The city of Ahvaz or Ahwaz (اهواز ahvāz or الأحواز), is the capital of the Iranian province of Khūzestān. It is built on the banks of the Karun River and is situated in the middle of Khūzestān Province. The city has an average elevation of 20 meters above sea level. The city had a population of 1,338,126 in 2006.
The term "Huz", meanwhile, is the Old Persian rendition of Suz (Susa-Susiana), the native Elamite name of the region. Old Persian commonly changed the initial "s" in a foreign word into an "h," most famously, in its rendition of the name the river and the people Sindh/Sindhi into Hind/Hindi, which was then Hellenized into Indus, whence India.
Ahvaz being the largest city in the province consists of two distinctive districts: the newer part of Ahvaz, the administrative and industrial center, has been built on the right bank of the Karun while residential areas are found in the old section of the city, on the left bank.
Ahvaz has long, hot summers and mild, short winters. The maximum temperature in summer could soar up to 54 degrees Celsius while in winters the minimum temperature could fall around 2 degrees Celsius. The annual rainfall is 195 mm.
For a more comprehensive historical treatment of the area, see the history section of Khūzestān Province.
First named Ōhrmazd-Ardašēr (Persian: هرمزداردشیر) (Roamn Hormizdartazir) it was built near the beginning of the Sassanid dynasty on what historians believe to have been the site of the old city of Taryana, a notable city under the Persian Achaemenid dynasty. It was founded either by Ardashir I in 230 (cf. Encyclopædia Iranica, al-Muqaddasi, et al.) or (according to the Middle Persian Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr) by his grandson Hormizd I; the town's name either combined Ardashir's name with the Zoroastrian name for God, Ōhrmazd or Hormizd's name with that of his grandfather. It became the seat of the province, and was also referred to as Hūmšēr. During the Sassanid era, an irrigation system and several dams were constructed, and the city prospered. Examples of Sassanid-era dams are Band-e Bala-rud, Band-e Mizan, Band-e Borj Ayar and Band-e Khak. The city replaced Susa, the ancient capital of Susiana, as the capital of what was then called Xuzestān.
The city had two sections; the nobles of the city lived in one part while the other was inhabited by merchants. When the Arabs invaded the area in 640, the part of the city home to the nobility was demolished but the Hūj-ī-stānwāčār "Market of Khūz State", the merchant area, remained intact. The city was therefore renamed Sūq al-Ahwāz, "Market of the Khuz", a semi-literal translation of the Persian name of this quarter - Ahwāz being the Arabic broken plural of Hûz, taken from the ancient Persian term for the native Elamite peoples, Hūja (remaining in medieval Xūzīg "of the Khuz" and modern Xuzestān "Khuz State", as noted by Yaqut al-Hamawi (1179-1229) and Abu-Mansoor Javalighi.
During the Umayyad and Abbasid eras, Ahvaz flourished as a center for the cultivation of sugarcane and as the home of many well-known scholars. It is discussed by such respected medieval historians and geographers as ibn Hawqal, Tabari, Istakhri, al-Muqaddasi, Ya'qubi, Masudi, and Mostowfi Qazvini. Nearby stood the Academy of Gundishapur, where the modern-day teaching hospital is said to have been first established.
Ahvaz was devastated in the bloody Mongol invasions of the 13th and 14th centuries. Ahvaz subsequently declined into a mere village. The dam and irrigation channels, no longer maintained, eroded and finally collapsed early in the 19th century. During this time Ahvaz was primarily inhabited by Arabs and a small number of Sabians. Some minor cultivation continued, while all evidence of sugarcane plantations had vanished, although ruins of sugarcane mills from the medieval era remained in existence.
In the 19th century, "Ahvaz was no more than a small borough inhabited mainly by Sha'ab Arabs and a few Sabeans (1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants according to Ainsworth in 1835; 700 according to Curzon in 1890).
In the 1880s, under Qajar rule, the Karun River was dredged and re-opened to commerce. A newly-built railway crossed the Karun at Ahvaz. The city again became a commercial crossroads, linking river and rail traffic. The construction of the Suez Canal further stimulated trade. A port city was built near the old village of Ahvaz, and named Bandar-e-Naseri in honor of Nassereddin Shah Qajar.
Oil was found near Ahvaz in the early 20th century, and the city once again grew and prospered as a result of this newfound wealth. From 1897-1925, Sheikh Khaz'al controlled this area and the name was changed to Naseriyeh. Afterwards, during the Pahlavi period, it resumed its old name, Ahvaz. The government of the Khūzestān Province was transferred there from Shûshtar in 1926. The trans-Iranian railroad reached Ahvaz in 1929 and by the World War II, Ahvaz had become the principal built-up area of interior of Khūzestān. Professional segregation remained well marked between various groups in that period still feebly integrated: Persians, sub-groupings of Persians and Arabs. Natives of the Isfahan region held an important place in retail trade, owners of cafes and hotels and as craftsmen.
Iraq attempted to annex Khūzestān and Ahvaz in 1980, resulting in the Iran–Iraq War (1980-1988). Ahvaz was close to the front lines and suffered badly during the war.
Iraq had pressed its claims to Khūzestān in part because many of the inhabitants of the area spoke Arabic rather than Persian, the dominant language in Iran. Iraq had hoped to exacerbate ethnic tensions and win over popular support for the invaders. Most accounts say that the Iranian Arab inhabitants resisted the Iraqis rather than welcome them as liberators. However, some Iranian Arabs claim that as a minority they face discrimination from the central government; they agitate for the right to preserve their cultural and linguistic distinction and more provincial autonomy. See Politics of Khūzestān.
During the year 2005 the city witnessed a series of bomb explosions. Many government sources relate these events to developments in Iraq, accusing foreign governments of organising and funding Arab separatist groups.
Ahvaz is also known for its universities as well as its role in commerce and industry. Ahvaz institutes of higher learning include:
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