The Historic Village of Masouleh

Aug 2, 2014 1 comments

The village of Masouleh is located in Gilan Province, in Iran, perched high on a densely forested mountainside about 60 kilometers inland from the Caspian Sea. Forever covered in fog, which barely leaves the village, Masouleh is an incredible spectacle: a series of cottages built on a slope, such that each house's courtyard is another house's rooftop.

Masouleh is located about 1,050 meters above sea level, but the range of elevation varies by over a hundred meters in the village. Because of this the houses are constructed in stepped terraces and are interconnected. The terrace of each house functions as the courtyard of the house above. In some cases, public streets are laid out along interconnected roofs. Due to its unique layout Masouleh does not permit any motor vehicles to enter as the small streets and many stairs make it impossible for vehicles to operate in the village. Masouleh’s peculiar architecture, can be compared, to some extent to the Libyan village of Ghadames, where interconnected rooftops create a network of passageways.


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The village buildings are mostly two stories and made of adobe, rods and bole. Between these houses, are narrow, meandering steps that lead to the upper level of the city. Given that these old houses are mostly made out of clay and wood, it is truly amazing that the roofs can also serve as sidewalks and walkways. Moreover, they are constantly exposed to the wear and tear of the weather; such as deluges of rain and heaps of snow.

Due to its high location, the climate of Masouleh is different from the rest of Iran which is hot and dry. Here, warm, moist air blowing southwest from the Caspian is blocked by the Alborz Mountains, creating heavy precipitation and fog on the seaward side of the mountains. The abundant rainfall has spawned dense forests and gushing rivers in the area.

The first village of Masouleh was established more than a thousand years ago, 6 kilometers northwest of the current village and is called Old Masouleh. Masouleh had once been the Silk Road of the Gilan region and people from far and near gathered there for business to sell and buy merchandise, however, as of late there are fewer signs of the young and old selling dream dolls and colorful socks in the alleys of Masouleh as people have migrated from this once trade center due to unemployment and lack of income. As of recent, Masouleh is developing into a popular tourist destination.


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Source: Oriental Architecture / Tehran Times / Historical Iran


  1. This looks like a fantastic setting for a James bond film.


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