Shaft is the most "rural" department of Gilan province. The villages are numerous and are all surrounded by rice fields and orchards, with beautiful forest and mountainous landscapes.

Shaft is the most "rural" department of Gilan province. The villages are numerous and are all surrounded by rice fields and orchards, with beautiful forest and mountainous landscapes. With an area of ​​681.3 km², Shaft County has more than 71,000 inhabitants (2011 national census), which means a population density of more than 104 inhabitants / km², which is lower than the average density of the province. Gilan (177 h / km²) with a population of more than 2,481,000 (2011 census).

Shaft, which had 6533 inhabitants in 2011, and Ahmadsar Gourab (2538 inhabitants in 2011) are the two cities of the department, the rest of the population (more than 61 000 inhabitants) being distributed among the 91 villages of the department.
The topography defines the natural characteristics of the department which is divided quite clearly into three distinct zones: a plain to the north whose altitude is less than 100 meters compared to the sea level, foothills in the center with an altitude of 100 to 500 meters, and a mountainous area to the south (beyond 500 meters) whose summit culminates at 1840 meters. The department is crossed by three small rivers: Siah Mazgui, Chubar, Chenar Roudkhan.


Chenar Rudkhan River


The northern plain has a favorable climate and a very good soil for rice cultivation. Almost all the lands of this plain are devoted to flooded rice cultivation. In the foothills of the center of the department, the inhabitants also cultivate rice in rice terraces, but also arboriculture and livestock. The southern mountains are covered by deciduous forests and temperate Hyrcanian forests of the Caspian Sea. The layer of land that covers these forests is very thin and unsuitable for cultivation.

As in all central and western parts of Gilan Province, the indigenous inhabitants of Shaft County are the Guilakis and Taleshis. The Guilakis live mainly in the northern plain of the department, while the Taishi population is concentrated in the foothills and valleys of the southern mountain area.

Formerly, the region of Shaft was located at the eastern end of the territory of the Kadousiens, near the Amardes.

"The Kadousiens lived in Gilan and Tapouri in Mazandaran. The Amardes (or Mardes) lived on the borders of the territories of these two peoples. "

This area was an important settlement of the Iron Age even before the arrival of the Aryan tribes on the Iranian plateau. Archaeologists have found traces of these ancient civilizations in different areas of Gilan province.

The indigenous inhabitants of Shaft would undoubtedly be the descendants of the Kadousiens and Amardes who inhabited Gilan three thousand years ago. The word "Shaft", whose origin and meaning remain unknown to us, is used in documents written for at least eight centuries, while the remains of ancient settlements at the foot of the mountains of the region date at least there are three thousand years.

During the Median and Achaemenid periods (the first two ancient dynasties of the Aryans in Iran), the Kadousiens and Amardes never submitted to the authority of the Aryans and remained independent in their isolation from the rest of the Iranian plateau. According to archaeological research, the ancient inhabitants of Gilan were polytheists until the fifth century BC. BC, that is, at the beginning of the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire, and they ignored the Mazedean monotheism. The inhabitants of Gilan experienced Zoroastrianism late, under the reign of the Sassanid emperors (224-651 AD). Under Emperor Kavadh I (Qobad, in Persian) who ruled from 488 to 496, then from 499 to 531, part of the population of Gilan converted to Mazdakism, a movement of religious and social reforms in dissent vis-à-vis Zoroastrianism and the established order. When Kavadh's son Khosro I (531-579) took power, he sent his troops to Gilan and massacred the Mazdakites.

After the fall of the Sassanian empire, the first Muslim troops arrived at Gilan around 96 AH (715 CE). The Islamization of Gilan began under the Abbasid caliph, Haroun al-Rashid (786-809), with the spread of Zaydism, a branch of Shiism. Later, the majority of the inhabitants converted to Hanbalite Sunnism, but Zaydi, Ismaili and Duodeciman Shiites were also numerous. Today, the totality of the inhabitants of the department of Shaft is Shiite, the Shiism duodécimain spreading among the great majority of the inhabitants of Gilan since the reign of Safavid king Shah Abbas I (1588-1629).

Shaft farmers are mainly rice farmers. Most of the department's agricultural land is devoted to flooded rice cultivation, given the easy access to water resources in Gilan Province, which has the highest rainfall rate in Iran, with an annual average of 960 mm. The inhabitants also work in arboriculture and tea plantations. Traditional livestock breeding, poultry farming, fish farming, bee-keeping and sericulture are other sources of income for the inhabitants of this rural department of Gilan, without forgetting the production of vegetables, decorative plants and plants. dried fruits, as well as rural handicrafts.

The citadel of Roudkhan, located in the neighboring department of Foumane, and the Gilan Rural Heritage Museum, located in the forest park of Saravan, are undoubtedly the high tourist places of this part of the province of Gilan. But it must be emphasized that the Shaft department has much more to offer to tourists: the exceptional beauty of the natural and rural landscapes, the forests, the magnificent mountains and ponds, the waterfalls ... and especially the Imamzdeh Ibrahim village.

The village lies 23 kilometers southeast of Shaft and 57 kilometers from Rasht, the capital of Gilan. The village takes its name from the mausoleum of Imamzadeh Ibrahim, a descendant of Imam Musa al-Kazem, seventh Imam of the Shiites. Located in the highest forested mountains of Shaft, this village has a very pleasant climate during the hot season. The path that leads to Imamzadeh Ibrahim passes through rice fields and forest mountains, and offers the most beautiful green landscapes dotted with country houses. Once arrived at Imamzadeh Ibrahim, visitors discover a small village of all colors, formed around the mausoleum which is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites in the province of Gilan.

Also worth mentioning is an exceptional dairy product from Shaft's department: Siahmazgui cheese. Siahmazgui is the name of a rural area, on the road to Imamzadeh Ibrahim. Sheep farmers produce a traditional cheese that is not industrial. Siahmazgui cheese is a real cottage cheese because it is produced by each family from raw sheep's milk. It is therefore a cheese with a strong taste, a legacy of traditional know-how and a particular terroir.
The shorter the time between milking and processing, the better the cheese. This is exactly what happens in the production of Siahmazgui cheese. The peasants milk the sheep between 11h and 12h in the spring, and between 13h and 14h in the summer. The raw milk is immediately filtered. Ewe rennet and some water are added while the milk is still "hot". The fermentation is fast enough. The fermented material is then exposed to the heat of an oven for 10 or 15 minutes. A portion of the water contained in this "dough" must then be extracted to make the product more concentrated and easier to preserve. The fresh cheese is then salted, and it must be kept for nearly six months in warehouses. Siahmazgui cheese is currently produced by only one hundred families in the region, so the quantities are limited and barely exceed five tons per year, with a decline in production in recent years. It is very popular in the province of Gilan and very popular with tourists and connoisseurs. Breeders sometimes sell their unsalted cheese during the spring and summer, but the sale is low since the fresh Siahmazgui is not as good as the aged and salted Siahmazgui. The best Siasmazgui is yellow and fat. The demand for this type of cheese is very high compared to its limited supply, hence the rise in prices of Siahmazgui, which is one of Iran's most expensive traditional cheeses.