A brief translation of the famous Swedish explorer and geographer, Sven Anders Hedin’s words in his book written about Iran’s deserts in 1905:
The desert with its wondrous magical power lures me in. My heart wants to rush to it and listen to the great silence that rides like a cloud on its surface. The freedom and solitude was mine to grab in the depths of the desert. Here, among the leafless trees, there was an eternal and imaginative silence dominantly present; this silence was calling me to an endless desert.

Lut Desert, Kalouts

Lut Desert, Kalouts

Stepping into these truly fantastic remote places, will show you breathtaking landscapes created by wind erosion, a unique desert flora and fauna, salt lakes, salt crystal polygons, golden sand dunes, beautiful hot sunny days and starry night sky in mystical silence, all of which come hand in hand to create a lifelong memory. There are varieties of desert attractions spread out through the country. Each with their own beauty and wonders to offer.
Iran has vast deserts forming almost 25 percent of its land. There are two main deserts, Dasht-e Lut, UNESCO World Heritage, located in the Southeast of Iran, and Dasht-e Kavir, in the middle of Iranian plateau, which are among the most interesting and at the same time, one of the least explored parts of the country.
Other than Lut and Central Desert, these two major properties, there are other salt lands, which can be found in most parts of the country, except for the wetlands. Desert lands, depending on the areas in which they are located, can be divided into four groups.
1- Semi-arid such as Kaboodan Desert in East Azerbaijan Province, Mahabaad Desert in West Azerbaijan and Miqan Desert in the central province. 2- Arid, such as Hoz-e Soleyman, Masileh and Maranjab in Qom province. 3- Semi desert, such as Saqand, Abarkuh, Marvast and Chah-e Afzal of Ardakan in Yazd province. 4- Desert, such as Kevirs or salty desert parts of Lut desert, which have created a magnificent plant-less scenery, bearing the unique salt crystals in different shapes and forms such as polygons and blisters as far as the eye can see.

Lut Desert, Salt River (Rood Shoor)

Lut Desert, Salt River (Rood Shoor)

 

The sand dunes located in East part of Lut Desert locally called Rig-e-Yalan is a marvelous natural destination that stands out the most amongst all. Considering a vegetation encompassing sandstone plants such as stipagrostis plumosa, haloxylon and calligonum distinguishes the scattered flora in this area. Rig-e-Yalan animal species includes rüppell’s fox, indigenous birds of the desert area and falcons.

Salt lakes like Khoor, Maranjab and Hoz-e Soltan are amongst the popular natural attractions of Iran Deserts. Hoz-e Soltan (means ruler’s pond) Lake located near Qom is a seasonal Salt Lake, resembling a gigantic natural mirror as its shallow water covers a vast plain of salt deposits. The lake is said to be a suitable place for breeding a kind of shrimp, called Armita. Best timing for visiting this lake starts from late autumn through early spring.    

  • National parks & protected areas:

Kevir National Park, the Preserved Area of Khar-Touran and Kalmand & Bahadoran Protected Zones are amongst the most famous protected areas located in Iran deserts. They come together in bearing some endemic species.

There are some valuable endemic species such as Zagh e Boor, Asian cheetah and Asian Zebra in Khar-Touran.

Kevir National Park is among the biosphere reserves of the world. This national park is home to some unique wildlife species including, Persian Onager, Asiatic Cheetah, Leopard, Striped Hyena, Caracal, Beech Marten, Flamingo and even Ruddy Shelduck.

The Kalmand & Bahadoran Protected Zones in Yazd province encompass diverse species of vegetation and animals; to name a few, bustard, Iranian gazelle, and Jeibir.

  • Some of the main Urban and Rural Destinations of Iran’s Deserts:
the tall Wind Towers of Dowlat Abaad Garden, Yazd Province

the tall Wind Towers of Dowlat Abaad Garden, Yazd Province

  1. Yazd: One of the main desert cities of Iran, close to spice and silk roads, is Yazd. Many tourists visit Yazd every year for its unique environment and desert style architecture. Yazd is known as the city of wind towers. A fair point worth mentioning is that it has been recognized as a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE (2017); it has gained the title of the Mud-Brick City. A trip to this city is going to teach you all you ever wanted to learn about life in desert cities and how people adapt to the special environment of their hometown.
  2. Kashan: Let us resume with the city of Golab (Rose water) and the birthplace of famous Iranian artists, Kashan, which is one of the oldest cities in Iran. Tourism Capacity, Natural and Historical spots and variety of climates attracts every visitor. Kashan has some breathtaking highlights. For instance the lavish Fin Garden, UNESCO World Heritage Site. A historical legacy that contains the famous Fin Bath belonging to the long list of Persian Gardens, Agha Bozorg Mosque & School and historical Tabatabaeiha Borujerdiha and Ameriha Houses. The details and special features of the architecture is truly a treat for the eyes.
  3. Kerman: Next, Kerman, anciently known as Carmania, where the human settlement dates back to almost 4thmillennium BC. This city is rich in historical and cultural legacies, which you will come across in every twist and turn, like the old wall surrounding the city or the traditional icehouses, wind towers, etc. Not to mention Ganj Ali Khan Complex, a massive and magnificent complex including a vast variety of buildings and structures composing of a school square, caravanserai, public bath, mosque and covered bazaar with many handicrafts to offer, including traditional copper dishes.
  4. Mahan: Last but not least, Mahan, which is well known for the tomb of the great Sufileader Shah Ne’emat Ollah-e-Vali, as well as Shazdeh Garden (Prince Garden), WORLD HERITAGE SITE. The tomb of Shah Nur-eddin Nematollah Vali, poet, sage, Sufi and founder of an order of dervishes, has twin minarets covered with turquoise tiles from the bottom up to the cupola.
  5. Visitors top desert towns & villages: There are also some villages and towns worth mentioning like Mesr, Farahzad, Bayazeh, Arusan, Anarak, Iraj, Khoor& Biyabanak, Jandagh, varzaneh, Ashin, Abozyd Abaad and Mehrjan. Each offering their own uniqueness and similarities that they share.
  • Top special destinations and activities of Iran’s deserts:

Some of the most popular destinations in terms of Desert Adventure in Iran are Lut Desert and Dasht-e Kavir. The names that will ring a bell the most are probably Maranjab, Mesr and Abozyd Abaad.

  1. Lut Desert:

 The first and the most famous desert among tourists is Lut Desert or Dasht-e-Lut, UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE, which forms one of the vast desert areas in Iran, located in south east of the country. In Persian Lut means bare and due to its lack of water and vegetation, it has earned the name, Lut. This area is divided into northern, central and southern parts. Kerman, Khorasan and Sistan-Baluchestan provinces form part of the surrounding areas of this desert. This arid and high temperature area is guarded by mountains, in a sense that whilst walking on an arid and bare desert you can have the contrasting view of snowcapped mountains. According to annual reports, among some years, this desert has had the record of one of the hottest places on earth: a temperature of 70.7 C. It is an arid subtropical desert renowned for a massive variety of different and beautiful landforms. This area is rich with its own flora and fauna adapted to harsh natural conditions. There are lots of settlements in forms of villages (approximately 28 villages) particularly on the western edge, including Shahdad and the surrounding areas. A mesmerizing natural feature of Lut Desert is Yardang, with the local name of Kalout; Resembling sand castles in different sizes and forms. Looking from a distance, you will see the mirage of a desert city with skyscrapers scattered around it. However, they are actually Yardangs, created along thousands of years by wind and water erosion. All these unique landmarks come hand in hand to form an exceptional desert area with spectacular geomorphological beauties, which led to this desert being registered as a UNESCO WORLD HERITTAGE SITE.

 

Rig-e Yalan, Lut Desert

Rig-e Yalan, Lut Desert

Rig-e Yalan on the east side of Lut Desert and Hamada Plain in central Lut, as well as Yardangs on the west, are the most beautiful sceneries of Lut Desert, turning it into a luxuriously untouched and pristine destination.

Another natural feature of Lut Desert is its vegetation of Nebka, which has graced this desert with its one of a kind beauty.  The plant that forms on top of these Nebkas are called the local name of Gaz. take years to develop and beside their beauty they keep the moisture of the soil and acts as a barrier against sand movement, which keeps the area from tuning into a complete dry land. In comparison to the Nebkas in Libya and Sahara of Africa, the ones in Lut Desert, Iran are much higher and sometimes grow up approximately 12 meters.

Some other beauties of this desert which capture the visitors’ eyes are some land forms scattered in shapes of salt polygons, tepee fractured, small salt blisters and gypsum dunes.

The seasonal Salty River that flows into the desert from the northern part, is another paradox natural beauty of Lut.

A safari trip through this land and camping at night to watch the sunset from among the Yardangs will be forever engraved in your memory.

Lut Desert, Salt Crystals

Lut Desert, Salt Crystals

 

  1. Dasht-e Kavir (Central Desert):

Dasht-e Kavir or the Central Desert, the vastest desert of Iran located in the middle of the Iran plateau, stretches from the southern face of Alborz Range to Jandaq Mountains in Isfahan Province. This desert is surrounded by Khorasan, Semnan and Isfahan provinces. Some marsh areas are scattered on the surface of this desert. On the outer edges, some sandy hills and high land could be seen scattered.

Dasht-e Kavir, sandy dunes

Dasht-e Kavir, sandy dunes

 

A desert road worth bringing up, as it cannot be compared to any other road in Iran deserts, is the dreamy road passing through the heart of Dasht-e Kavir, with its mysterious desert silence. It starts from Damghan City in the North and ends to “Jandagh” town in the South. Driving along this desert road, you will experience unique views and mesmerizing mirages.       

When you enter the desert from Northside, you arrive to beautiful unexpected green villages like Rasham, Moaleman and Husseinian and after a journey through these villages, your eyes meet these colorful hills called Sar-Kevir (the beginning of kevir), which are staked like color pencils beside each other. By walking on these hills you would be amazed, when you fix your eyes upon the endless desert horizon. At the end of this vast desert you will be welcomed by the beautiful saffron fields of Jandaq.  

Farahzad Village, Mesr Desert, Dasht-e Kavir

Farahzad Village, Mesr Desert, Dasht-e Kavir

 

Dasht-e Kavir is a mix of sand and salt. Against the odds, oases exist within these desolate environs, home to villages that are sustained by the wells of sweet water.

  • Kavir National Park:

An important part of the central desert is Kavir National Park, known as “Little Africa”, 440,000 hectares. A protected ecological zone. This park includes a flat desert and steppe landscapes.

This protected and ecological park in Iran is for travelers who are looking for a safari-like wildlife. It is Located in the central desert, home to the rare wildlife  species such as Asian Zebra, wild goats, Eagles, falcons and so on. This natural reserved park bears fascinating historical monuments such as Qasr-e-Bahram Caravanserai, Nahr-e-Sangi and Sang-Farsh.  

Speaking of which, one of the dazzling accommodations of this area is Qasr-e-Bahram or Siyah Kouh caravanserai. The outward appearance is made of polished pink stones, which is one of its unique features. On The northern part of Qasr-e-Bahram, lies the stone pavement or Sang-Farsh, also known as the Shah Abbas way, which is also a part of the Silk Road.

A unique feature of the desert area is its water supply system. The stone water channel is one of the masterpieces of water supply in desert areas, which is provided the required portable water for Qasr-e-Bahram, from a spring with bitter water called Shah Spring. The channel was made by joining long stone units to each other.

 

Natural phenomena of the Kavir National park are countless. However, if we were going to mention one above all, that would be Namak Lake or Salt Lake, which sits outside the parks boundaries. As there is very minimum, rainfall in this area, the lake is mostly a salt marsh. However, it has created an amazing scenery.

Dasht-e Kavir, Maranjab Desert

Dasht-e Kavir, Maranjab Desert

 

  • Maranjab Desert:

Another amazing part of Dasht-e Kavir (Central Desert), which is definitely worth a stop, is Maranjab Desert. A mesmerizing combination of natural wonders and a popular desert destination in Isfahan province. Mainly because there are, so many different activities, to do in Maranjab, camel riding, desert biking, safaris and so on. This dazzling desert is stretched endlessly in northeast of Aran va Bidgol, covered by eye catching sand dunes and linked to Kavir National Park.

Maranjab Caravanserai

Maranjab Caravanserai

 

Maranjab Desert provides you with a unique stay in a historical caravanserai located in the middle of the desert. Maranjab Caravansary is situated on one of silk roadside roads, built under Shah Abbas command in 1604. Looking at the vast desert landscape from hilltops, you may be lucky to see the wandering lake, which seems to appear in different places throughout a day.

The stunning Salt Lake of Maranjab is one of the most beautiful landscapes of the desert. It is actually a salt marsh. Water flows into the lake from Qom River. Centuries of salt deposit, carried by salty water of rivers and floods has created this magnificent site. Dazzling white salt crystal polygons surround the Lake’s surface. This lake currently is being used to extract salt from. It has an amazing view during the sunset.

The wondering island of Maranjab Desert is amongst some of the most magical attractions of Iran, as there has always been a saying that this island is constantly moving. Looking at it from a distance, this place looks like a ship in a sea of sand. Especially at night, this view can truly make you forget about reality and step right into a fantasy world.

Dasht-e Kavir, Kalout safari tour

Dasht-e Kavir, Kalout safari tour

 

The name “Maranjab” literally implies: “Do not be hurt due to thirst, heat, wind and dust of desert, as water pool and desirable shadow of trees await you.”

Polygons, Salt River

Polygons, Salt River

  • Mesr Desert:

The next part of the central desert worth mentioning for sure is none other than Mesr Desert, a village and desert area in Jandaq Rural District, in the Central District of Khur and Biabanak County, far east of Isfahan Province. Mesr is basically 420 km far from Isfahan city, and 371 km far from Yazd. After passing Farokhi and Nasrabad villages.

This desert may be a bit different in terms of scenery as it is partly a village and holds exotic traditional houses. These houses will be your shelter at night and they have become quite popular between culture enthusiasts. Camel riding and safaris are the type of activities that can also take place in Mesr Desert. It is one thing to walk around in the desert and explore, but it is quite another, riding a camel and taking in the view. A very well-known attraction of this desert is the Khur Salt Lake, shaped by salt remains with the local name of “Kavir e Tabagheh”, a place that truly shouldn’t be missed. The network-shaped salt polygons are covering the surface for as far as the eye can see. This salt lake is located near Mesr Desert and Khur & Biabank area.

These forms turn black in winter due to mixing with clay and in the summer, they are white due to the intensity of evaporation.

The golden back to back sandy dunes of Mesr Desert with its green flora trailing through the dunes crevices, could be a unique experience and certainly an enjoyable one for those who are visiting this desert for the first time.

 

The view of date palm trees in the surrounding villages of Mesr Desert is one of the most beautiful sceneries of desert regions of Iran.

Let’s not forget that the experience of watching the sunset in the majestic scenery is none like other.

In all these areas you can have the chance to go horseback riding, camel riding, desert biking, riding sand motorcycles, four-wheel driving & desert safaris, thermal waters, wildlife and so on. You can take it to the next level by paragliding on a Para motors.

Not to forget thermal waters, health benefits and the incomparable healing features of desert areas. Khur, Dig-e Rostam and Sirch are some of the popular thermal water destinations to visit and swim in desert areas and not to mention the amazing salt polygons. If you ever decided to take a break and hit the road, do not forget to visit Iran and specially Iran’s mystical deserts.

Desert Tours, designed and organized by “Aftab Kalout Tour & Travel Company”( web link ) in Iran, include all different desert travel styles out there. From exiting wildlife safaris, professional desert biking and horseback riding to a relaxed “glamping”, just to watch the stars and chill out in the natural thermal waters. Not everyone has the same taste and we have taken all the tastes into consideration.

Salt River, Maranjab Desert

Salt River, Maranjab Desert

 

 

 

 

Taq-e Bostan, a Must-see on Traveling to Iran

The historical architecture of every nation is the mirror of its history, art, and culture. The Sassanid inscriptions in different places of Iran manifest the glory and grandeur of Sassanid dynasty. They tried to flaunt their power and splendor by inscriptions and relics on the mountains located on main ways such as Silk Road where could attract all passersby’s attention. Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah province is one of the most magnificent Sassanid rock reliefs displaying the power of Sassanid kings to the posterity. It is a must-see on Traveling to Iran narrating one of the most sublime parts of the history of Iran carved on the stone.

Taq-e-Bostan
Taq-e Bostan, the Sassanid rock relief in Kermanshah

Taq-e Bostan- a site with a series of rock reliefs carved on a mountain near a spring streaming into a pool at the base of the mountain in Kermanshah– consists of a rock relief and the two rock-cut arches one of them larger than the other. The larger arch is 9 m high. According to most Iranologists, it dates back to Khosrow II (around 4th century AD). This relic gives a lot about the beliefs, religious tendencies, clothes, and jewels of Sassanid era. It shows the coronation of the Sassanid king. The king is standing on a platform, his left hand on his sword and his right hand is stretching toward Ahura Mazda on his right hand side. Ahura Mazda is giving a beribboned ring to the king. On his left hand side, Anahita is standing while keeping the jar of water in her left hand and another beribboned ring in her right hand.

There are two winged female angels on both opposite sides of the arch each has a ring in one hand and a bowl in the other. At the front of the arch, the sacred tree or the tree of life is finely carved.

At the bottom, there is a figure of a man riding on a strong horse. Some Islamic historians believe that the figure is showing Khosrow Parviz over his horse named Shabdiz. The relief is about 4 m high.

Taq-e-Bostan-Large-Arch
The large arch in Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah

On the sidewall, the royal hunting scenes have been inscribed. The king is hunting the deer while three lines of women are standing politely behind him. The last line is showing the female musicians. The mahouts are trying to direct a herd of deer to the hunting ground and some cameleers are carrying the prey over camels. The relic presents the process of hunting in three episodes: preparation for hunting, hunting, and the end of hunting. On the left wall, the king is chasing the boar.

The Sassanid king is hunting
The Sassanid king is hunting

The smaller arch, with 5 m high, is showing the figures of Shapur II and his son, Shapur III. They are standing while facing each other and their hands are on their swords. There are also two inscriptions in Pahlavi and Middle Persian languages on the upper part of the back wall identifying both kings.

Taq-Bostan-Small-Arch
The smaller arch in Taq-e Bostan

On the right side of the small arch, there is another relic (the oldest in Taq-e Bostan approximately 4 m high) depicting the coronation of Ardashir II (379-383 AD). He is taking a beribboned ring from his predecessor Shapur II or Ahura Mazda on his right. On his left, the god Mithra is standing on a lotus flower keeping Barsam (a plant used in religious rituals) in his hand. A defeated enemy, who is believed by most experts as the Roman king named Julianus Apostata- killed by Ardeshir II in 362 AD. – is laid under the feet of Ahura Mazda and the king. Some experts also say he may be Artabanus IV, the last Parthian king.

Taq-e-Bostan-Ardashir-II
The rock relief of Ardashir II in Taq-e Bostan

As it was mentioned before, all these relics can show great details about the clothes and jewels used by the kings and people in Sassanid era. As an example, the king riding over the horse is wearing colorful clothes decorated with woven golden threads and geometrical shapes. At the scene of boar hunting, the king’s clothes are ornamented with the figure of the Simurgh. All the kings depicted on the reliefs are wearing the necklace and earrings. Their clothes consist of a knee-length coat, long loose folded pants, and a belt around their waists. They have bushy hair, eyebrows, and beard. There are many details carved on their thrones too. The clothes of the entourage are decorated with the figures of plants and birds.

Taq-e-Bostan-Large-Arch
The large arch in Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah

Traveling to Kermanshah, you can kill two birds with one stone! Not only can you visit Taq-e Bostan, a must-see that no one should miss on his or her travel to Iran, but also you can visit Bisotun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, do not forget about going to the traditional restaurants to try Dandeh-kebab!

Narenjestan Garden or Qavam House in Shiraz

Narenjestan Garden or Qavam House in Shiraz is one of the most beautiful and praised gardens one will love to visit. Qavam House was built during Qajar period in late 19th century. At that time, Qavam family was among the political figures of Shiraz and Qavam House was the residential place of Qavam family and the office for their administration. Since the garden has an abundance of sour orange trees, people call it Narenjestan or the orange garden as well. Today, Narenjestan-e Qavam house and museum is open to the public and it is one of the main attractions of Shiraz that hosts many tourists who travel to Iran.

Narenjestan Garden
Narenjestan Garden embraces an eye-catching monument in the heart of the garden

Narenjestan garden is a great sample of gorgeous Persian gardens of Iran. Persian gardens generally have a rectangular form consisting of four quarters abundant in trees and flowers, streams and pathways, ponds and fountains, a central pavilion, and the walls surrounding the garden. Similar to the Persian gardens registered on UNESCO World Heritage List such as Eram Garden in Shiraz, Shazdeh Garden in Kerman, and Dowlatabad Garden in Yazd, Narenjestan Garden embraces an eye-catching monument in the heart of the garden facing a stone pool and some fountains surrounded by date palms and sour orange trees that all together bring about a pleasant atmosphere.

Narenjestan complex is divided into south and north sections. Narenjestan monument as the most picturesque part of the garden catches visitors’ eyes as soon as they take a step forward within the garden. The monument has an elaborate architecture embellished with various Persian arts such as paintings, stucco, wood carving, stone carving, tile work, and mirror work. It has a magnificent iwan or porch with 2 stone columns. The porch has fabulous decorations on its ceiling and walls. On both sided of the porch, there are symmetrical decorated rooms as well.

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The basement of the monument displays a variety of colorful glasses. It was designed and built elaborately to provide a cool atmosphere throughout the hot summer days of Shiraz; however, today  it has been turned into Narenjestan museum and currently it is one of the most prominent regional and national museums of Iran. About Forty years ago, Narenjestan Garden was handed over to Shiraz University and subsequently was turned into the center for Asian studies. The Asia institute was directed by Arthur Upham Pope and Richard Nelson Frye. With the cooperation of Persian art scholars, they established Narenjestan museum in order to display newly discovered artistic and historical pieces.

Narenjestan-e-Qavam museum and garden has maintained the elegance of the 19the century lifestyle enjoyed by the upper class families in Qajar period. It is one of the luxurious attractions of Shiraz. It embraces Persian arts especially stucco, traditional painting, mirrorwork, brickwork, Moaraq, stone carving, and wood carving. Along with all the great Persian arts visible in the complex, the sound of birds chirping in the garden, and the shadow of sour orange trees and palm trees along the fountains all together bring peace and quiet to the tourists. It is quite pleasurable to have a stroll across the garden, take pictures, and admire Narenjestan elegance. Narenjestan Garden or Qavam house in Shiraz has been registered as a national heritage site and it is one of the magnificent tourist attractions that impress many national and international visitors.

Narenjestan-Garden-travel-to-Iran-tours-to-Iran
The basement of Narenjestan Garden monument displays a variety of colorful glasses

On the west side of Narenjestan monument, pay a visit to Khane Zinat-ol-Molk (Zinat-ol-Molk house) as well. The residence was built by Qavam-ol-Molk family in late 19th century. It includes 20 decorated rooms embellished with mirrors, stucco, and paintings. The first floor of the house is a great wax museum called Fars museum of history. It is home to wax, stone, and wood statues of more than sixty dominant personalities from Fars province. The variety of statues has made Fars museum of history a popular destination for Iranians and international tourists who travel to Shiraz. Travel to Iran and visit its invaluable historical attractions.

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque also known as the Pink Mosque is an elegant piece of art and architecture that belongs to the end of 19th century.  Located in Shiraz, it is a colorful mosque built during Qajar dynasty. Nasir al-Mulk Mosque takes its name from one of the Qajar rulers – Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir al-Mulk – who ordered to construct the mosque. Mohammad Hasan-e-Memar and Mohammad Reza Kashi-Saz were the professional designers of such an exquisite mosque. The construction of the mosque lasted from 1876 to1888. Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz-the combination of art and architecture- is one of the attractions for many of the tourists who travel to Iran.

Since the pink color and stained glass windows are applied elaborately in the structure and design of the Mosque, it is known by different names. Pink Mosque, Rainbow Mosque, Mosque of colors, and Kaleidoscope Mosque all describe different interpretations of visitors from this fantastic site.

Travel-to-Iran-Tours-to-Iran.Nasir-al-Mulk-Mosque
Glory of colors shining through the stained glass windows of Nasir al-Mulk Mosque

At dawn, the sun shines through the stained glass windows of the Mosque and it glides from the right-hand side to the left-hand side to fill the inside with the glory of various colors combined. The vivid colors spread over the ground, the Persian carpets, the ceiling, the walls, the tiles, and the arches to give soul to the solid structure of the mosque. They caress the amazed visitors’ and worshipers’ faces and inspire photographers with great ideas to take amazing pictures. Maybe the designers had aimed to construct such an astonishing space to hold everybody in awe and to create a sacred space for prayer.

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque has two eastern and western shabestans. The eastern shabestan has a gorgeous tiled altar and twelve columns along with stained glass windows. The arts of tiling and painting in shabestans, and beautiful decorations of Mihrab have extraordinary beauty. The harmony among columns, fantastic geometric patterns, the play of light and colors, and the splendid Muqarnas all dazzle the eyes of visitors and photographers. The mosque has great elements of traditional architecture such as a central fountain, an iwan, panj kāseh-i (five concaves), faience, and plaster-works.

Travel-to-Iran-Tours-to-Iran-Nasir-al-Mulk-Mosque
The magnificent use of pink color in Nasir al-Mulk Mosque

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque has been inscribed as one of the national heritage sites of Iran and it annually attracts many travelers to Iran. The best time to visit the mosque is early in the morning and about 8 to 9 am. This is the best time to see the light passing through the stained glass windows and making kaleidoscopic space that amuses travelers, photographers, and worshipers. The interesting point is that Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is still used for worship. Today this glorious mosque is under protection by Nasir al-Mulk’s Endowment Foundation.

Saadi Shirazi- the nom the plume for Abu-Mohammad Muslih al-Din Shirazi- the great Persian poet of all time, was born in Shiraz in the 13th century. He is one of the most influential Persian poets in the medieval period admired for his artistry in expressing deepest moral and social thoughts in the simplest words for all ages. He is well-known as “Master of speech” among Persian scholars and one of the best poets of the classical Persian literature. His two outstanding literary masterpieces are Golestan (or Gulistan) and Bustan.

The exact date of his birth is not known. According to his qasida poems, he left home to explore the world in 1225, contemporary to the invasion of Mongols to Fars. In Golestan, composed in 1258, he addresses himself as a person who has lived 50 years but he is still naïve and does not know much about life.

Saadi-Shirazi-Travel-to-Iran-Tours-to-Iran
The tomb of Saadi in Shiraz

After leaving Shiraz, he went to the Nezamiyeh University in Baghdad and studied Islamic sciences, theology, law, history, and Arabic literature. He traveled to different countries such as Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq for thirty years. He also visited Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina. He wrote about his travels and adventurous life in both Bustan and Golestan. Joining a group of Sufis who fought against the Crusaders in Halab, the Master of Speech is said to have been captured by Crusaders at Acre and held captive there for seven years. But like many of his other stories such as traveling to India and Central Asia, it cannot be confirmed and is considered highly suspected. But with no doubt, he lived much of his life as a wandering dervish.

Saadi was a man of learning and traveling. Mingling with a diverse group of people from intellectuals, merchants, preachers, farmers, ordinary people and the survivors of the Mongol invasion to Sufi dervishes and even the thieves in remote areas far from the invaded regions, he did his best to study the society and to preach and advise people to gravitate to the wisdom and morality. He finally came back to Shiraz before 1257 CE in his late forties and it was the time that he finished the composition of his masterpiece called Bustan. Apparently, he spent the rest of his life in his birthplace Shiraz and was greatly respected by the ruler and people. He passed away between 1291 and 1294 in Shiraz. He has been titled as Sheikh because of his great knowledge.

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Bustan

His best-known work Bustan was completed in 1257. Bustan is quite in verse. It includes 183 stories in ten chapters about the virtues such as justice, kindness, love, modesty, liberality, generosity, satisfaction and happiness, and the ecstatic practices of dervishes addressing all people to have a better and happier life. It was called Saadi Nameh in older versions. It contains about 4000 verses.

Golestan (or Gulistan)

His masterpiece Golestan was completed in 1258, a year after composing Bustan. It is mainly composed in prose. It includes 8 chapters mainly about the kings’ morality, the dervishes’ behavior, benefits of contentment, silence and talking in proper time, love and youthfulness, weakness in old age, and education. Interspersed among the stories are short poems. It is one of the most effective books in prose in Persian literature. Saadi attempts to advise people to live freely and to improve the quality of their lives in Golestan. It contains different anecdotes, pieces of advice, and quotations. It can show the cultural and social conditions of the society at the time of Saadi very well. Some characters and stories are real and some are fictional. It is one of the first Persian books made by print machine in 1824 in Tabriz.

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Golestan, the masterpiece of Saadi Shirazi

Saadi’s other works include Ghazals (love poems or Lyrics; sonnets), qasidas (longer mono-rhyme poems or Odes), quatrains and short pieces in prose in both Persian and Arabic. He is known as one of the greatest ghazal-writers of Persian poetry besides Hafiz. Many scholars believe the best ghazals are Saadi’s and Hafiz’s. Saadi has about 700 ghazals mostly with the essence of love, and some about mysticism sermons. He uses irony in his works to represent and criticize the deficiencies and corruptions in the society of his time.

Saadi’s ghazals are collected in four groups: Old Sonnets (written in his youth); Tayebat and Badaye (written in his middle age); and Khavateem (written in his old days). It is believed by many experts that Saadi’s Old Sonnets are about earthy love while his Khavateem is mostly about mystical love as well as ethics and piety. According to this dichotomy, they guess Saadi practically passed the earthy love to the mystical love during the different stages of his life.

Saadi elaborately distinguishes between the spiritual and the mundane aspects of life in his works. He tries to visualize the deepest meanings of life in the most tangible contexts and close to conversational language as far as possible in such a way that even common people can get the most out of his writings. Saadi’s writing style is called Saj’ in Persian and Arabic and it is a kind of prose characterized by rhythm as well as rhyme. In fact, this artistic style of writing reaches its peak in Saadi’s Golestan. His prose style is described as simple but impossible to imitate.

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The tomb of Saadi Shirazi

Saadi’s writing style undoubtedly has had a great effect on the Persian language as well as many great poets at his time and after him. There is a surprising similarity between his language and modern Persian. After about 8 centuries, his works are still easy to understand and admirable in different languages. Many of the Persian proverbs have been taken from his works. Some are literally translated as “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, “what can you expect from a hog but a grunt?”, and “Haste makes waste.”

Among the well-known western poets who translated Saadi’s works are Goethe and Andre du Ryer- the first European who presented Saadi to the west for the first time in 1634. Golestan was translated into Latin in 1651. The first complete translation of Golestan in English was done by Sir Richard Francis Burton.

In one of Saadi’s most well-known immortal poetries, he considers all humans as different parts of a whole body, regardless of social barriers and races:

Human beings are members of a whole,

In creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy will remain.

If you have no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain.

This poem conveys such a deep humane universal concept that is printed on the ten-thousand-Rial bill to remind everyone of the love and peace in everyday life.

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Saadi’s poem printed on the ten-thousand-Rial bill

His mausoleum, also called Saadieh, in Shiraz is one of the major tourist attractions. It is located in a beautiful garden beside Delgosha Garden (dating back to Sassanid era). The tomb was built in the 13th century. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the 17th century. The present-day building was built during the years of 1950 and 1952. It was inspired by Chehel Sotoun and built by the architect Mohsen Foroughi. Many Persian elements have been used in its architecture. It is also a National Heritage Site. It is visited annually by thousands of visitors who respect him and adore the eloquence in his works. Most of the tours to Iran include Saadieh in their itineraries while visiting Shiraz during their travel to Iran. To commemorate Saadi, 21 March is celebrated as the National Day of Saadi in Iran every year.

City of Shiraz known as the city of love, poetry, and civilization embraces many tourist attractions. Shiraz has many fascinating sites that attract many tourists and travelers. Eram garden, the picturesque Persian Garden with its lovely cherry blossoms and colorful flowers; Nasir-al-Molk mosque, the great pink mosque that creates a mesmerizing reflection of colors; Saadieh, the mausoleum of the great 13th-century poet Saadi; and Mausoleum of Hafez, the great Persian poet of the 14th century are great attractions located in Shiraz. Travel to Iran, visit Shiraz, and enjoy its many tourist attractions especially tomb of Hafez.
Tomb of Hafez is one of the cultural attractions of Shiraz visited and admired by many Iranians and tourists. It belongs to Hafez, the great Persian poet of 14th century. He was a Sufi Muslim respected and loved for his perfect personality and art of poetry.

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Tomb of Hafez is one of the cultural attractions of Shiraz

Khwāja Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz-e-Shirazi is the 14th-century poet of Iran born, lived and died in Shiraz during the time Iran was ruled by the Ilkhanate. He is one of the most beloved poets among Persians. Since he had memorized Quran at an early age, people addressed him as Hafez meaning memorizer and later, “Hafez” got his pen name. He is one of the literary wonders of the world whose poems have been translated into different languages and whose art of poetry has been appreciated by many knowledgeable figures. Hafez mingles his poems especially ghazals-sonnets- with the essence of love and joy, teaches how to live a better life, and disgraces religious hypocrisy. To commemorate Hafez, October 12 is annually celebrated as Hafez Day in Iran.

Hafez has influenced many writers and philosophers. His work translated into English by William Jones in 1771 influenced Western writers and philosophers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Goethe. Emerson described Hafez as a brave and thoughtful person who feared nothing. He had wished to see Hafez or to be more like him. To appreciate Hafez, Emerson declared” Hafez is the poet for poets”. Goethe had also admired Hafez and believed that Hafez had no peer.

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Hafez’s ghazals target different concepts of human life; however, love is the concept one would find ever in his poems and maybe that is why his verses are still popular among people. Hafez lived during the Ilkhanid period and it was a tough time for people to express themselves or criticize the situation. As a result, He took advantage of an elaborate figurative language to express himself. In a situation that nobody dared to violate the ruling system, Hafez tactfully put his words in the language of poetry to criticize the religious hypocrisy and ruling system of the time through his ironic tone called “Rendy” in Persian. Hafez is known as the master of Persian ghazals. Divan-e-Hafez-the collection of his works- as a great example of Persian literature is found in homes of Persian speaking people around the world. Iranians believe that Quran and Divan-e-Hafez are two books that should be found in every Iranian home.  People still learn some of his poems by heart and use them as sayings in everyday life. Performing fal-e-Hafez (Hafez reading) is also an ancient tradition among Persian speakers. It is an entertaining part of different ceremonies such as Shab-e-Yalda or Iranian New Year. Some believe that Hafez would give them a piece of advice about their lives through fal-e-Hafez.

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One can enjoy the beautiful surroundings of tomb of Hafez

Hafez died in 1389 and was buried in the graveyard of Shiraz. He had a high position in people’s mind and maybe that is why all the governments ruling Shiraz paid attention to his tomb and tried to honor him in different ways. However, it was during Karim Khan Zand dynasty that a mausoleum was built to honor Hafez. Moreover, the marble stone was provided for his tomb and it was engraved with a long verse from Hafez. In 1935, the French architect- Andre Godard- was assigned to re-plan and expand the garden and make it more beautiful to attract many visitors. Therefore, more gardens surrounding the tomb were connected to the mausoleum to create more space. Regarding his design, Hafez’s tomb was elevated up to one meter above the ground level and it was reached by five circling steps. Moreover, an octagonal pavilion supported by eight stone columns holding a tiled copper dome in the shape of a dervish’s hat was constructed surrounding the marble tombstone.  Iranians love Hafez and they usually gather at the garden to visit his tomb, pray for his peace and tranquility, and perform fal-e-Hafez.

Tomb of Hafez with its splendid dome-like monument, the surrounding gardens with pleasant paths, streams, and fragrant orange trees, and the memorials to other famous figures all together make Hafezieh an attractive tourist attraction located in Shiraz. If you would like to travel to Iran, do not miss Shiraz and its many attractions especially Hafezieh.

Naqsh-e Rustam, the Ancient Necropolis of Powerful Persian Kings

Naqsh-e Rustam is an ancient necropolis situated northwest of Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. Naqsh-e Rustam (Naqsh-e Rostam) is an impressive reminder of once glorious Achaemenid Persian Empire (c. 550–330 BC) and it stands as a magnificent manifestation of ancient Persian art. Naqsh-e Rustam is the house for the immense rock tombs cut high into the cliff. The rock tombs belong to four Achaemenian kings. The ancient tombs attracted Sasanian kings as well. They wished to imitate the glory of the Achaemenian kings; maybe that is why they created huge reliefs besides the tombs. The immense rock reliefs mainly depict the investiture scenes and the equestrian fights of the Sasanian kings. However, the history of Naqsh-e Rustam is not limited to  the Achaemenid and Sassanid periods. There is evidence that the site exists from the Elamite period.  An ancient rock relief dating back to Elamite period indicates that Naqsh-e Rustam had been a sacred place during the ancient times. That might be the reason Darius I ordered to carve his monumental tomb into the cliff at the foot of Mt. Hosain (Huseyn Kuh). His rock tomb is famous for its two inscriptions known as the king’s autobiography. The inscriptions indicate that Darius the Great had been the king who ruled according to justice. Travel to Iran and enjoy visiting so many great cultural attractions especially the great ones registered on UNESCO World Heritage List or waiting to be registered. Pasargadae, Persepolis, Naqsh-e Rajab that lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rustam, and Naqsh-e Rustam, the ancient necropolis of the powerful Persian kings are the best cultural attractions of Iran located in Shiraz, Fars province,.

Achaemenid Tombs

Naqsh-e- Rustam houses four rock tombs carved out of rock face. Since the façades of the four Achaemenian tombs look like Persian crosses- chalipa- some call it Persian Crosses as well. The entrance to each tomb is located at the center of the cross and it leads to a small chamber where the king’s body lay in a sarcophagus. It is not clear whether the bodies were directly put into the sarcophaguses or the bodies were exposed to a tower of silence, and then the bones were put there. What is certain is that the tombs were closed after the burial, but the doors were smashed and the tombs were looted after the invasion of Alexander the Great in the 4th BC.

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Darius I standing on a platform in front of an altar and the winged figure of Ahuramazda

Ka’ba-ye Zartosht 

In front of the rock tombs, there is a square tower known as the Ka’ba-ye Zartosht that means the Cube of Zoroaster (Ka’ba is the famous monument as a holy site for Muslims located in Mecca). The structure of the building is a copy of a sister building at Pasargadae known as the Prison of Solomon; however, this building is a few decades older than Ka’ba-ye Zartosht. On the wall of the tower, there is an inscription in three languages from Sasanian time and it is considered as one of the most important inscriptions of that period. It is not obvious what the purpose of the building had been. It might have been a library for the holy books, a place to keep the holy fire, or maybe a treasury.

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Ka’ba-ye Zartosht in front of the rock tombs at Naqsh-e Rustam

According to Persepolis fortification tablets, there must have been trees at Necropolis that apparently it refers to Naqsh-e Rustam. The experts believe that there must have been three lines of trees in the area between the tower and the tombs; however, it has been a long time since the trees have disappeared.

Sassanid Reliefs

Besides the tombs, there are seven over-sized stone reliefs dating from the 3rd century AD.  The huge rock reliefs mainly belong to the Sassanid period and they depict scenes of imperial conquests and royal ceremonies. What is amazing about the reliefs is that they indicate details of events carved in the heart of rough rocks. Therefore, they can give the visitors a visual insight into the spirits of the ancient times.

The most famous rock relief at Naqsh-e Rustam belongs to the Sasanian king Shapur I. The relief depicts his victory over two Roman emperors; Valerian and Philip the Arab. Shapur I is on the horseback, while Valerian is bowing to him and Philip the Arab is holding Shapur’s horse.

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Shapur I celebrates his victory over two Roman emperors; Valerian and Philip the Arab

The investiture relief of Ardashir I as the founder of the Sassanid Empire is also depicted. The relief indicates Ohrmazd giving Ardeshir the ring of kingship. The inscription also has the oldest use of the term “Iran”.

There are also the equestrian reliefs such as equestrian relief of Hormizd II at Naghsh-e Rustam. The relief depicts Hormozid and above the relief, one would see a badly damaged relief that apparently is depicting Shapur II with his courtiers.

The relief of Bahram II depicts the king with an oversized sword. On the left, five figures stand and they seem to be the members of the king’s family. On the right, three courtiers stand and one of them is apparently Kartir- a highly prominent Zoroastrian priest.

The Oldest Relief at Naqsh-e Rustam

The oldest relief at Naqsh-e Rustam dates back to approximately 1000 BC and it dates back to the Elamite period. Though the relief is severely damaged, it depicts a faint image of a man with an unusual head-gear. He is thought to be an Elamite one.

Why Is It Called Naqsh-e Rustam?

Sassanid reliefs mainly depict equestrian fights or investiture scenes. Since the equestrian fights of the Sasanian kings represent the tales of chivalry, locals believed that the man depicted on reliefs was Rustam, the hero of Shahnameh. The epic of Shahnameh is the masterpiece of Ferdowsi, the great Iranian poet of the 10th and 11th the century. Therefore, the site is called Naqsh-e Rustam (meaning the carvings of Rustam); because the locals believed that the carved man on the reliefs was their epic hero” Rustam”.

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Locals believed that the carved man on the reliefs was their epic hero” Rustam”

The history and design of Niavaran Palace

Culture tour to Iran includes visits to graceful attractions dating back to different period of Iran’s history. This article introduces one of the most splendid attractions in Tehran that should not be missed in your travel to Iran. There is a historical construction in the middle of an elegant garden in the northern part of Tehran called Niavaran Palace. Covering an area of 9000 square meters, it comprises five buildings. Niavaran Palace was in fact the famous Qajar king’s, Naser al-Din Shah, summer resort which was later expanded by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The main Niavaran Palace was completed in 1968, which was supposed to be a reception hall for royal guests, but changed into the royal residence later. The king and his royal family lived here until the Islamic revolution in 1979.

After the revolution, the palace was conquered by revolutionary forces, however, three years later it was transferred to Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The complex was open to public in 1986 for the first time.

Its interior design is inspired by Iranian architecture and a touch of modern technology. Although the interior decoration and furniture has been designed and implemented by a French group, a stunning combination of Iranian pre and post-Islamic art is evident in it. There are some precious paintings by Iranian and foreign artists, valuable French and German dishes and treasured Iranian carpets all over the place. The harmony of carpets and curtains is quite eye-catching.

The palace is constructed in two floors and a half; the first floor enjoys a great hall for VIP guests and several rooms including a dining room, waiting room halls and a private cinema. The bedrooms of all family members are situated in the second floor, the half floor was also allocated to Leila, the youngest family member. Its architectural design is by Mohsen Foroughi, plaster work has been carried out by Master Abdollahi, mirror work by Master Ali Asghar and tile works by Master Kazempour and Ilia.

Niavaran

Sahebqaraniyeh Palace

Sahebgharaniyeh is the oldest building of Niavaran palace which was constructed as a summer resort for Naser al-Din Shah, it became his favorite resort later; although, however, he never chose to live there permanently. His son Mozafar al-Din Shah made slight changes to the building later. And, the building underwent greater changes during Mohammad Reza Pahlavi reign.

Sahebgharaniyeh is a white building with green gable roof. Graceful Persian architectural elements such as mirror work, colorful glasses and delicate gypsum are noticeable in this construction. There are magnificent paintings everywhere in this palace, most of them portraying Qajar kings and landscapes in Iran.

One of the most magnificent parts of this building is the mirror hall, which is also known as “Jahan Nama” hall. The mirror works in this huge hall is extraordinary. The northern and southern windows of the palace overlook a view of Shemiran mountains in Tehran. Mirror hall was mainly used for formal parties a meeting and its reputation is primarily due to the

“Persia Constitution of 1906” signed by Mozafar al-Din Shah in this palace.

Sahebqaraniyeh-Palace

Ahmad shahi Pavilion

Ahmad Shahi pavilion is a two-story building with an area of approximately 800 square meters. The architectural design is especially unique and graceful compared to the other buildings in this complex. There is no concrete evidence of its construction date, some attribute it to Ahmad Shah’s summer resort, the last Qajar king who ruled for a short time. Therefore, it might be about a hundred years old which turns out to be a popular photography subject.

During Reza Shah Pahlavi, Niavaran palace was abandoned until Mohammad Reza went married and the young couple decided to live here, however it did not take long.

During Mohammad Reza reign, this building was used as the residence of the crown prince, Reza, after restoration and some changes in decoration by a group of French designers.

Ahmad Shahi pavilion was closed for ten years after the revolution, until 1989 which was open to the public, following a recovery. Today, the pavilion is one of the most outstanding buildings in Niavaran palace. Reza’s properties including his stone collection and model planes impress many visitors.

Ahmad-shahi

Jahan Nama Museum

Jahan Nama is a museum in Niavarn which was added to the complex in 1977 to host the international gifts of Farah Diba, the queen, and also the various objects she had bought from different parts of the world. Today, ancient objects of great civilizations are displayed in this museum. Among these, works of distinguished artists of 20th century such as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, George Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Gauguin and many contemporary Iranian artists are remarkable.

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Private Library

On the northeast of Niavaran complex, there is a two-floor building including a basement, altogether with an area of 770 meters, dating back to 43 years ago to be served as a private library. The interior design had been completed by Aziz Farmanfarmayan, design and composition of glass and mirrors has been done by American artist, Charles Sevigny.

The library lacks general standards of a library, since it was built as a private library. Evidence such as the piano and sound equipment shows that the place was used as a music room as well. Using elements of interior design like paintings, furniture and statues has given the atmosphere of a museum to the places.

There are about 23000 volumes of books including 16000 Persian books and some from non-Iranian authors. Excellent travelogues written by famous people traveling to Asia and Iran, collection of paintings particularly by artists of 20th century are only parts of these prosperous library.

Private-Library

Museum of Royal Family’s Vehicles

In 2011, Iranian authorities decided to make a collection of royal family vehicles in Niavaran palace. A few months later the museum, was open to visitors, following particular aims:

  • Displaying vehicles to the public
  • Organizing vehicles of the collection
  • Optimizing conservation system and protecting the heritage
  • Attracting more visitors

The construction allocated to vehicle museum covers an area of 200 square meters. However, being used as garage, it lacks decorative arts. Rather than being worked as a specialized museum, the focus is on conservation of royal family vehicles as a national treasure and historical storytelling.

Two Rolls Royce Phantom 5 and 6 are displayed right in the middle of the hall, surrounded by Formula racing car and eight motorcycles belonged to royal family children. Looking around, you can also see some maquettes in this gallery and some photos of the royal family with these vehicles.

Vehicles

Museum of Royal Clothes & Fabrics

The first glance at this gallery, brings to mind the harmony of Iranian clothes with beauty of nature and surrounding environment. It also presents Iranian artists’ skill in textile production.

The museum of clothes is one of the permanent treasures of the complex.

Niavaran palace Opening hours

The complex is open to visitors, Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm during spring and summer and from 8 am to 5 pm during fall and winter. To buy the ticket, visitors should arrive there an hour before the closing time.

On important national holidays, the complex is closed. So, do not forget to check before visiting.

How to arrive to Niavaran Palace

If you are looking for public transport rout, you have to get to Tajrish metro station, on Line 1, then take a cab to Niavaran square, it is a five-minute walk to the palace.

Another possible option would be “Tap30”, either from Tajrish metro station or anywhere you are in Tehran. It is quite affordable, however trying public transportation would save your money.

Niavaran palace café and restaurant

Imagine sitting in a restaurant surrounded by tall trees, only 500 meters from a historical building! If you like the peaceful atmosphere, then you are welcomed to have a drink or food in “Karzin” cafe and restaurant. However, on the weekends and holidays you should expect some crowd. The café is famous for its brunch, the brunch buffet is open until 1 PM.

Opening hours

Spring and summer: Every day from 9:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m. except public mourning holidays

Fall and winter: Every day from 8:00 a.m. to 16:00 p.m. except public mourning holidays

Introduction

As a lovely and amazing city, Isfahan has embraced three UNESCO world heritage sites, plenty of cultural and architectural attractions and friendly hospitable local people. However, walking into Jolfa district would fascinate every visitor in a different way; it feels as if you have traveled back in time and you are in a different period of history. Let’s not forget to mention that there are 13 churches in this district right now but Vank is undoubtedly shining as the most gorgeous one. Vank Cathedral is a must-see attraction in Iran, a masterpiece representative of artistic expression of Christians in Iran and Armenian living place in 400 years ago.

History

About 400 years ago, the Armenians migrated from Azerbaijan to settle in Jolfa district of Isfahan in search of a haven, due to the Armenian genocide occurred in Yerevan during Ottoman war. Jolfa is still famous as a quiet area with European setting and architecture.

Vank is a historic church dating back to Shah Abbas the second period (1642 – 1666) having the reputation of training high rank priests in Christian world; that is why Vank is considered as one of the most noticeable churches among Armenians. Besides being an impressive Cathedral, Vank is the largest museum in Isfahan due to possessing an outstanding collection of historic documents during the last 400 years which makes it one of the most well-known Armenian centers in the world.

 

Vank
Vank

Architecture and Design

Displaying a mix of Islamic and Armenian architecture, this church covers an area of approximately 4000 square meters including the main church and its courtyard, monastery, belfry, library, museum, clock tower, Bishops’ room, community halls and tea house; considering the Vank garden and green spaces around, it is about 9000 square meters.

The height of the walls from the yard to the roof of the second floor is about 11.75 meters. Unlike many other Armenian churches in Iran which are made of stone, the main construction material in Vank Cathedral is clay.

The exterior walls are covered with brick and tiles designed with winged angels can be seen everywhere while the interior walls are covered with plaster and eye-catching paintings which is the most splendid feature of this building. The magnificent artistic decorations in different parts of the church, such as inside the dome, walls and arches are mainly originated from the holy Christian book. These paintings mainly represent stories from the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ from the birth to the ascension, day of resurrection and the judgment, heaven and hell. A combination of Persian floral ornaments and Armenian national motifs are also evident on the ceilings and walls. The display of frescos on tiles with glorious gold and blue frames has created a pleasant and lovely setting inside the church. The cost of all paintings and decoration of the church was provided by “Avdic Stepanos” which are unique among Armenian churches.

Vank

Museum

Vank museum is a not to be missed place in Isfahan. One of the most significant and most  comprehensive collections of biblical manuscripts are kept and displayed here. The museum keeps 700 handwritten books, a variety of objects related to Armenian community in Isfahan such as Safavid costumes, European paintings brought back by Armenian merchants, tapestries, embroidery, and other ethnological exhibits related to Armenian culture and religion.

Visiting various collections in this museum would be one of the most interesting parts of your tour. The precious paintings related to Safavid period, painted by Armenian and European artists are unexampled. There are stunning collections of porcelain and clay dishes, collections of wooden works consisting of instruments, furniture, clock, etc. and eye-catching metal objects including gold and silver jewelries, belts, frays, etc.

The exhibition of Armenian textiles, traditional hand woven and embroidery are quite appealing to any visitor’s taste.

Vank Cathedral enjoys possessing 170 sheets of crucial historical commands, 22 of which are depicted in this museum today. Belonging to 17th to 19th century, these political orders are mostly related to the emigration of Armenians, offering religious and commercial privileges to them and tax rules for residents of Jolfa district.

And last but not least, the most highlighted object at Vank museum is a piece of hair, belonged to an 18-year-old girl on which a sentence from old testament has been written with a diamond pen in 1974. You can read the sentence through a microscope kept by the side.

Opening hours

9:00 am till 6:30 pm

Location

Vank Church alley, Jolfa District, Isfahan, Iran

Contact

(+98) 3136243471

Meybod as the main center of weaving Zilu, a light Persian rug and one of the oldest handicrafts of Yazd, is being inscribed as the World City of Handicraft. The traditional Iranian carpet, Zilu, was inscribed on the list of National Treasures of Iran two years ago and the process of listing Meybod on the World List began since then.

Zilu

The oldest Zilu, belonging to almost 800 years ago, is being kept in Zilu Museum of Meybod. Also there are three different kinds of Zilu being produced in the city which vary in their material and colors. On the verge of being forgotten, the art of Zilu weaving, this handwoven art belonging mainly to desert areas, revived in Meybod some years ago and now more than 200 person are working in this industry in Meybod.

A group consisting of three experts from the World Crafts Council, traveled to Meybod in October 2017 and after visiting different Zilu weaving workshops, Zilu Museum of Meybod, galleries showcasing photos and documents proving the ancient history of Zilu production in the city, they left Iran confirming that the art of Zilu weaving is a widespread craft in Meybod and many people are still working in this industry.

 

Zilu weaving

Ghada Hijjawi Qaddumi, the head of World Craft Council in Asia Pacific added that following all the steps of Zilu production in Meybod in their visit to the city, they found out all process of preparing its prerequisites and weaving Zilu itself is being performed in the city. She also expressed their satisfaction knowing that there are workshops and classes teaching this ancient art in Meybod.

Leaving Iran indicating that the Zilu weaving art should be recognized with the world market, she added the final decision will be at the discretion of the World Crafts Council. Just one month after the Council’s representatives visiting the city, Seyed Mostafa Fatemi, deputy head of Iran Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts of Yazd announced that the city is being listed as the World City of Zilu.

Zilu

 

World Crafts Council (WCC) is launching a network of creative craft cities since 2014. Iran, located in its Asia Pacific region, first appeared on the list by inscribing Tabriz as the World City of Carpet Weaving and Isfahan as the World Crafts City in 2015. Meybod would be Iran’s eighth representative on the list after Tabriz, Isfahan, Sirjan, Lalejin, Kalpourgan, Marivan, and Mashhad respectively World Cities for Carpet Weaving, Crafts, Kilims, Pottery, Handmade Pottery, Klash Footwear, and Gemstones. Monesan, deputy of Iran Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts also declared that Abadeh and Khorashad village would be inscribed on the list for wood carving and Tobafi (towel weaving). The idea behind creating this list is to “grow a global awareness to cultural and social developments, encouraging governments to support developments of their crafts, strengthening local potentials for development of creative tourism and encourage the relation between crafts and other creative industries” as mentioned in the Council’s website.