City in Iran with 480,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate) on the Shahar river. It is the capital of West Azerbaijan province with 2.9 million inhabitants (2005 estimate) and an area of 37,463 km².

Orumiyeh lies at an altitude of about 1,300 meters above sea level and bears the same name as Orumiyeh lake about 20 km to the east, Iran’s largest lake beside the Caspian Sea.

Lake Orumiyeh lies at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level, and its size varies depending on seasons, between 4,500 km² and 6,000 km². Its depth does not exceed 16 meters at any point. The lake is too salty for fish life and serves little economic purpose for surrounding areas. There are several islands in the lake, of which Kabud is the largest.

The city of Orumiyeh was formerly known as Rezaiyeh. Presently Orumiyeh is often called Urmia.

The population of Orumiyeh is predominantly Azeri (over 90%), but with KurdishAssyrian and Armenian minorities.

The latter 2 groups are Christian, and Orumiyeh has one of the largest Christians communities of Iran. Around 1900, Christians represented about half of the population, but are today no more than a few percent. There are many active churches around the city. The local Christians claim that Orumiyeh was visited by the 3 wise men on their way to Bethlehem and baby Jesus.

Despite the many ethnic groups, there is only one daily language, Azeri, which is written with Arabic script. But official signs and documents are written in Farsi.

Orumiyeh lies in a fertile region, with rich agriculture producing among other crops grains, fruits and tobacco. There is an extensive local production of rugs.

The most famous person coming out of Orumiyeh is Zarathustra, founder of Zoroastrianism 2,500 years ago.

2nd millennium BCE: Believed to the time of the founding of the city.
1918: Most of Orumiyeh’s Armenian Christian population leaves the city. Most of the remainders were massacred by Ottoman troops.


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