The third “International ECO-Silk Road Food Festival” was held in Zanjan, Iran on 10-12 May 2017, celebrating also the International Year of Tourism For Sustainable Development. The third Festival, hosted by Zanjan Provincial “Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization” and organized in cooperation with ECO Secretariat was attended by the ECO Member States and Silk Road members including Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey as well as Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Total number of 17 groups from the aforementioned countries participated in the Event. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and a few other national NGOs also participated in the Festival through showcasing their publications and activities. A sizeable number of local restaurants and handicrafts producers also showed up in the Event this year.
Mr. Ahsan Ali Mangi, Deputy Secretary General of ECO, Mr. Namvar Motlagh, Deputy Head of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism (ICHTO), Governor of Zanjan and some local officials delivered their statements at the opening ceremony of the Festival, presided over by H.E. Ms. Zahara Ahmadipur, Vice- President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of ICHTO. Some members of the Iranian Parliament and high ranking officials as well as Tehran based ambassadors and diplomats also attended the opening ceremony.
The ECO Deputy Secretary General in his statement praised the Festival and said that revival of the Ancient Silk Road would contribute to the development of tourism industry in the ECO Region. He further stated that the ECO Secretariat has extended its support to Member States and has embarked on different projects for the cause of tourism promotion in the Region and has exhibited its attitude to contribute to regional development through various means.
Mr. Mangi also mentioned that co-organizing the annual ECO- Silk Road Food Festival in Zanjan is also a manifestation of our will to stand alongside the local communities to utilize their capabilities and capacities and help flourish their potential tourism attractions and introduce them to regional and international community. He also highlighted the theme of this year's Food Festival "Together for Sustainable Tourism" as an intention to highlight and appreciate different cultures, foods, crafts, environments and peoples in ECO Region and along the ancient Silk Road and to present them to the world community.
The proposal of organizing the third International ECO-Silk Road Food Festival in Zanjan was welcomed by the Member States during the 27th Regional Planning Council of ECO in December 2016.
Zanjan is home to Soltaniyeh Dome which along with Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Mosque and Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Italy, are the largest brick structures in the world, recognized as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is a complex constructed in 1302–12 AC in the city of Soltaniyeh, then capital of Ilkhanid dynasty. It was converted to a mausoleum when the king Mohammad Khodabande, who ordered its construction, passed away.
At the closing ceremony of the Festival and in the presence of the local and invited officials, the “Certificates of Appreciation” were awarded to the participants by Mr. Akbar Khodaei on behalf of the Economic Cooperation Organization.