ĀLĀ DĀḠ, name of a number of mountains in Iran; of Turkish origin, the words mean “colored mountain.” Many mountains or mountain ranges in Turkey or regions inhabited by Turkman peoples, including Soviet central Asia and Siberia, bear this name. In Iran there are several mountains or smaller massifs known (often only to local inhabitants) as Ālā Dāḡ, especially in northwestern Persia (Azerbaijan) and in the Zagros. The most important of the Iranian Ālā Dāḡ massifs is in Khorasan in the northeast. Known as Kūh-e Ālā Dāḡ or Rešta-ye Ālā Dāḡ, it extends southwest, south, and southeast of Boǰnūrd for some 120 km. The highest peaks are between 2,600 and 2,700 m. Along with Kūh-e Bīnālūd and Pošt-e Kūh the range forms, topographically and geologically, the eastern extension of the Alborz chain. This whole region, which is given the general name of the Khorasan mountains, divides the Khorasan trench, through which flows the Atrak, from the Iranian highlands proper. Running along a line from northwest to southeast, the tectonic structure of the Khorasan mountains is overlaid or interrupted by orogenic elements running in other directions. The latter include the Šāh-ǰahān and Kotal-e Soḵanī mountains which, running west-northwest to east-southeast, and west-southwest to east-northeast, collide in the area of Ālā Dāḡ. This interlocking of various orogenic systems that culminate in Bīš Aḡaš (3,032 m) in the immediate neighborhood of Ālā Dāḡ means that this particular mountain range and its lower slopes are extremely prone to seismic activity. Like almost all parts of the Khorasan trench, the Ālā Dāḡ massif is especially notable as an earthquake center; the town of Boǰnūrd and its environs, which lie below Ālā Dāḡ, have been completely devastated by earthquakes several times over the last few centuries. The Ālā Dāḡ mountains are of little economic importance: The core is granite covered by triassic and jurassic sediments (mostly chalks). There are no mineral resources worth mining; agriculture has been developed only at sporadic intervals, but the mountains do provide summer grazing for farmers and former nomads. A passable road (mule track) leads up into Ālā Dāḡ southward from Boǰnūrd to Mīānābād.


K. Scharlau, “Das nordostiranische Gebirgsland und das Becken von Mesched,” Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie N.F. VII, 1963, pp. 23-35.

W. R. Fisher in Camb. Hist. Iran I, p. 63.

(E. Ehlers)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: July 29, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, p. 769

Cite this entry:

E. Ehlers, “ĀLĀ DĀḠ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/7, p. 769; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ala-dag-name-of-a-number-of-mountains-in-iran-of-turkish-origin-the-words-mean-colored-mountain (accessed on 14 May 2014).