By: Mir M.Hosseini
The cave city of Vardzia in southern Georgia was founded by Queen Tamar in 1185. The city was first built to also serve as a protection against Seljuks and Mongols. Consisting of over six thousand apartments in a thirteen story complex, houses were built on top of each other resembling the city of Masouleh in northern Iran. Having tens of thousands of inhabitants, the city had a very complex irrigation system watering terraced farmlands. The only access to the complex was through some secret wells and tunnels. In 1283, an earthquake destroyed most of the city and collapsed the irrigation system. It was then turned to a monastery and a center to train priests and Christian missionaries.
For some reasons, Shah Tahmasp saw it as a threat to the Safavid empire as a center where dissidents sought refugee. He raided the city in 1551 and ordered closing the monastery forever.
Today, Vardzia is a major tourist attraction in Georgia which separated from Iran in Dec, 22, 1800 after it was captured by Czar Paul I.