Lake Urmia is a salt lake in northwestern Iran, near Turkey. The lake is between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, west of the southern portion of the similarly shaped Caspian Sea. It is the largest lake in the Middle East, and the third largest salt water lake on Earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km² (2,000 mile²), 140 km (87 miles) length, 55 km (34 miles) width, and 16 m (52 ft) depth.
One of the early mentioning of Lake Urmia is from the Assyrian records from 9th century BCE. Here from the records of Shalmaneser III (reign 858-824 BCE) two names (place or tribe name) of Parsuwash and Matai are mentioned in the area of Lake Urmia. It is not completely clear what are the identities of these names and subsequent personal names and “kings”. But Matai’s are Iranian Median and linguistically the name “Parsuwash” matches perfectly with the Old Persian pārsa- an Achaemenid well-known ethno-linguistic designation. Based on certain historical outline of how and when the Iranian people immigrated to the Iranian Plateau in several waves along different routes, Old Persian language- the ancestor of Modern Persian was originally spoken by the people of/from “Parsuwash” who settled in Iranian Plateau sometime in early 1st millennium and finally moved down into an area where Achaemenid history began ca. 600 BCE.
The lake is marked by more than a hundred small rocky islands, which are stopover points in the migrations of various kinds of wild bird life (including flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, ibises, storks, shelducks, avocets, stilts, and gulls). The second largest island, Kaboudi, is the burial place of Hulagu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan and the sacker of Baghdad.
By virtue of its high levels of salinity, the lake does not sustain any fish species. Nonetheless, Lake Urmia is considered to be one of the largest natural habitats of Artemia, which serve as food source for the migratory birds such flamingos. Most of the area of the lake is considered a national park.
ake Urmia has been shrinking for a long time, with an annual evaporation rate of 0.6m to 1m (24 to 39 inches). The lake’s salts are considered to have medical effects, especially as a cure for rheumatism. Lake Urmia is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.