Tabriz Inaugurated as 2018 Islamic Tourism Capital

Tabriz 2018 was informally initiated on Thursday but the official ceremony is to be held on March 23 in the presence of the President Hassan Rouhani and top officials of Islamic states
Tabriz is to represent the capital of Islamic tourism for a year. Tabriz is to represent the capital of Islamic tourism for a year.

Tabriz 2018, an event in which the central city of East Azarbaijan Province is to represent the capital of Islamic tourism for over a year, was unofficially opened during a ceremony on Thursday.

Culture Minister Abbas Salehi, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Ali Asghar Mounesan, Majlis First Deputy Speaker Masoud Pezeshkian, Governor General of East Azarbaijan Majid Khodabakhsh, Mayor of Tabriz Iraj Shahin-Baher and several ambassadors of Muslim countries attended the ceremony that was accompanied with performances of plays and folk music and dance, IRNA reported.

Speaking during the event, the culture minister underscored the significance of Tabriz that has made it eligible for the nomination, noting that it can be a model for other cities.

"Tabriz has been a bridge through which the Iranian culture has crossed over to the world," he said.

Salehi noted that Tabriz will represent Iran at the international level as a symbol of "artistic and cultural diplomacy".

"By the time 2018 ends, the culture of the region will have made its way beyond borders to join eternity," he said.  

Pezeshkian highlighted the city's past flourishing period, adding that the successful experiences of that time can be used today to foster dialogue with the world.

Pointing to the insufficient allocation of funds, the official said Tabriz has to rely on its own capacities to fund the programs of this year.

"Although the government has pledged to supply funds, it is not logical to count on such donations," he said.

The ICHHTO chief also addressed the ceremony and again emphasized that the 2018 event is not the ultimate goal but a starting point for further development of Tabriz's tourism.

"We must all make efforts to use this opportunity to achieve our broader objectives," he said.

He noted that East Azarbaijan is among the top five destinations in Iran and has hosted some 300,000 foreign tourists in the first half of the current Iranian year (started March 21, 2017), marking a 6% increase compared with the same period of last year.

"Tabriz boasts 1,800 national heritage sites that the majority of these tourists had come to visit," he said.

Mounesan added that although 3,500 years of history are a valuable potential, Tabriz has large capacities for health, education, leisure and nature tourism as well.

He stressed that besides national goals, Iran must also serve the general purpose for which the Organization of Islamic Cooperation selects cities as capitals of Islamic tourism.

"The OIC is certainly promoting Islamic tourism and we should draw on the experiences of the past selected cities to prove that Tabriz is an ideal destination for Islamic tourists," he said.

In the Ninth Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers in 2016, ministers of tourism of OIC member states approved the selection of Tabriz as the capital of Islamic tourism in 2018.

The title was given to the Turkish city of Konya in 2016 and Medina in Saudi Arabia in 2017.

Although 2018 has already started, the authorities have decided to officially open the event on the Iranian New Year (March 21).

The official ceremony, scheduled for March 23, will be attended by President Hassan Rouhani and top officials of a number of Muslim countries.

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