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04/12/12

Rab-e Rashidi, the 13th century academic complex

Source: Tehran Times

Rab-e Rashidi was an academic complex in the 13th century, during the Ilkhanid Dynasty founded by Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan and brother of both Mongke Khan and Kublai Khan. Hulagu took with him many Chinese scholars and astronomers, who helped the famous Persian astronomer Nassereddin al-Tusi learn about the Chinese calculating tables.


Ruins of Rab-e Rashidi academic complex in Tabriz (photo by Yasha Azar)

During its long history, Rab-e Rashidi was damaged by natural disasters. Most of the structure is covered by 6 meters of soil and dust. Today it is an archeological site in Tabriz.

Thousands of students from Iran, China, Egypt and Syria studied their desired subjects here under the supervision of scientists, physicians and Islamic scholars.

More than 30,000 houses, stores and other urban constructions existed in the residential quarter. Also known as the Rashid Foundation or Estate, the main function of Rab-e Rashidi was that of a university city, and its main purpose was the study and documentation of Rashideddin's writings.

The foundation maintained a library, a hospice, a hospital, a khanqah (a building designed for holding Sufi gatherings) and a tomb with winter and summer mosques. The tomb was originally that of Rashideddin, built by his son Muhammed Ghiyath.

In addition to the components of the foundation, the estate also served as a residential quarter. It contained caravanserais, shops, baths, storehouses, mills, factories and 30,000 houses.

The entire complex was surrounded by a wall that Ghazan Khan had begun building to enclose the entire city of Tabriz, and later by a second one that enclosed its suburbs.

Rab-e Rashidi began to decline after the death of Rashideddin in 1318. Although Rashideddin's son Muhammed Ghiyath attempted to expand the foundation after his father's death, he too was put to death in 1336, and the foundation was again looted.

A ruler by the name of Malek Ashraf later took over the site in 1351 and expanded it further by building fortifications, mosques, hospitals and schools.

Today, the historical elements of the Rab-e Rashidi can no longer be identified. All that remains are masonry bases of the fortifications that were built either during the 14th century or by Shah Abbas in the 17th century.

The most prominent of the masonry bases still extant has a rectangular projection, which is believed to have been the foundation of an astrological observatory mentioned in Rashideddin's writings. Mosaic fragments that may date from Rashideddin's time up until the Safavid period, were also found at the site.

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