Today Ashuredeh is home to Iran’s largest export company for the finest sturgeon caviar in the world. And, quite pricey caviar at that: I hear it sells for over $200 USD, outside of Iran. Over 50% of Iran’s caviar is produced near Ashūradeh Island. You can check out my photos to see the caviar company’s HQ below:
They also have some of the best sturgeon kebabs served on Ashuradeh Island.
What is more, is that this little island attracts some awesome wildlife; a gorgeous array of birds migrate through every year, like flamingos. The Caspian is also home to the endangered Caspian seal. “The Caspian seal (Pusa caspica) is one of the smallest members of the ear-less seal family and unique in that it is found exclusively in the brackish Caspian Sea.”
Photo: Caspian International Seal Survey
Below: Natural fauna and seashells on Ashuradeh’s shores. No Caspian seals today, but there were flamingos, you can see them far off in my photo.
Ashurehdeh, for now, has been a quiet little escape for the few people familiar with the secrets and mysteries of the Island.
Making our way back to Bandar Torkeman
Over the past several years, a little dispute regarding the Ashuredeh border arose after the partition of two provinces in Iran, Mazandaran, and Golestan. The Island happens to be nestled between the two provinces. Now that the land disputes are final and have been settled, Iran intends to make Ashuradeh into a hot spot for tourist, because of its attractions for nature lovers—plant, animal, and bird watchers–and of course history buffs: and this place has great potential for that!
My daughter shopping at the port bazaar on the Caspian
A plan for increased tourism could very well have an impact on this rare gem that rests quietly in the Caspian. Although I support a well thought out plan to support Iranian tourism, there are some things many Iranians, I am sure, would hope to see if this plan progresses: one would be strict laws to protect the animals and wildlife. Laws that would regulate hunting or fishing (if needed), especially against poaching of endangered animals, like the Caspian seal, flamingos, and of sturgeons (which would hurt Iran’s caviar industry) must be enforced. Water protection laws and construction laws to prevent land damage, like possible erosion, might also be considered. Other than that I see no reason for Iran to hold back on showing off this diamond in the rough.
Overall, I am excited about the new proposal to upgrade and develop the area further. And, I hope that a future increase of tourism there will also increase funds to protect all wildlife and inhabitants on this beautiful, lively island.
Follow this link to read more about the endangered Caspian seals and how you can help: http://www.pinnipeds.org/seal-information/species-information-pages/the-phocid-seals/caspian-seal