Alamut was a mountain fortress in the central Alborz Mountains south of the Caspian Sea of Daylam near the Rudbar region in Iran, approximately 100 km (60 mi) from present-day Tehran. Only ruins remain of this fortress today. The name means "Eagle's Nest".
The region’s greatest attraction is the fabled ruin of Alamut Castle , Hasan-e Sabbah’s famous fortress site.
Under the leadership of Hasan-i Sabbah, Alamut became the site of intense activity for the Shi'a Nizari Ismai'li, along with a smaller subgroup known as the Assassins, between 1090 and 1256 AD. During the medieval period, the castle functioned as the major stronghold of the Nizari Ismaili state. In 1256, Ismaili control of the fortress was lost to the invading Mongols, and its famous library holdings were destroyed when the castle’s library was condemned to be burned by Ata-Malik Juvayni, a servant of the Mongol court.
The fortress was first built in 840at an elevation of 2,100 meters. It was built with only one passable entrance that wound its way around the cliff face (the one natural approach, a steep gravel slope, was too dangerous to use). This made conquering the fortress extremely difficult.
The mountain’s peak ...see more was extremely narrow and long--perhaps 400 meters long and no more than 30 meters wide at any place. In 1090, the fortress was attacked and occupied by the powerful Hashshashins, a faction of Nizari Ismailis. It was destroyed on December 15, 1256, by Hulaku Khan as part of the Mongol offensive on Southwest Asia. The fortress was impregnable, but Ruknuddin Khurshah surrendered it without a real fight, in the vain hope that Hulaku would be merciful.
After the Mongol destruction, the castle was of only regional significance, passing through the hands of various local powers. Today, it lies in ruins, but because of its historical significance, it is being developed by the Iranian government as a tourist destination.
The site is a dramatic crag rising abruptly above the pleasant, unpretentious little cherry-growing village of Gazor Khan. The access path starts about 700m beyond the village square and requires a steep, sweaty 25-minute climb via an obvious stairway. On top, archaeological workings are shielded by somewhat unsightly corrugated metal sheeting. But the phenomenal views from the ramparts are unmissable.
The origins of the Alamut fortress can be traced back to the Daylam ruler, Wahsudan, who, during a hunting trip, witnessed a soaring eagle perch down high on a rock. Realizing the tactical advantage of the location, he chose the site for the construction of a fortress, which was called "Aluh āmū[kh]t" likely meaning "Eagle's Teaching" or "Nest of Punishment". The origin of the word "Alamut" is obscure. By 602 AD, the castle was rebuilt by a group of Zaydi ‘Alids in whose possession it remained until the arrival of the Ismaili chief da’i (missionary) Hasan-i Sabbah to the castle in 1090 AD, marking the start of the Alamut period in Ismaili history.
In 2004, an earthquake further damaged the already crumbling walls of the fort. Alamut was fabled for its gardens and libraries. The ruins of 23 other fortresses remain in the vicinity.