Cyrus II, known as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of Achaemenid dynasty. His maternal grandfather was Astyages, the last king of the Medes, and his paternal grandfather was Achaemenes, the first founder of hereditary rule among the Persians.

Cyrus presented a new empire based on morality, justice, and decency to the world. Unlike the previous emperors, he treated the defeated with compassion, enemies with tolerance, and those with opposing beliefs and customs with liberality. His statement in Babylon, written on a clay cylinder, is the first draft of the Declaration of Human Rights.

The followings are three sites worth exploring to learn more about the rise and fall of Achaemenids. You can leave Shiraz for a one-day tour to visit these spectacular sites and then come back.

Pasargadae: This Is Where Achaemenids Rose to Power

pasargadae-achaemenids

Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae, Iran

 

It was the dynastic capital of Achaemenid Empire, the first great multicultural empire in western Asia. Today, it’s located near Shiraz in Fars province, south western Iran. It’s where Cyrus the Great conquered Astyages, the last Median king, in his last battle, and then founded the first Persian Empire in the same region and beyond. He founded Pasargadae and constructed palaces in memory of his victory. It was the rise of Achaemenids and Cyrus the Great was the author of Achaemenid dynasty. His tomb is also here in this city.

According to UNESCO, “palaces, gardens, and tomb of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture, and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization”.

A brief description of the site

The tomb of Cyrus has long been a focal point for visitors to Pasargadae and the palace area lay almost a kilometer north of it. This area included a palace to receive audiences and a whole series of adjacent gardens. They emerged to be the first Persian gardens. Unfortunately, all that has remained from Achaemenid era in this region are stone foundations and some wall socles.

In this site, the columned hall is the most common form of design. A notable architectural point about this hall was making use of stone-working techniques. It’s notable because all the previous columned halls in Iranian plateau were built in mud-brick walls and wooden columns.

Such an innovation facilitated the production of stone platforms, staircase, floors, and stone columns. Each one of these structures was to become a hallmark of architecture in Achaemenid era from about 540 BCE onward.

The gardens at Pasargadae would appear to be the first known occurrence of chaharbagh or fourfold garden, a specific articulation of space. It went on to become a distinctive characteristic of later garden designs in Iran for centuries.

Pasargadae kept its importance to Achaemenid emperors, but during the reign of the next kings, the capital moved to other cities.

Persepolis: The Glorious Times of Achaemenids

 

persepolis-achaemenids

Gate of All Nations at Persepolis, Achaemenid Era

 

It’s the other dynastic center of Achaemenid kings located about 60 kilometers south of Pasargadae. After Cyrus the Great, Darius I, known as Darius the Great, succeeded in ruling the Persian Empire. He started the construction of Persepolis. It consists of ceremonial palaces, provisional residential palaces, a treasury, and a chain of fortification. It was built as a ceremonial palace complex mainly for celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year festival.

The gate to the site was from the south, through a staircase. To the right of this entrance, you can see a huge rectangular block bearing four cuneiform inscriptions in the name of Darius the Great: Two in Old Persian, one in Elamite, and the fourth in Babylonian. These scripts were clearly meant to inform visitors of the nature of Persepolis, the people who contributed to its construction as well as Darius’ beliefs and ideals.

The remarkable parts of the palace complex consist of:

  • The Gate of All Nations.

It was a four-columned square hall with three stone doorways. Two enormous winged bulls are carved at the inner side of eastern as well as western doorways, and the gates are decorated in the upper part with six cuneiform inscription sections.

  • The audience palace of Darius, The Apadana

The double-reversed stairways of this palace are the most splendid parts of Persepolis

  • The Palace of Darius known, the Tachara.

A charming structure which is the oldest palace of Persepolis. Here, you can find three different scripts carved in various historical periods: one in cuneiform from Achaemenid era, one in Pahlavi from Sassanid era, and one in modern Persian from Qajar era.

  • The Palace of Xerxes, the Hadish

It was the Xerxes’ temporary residence.

  • The Central Palace, the Tripylon

A small but lavishly ornamented structure located in the center of the complex. Three doorways and a couple of corridors and staircases were linked to the other palaces. It must be attributed to Xerxes and Artaxerxes I.

  • The second largest palace of Persepolis, The Hundred Column Hall

Its main feature was a square hall provided with ten rows of ten columns. It was an audience hall.

These structures were built by Darius the Great and his successors, Xerxes and Artaxerxes I, and maintained until 330 BCE, when they were looted and burnt by Alexander of Macedonia. Although today you can see only the remains of this complex, its magnificence can still impress you.

Darius the Great was a powerful and sage emperor in the ancient world. His territory was so extended that there were no such imperial expansion until then and long after.

Naqsh-e-Rostam, Mighty Emperors Have Rested Here

Naqsh-e-Rostam

Naqsh-e Rostam, Achaemenids’ Necropolis near Shiraz, Iran

 

It’s one of the most spectacular ancient sites of Achaemenid era dating back to the times when the fall of Achaemenids was about to happen. It’s located almost 5 kilometers northwest of Persepolis, and consists of the colossal rock tombs of Persian kings dating back to the first millennium BC. Here you can see the best ancient rock reliefs in Iran from both the Achaemenid and Sassanid periods.

The rock-cut tombs of Achaemenid rulers and their families dating back to the 5th, 4th, and 3rd centuries BC have been engraved on the façade of a mountain. The tombs belong to Darius the Great, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. In addition to being a royal necropolis, Naqsh-e-Rostam was a major ceremonial center for the Sasanians until the 7th century AD.

I highly suggest you to put these three spectacular Achaemenid sites in your checklist for travelling to Iran. It takes just one day to visit them all and learn about the rise and fall of Achaemenids. I promise there will be so many amazing things that can cause your admiration.

 

Complex Amir Chahmak in Yazd (Yazd)

Amir Chakhmaq

Amir Chakhmaq

Meydan-e Mir Chaqmaq mosque is dominated by a wide portal facade and poked two outrageously sharp, more than 50 meters high minarets in the pale blue afternoon sky.

In the middle of the XV century, when Jalaladdin Chahmak, commander of Shahrokh Timurid, became ruler of Yazd. He and his wife Bibi Fatima Khatun built a complex with the purpose of improving the city, which became known as the Amir Chakhmak complex. This is one of the most significant historical complexes in the city of Yazd, located in the heart of the old city. A valuable complex of structures consists of a mosque, teki, Haji Kanbar bazaar, Bibi Fatima reservoir and other buildings. The complex of Amir Chahmak as a monument of the XV century is listed in the list of famous historical monuments of Iran. The area of ​​Amir Chahmak in the Safavid era was known under the same name. In the reign of Shah Abbas, some of these monuments were restored. On the eastern side of the Amir Chakhmak square is the Haji Kanbar bazaar, built by Nizam-addin Haji Kanbar Jahanshahi. After coming to power in the city of Yazd Jahanshah Kara-Kuyunlu, other monuments were built by his order. Subsequently, on the entrance portico of the market was built a sublime beautiful building in the style of other tekha Yazd. The construction works of the Amir Chakhmak mosque ended in 1437. It is considered to be the most beautiful after the Cathedral Mosque of Yazd.

The Amir Chakhmak Mosque with mosaic tiles and curved arches in terms of space, beauty and authority is also known as the “New Cathedral Mosque”. In this complex there are two reservoirs – Bibi Fatima and Haji Kanbar. Reservoir teka Amir Chakhmak currently functions as the “Water Museum”.

 

Nakhl Yazd

Nakhl Yazd

Play watch and Nakhl

Towering over two minarets, this three-storey building serves as the grandstand for the Ashura Passion Play, in which the fight and death of Imam Hoseyn are staged. Each year to Ashura, the tenth day and highlight of the Shiite Mourning Month, Muharram, 200 million Shiites commemorate the Battle of Karbala, which ended in 680 AD with the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Hoseyn, and the split of Islam into Sunnis and Sunnis Shiites finally sealed. Ashura, the tenth day of the month, is called Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. This day is significant for all Muslims around the world and is celebrated on various occasions. On the square is also the heavy “Nakhl” wooden scaffolding. This is hung in the Ashura rites with black cloths and carried around on the shoulders of mourners. It symbolizes the shrine of Imam Hossein. The so-called “Naql” is adorned with black cloths, banners and with the portrait of Imam Hossein in the mourning procession on the 10th Muharram and then worn by well-built Porters through the city.

Jame mosque Yazd

Jame mosque Yazd

The Jame Mosque of Yazd

The Jame Mosque (Friday Mosque) is the grand assembly mosque of Yazd City. It was begun between 1324 and 1327 on the site of a former fire temple and a Seljuk mosque. It was funded by Seyed Rokn od-Din, who came from the wealthy Yazd patrician family. It was extended in 1365 and is today one of the outstanding buildings of the 14th century in Iran. The mosque is crowned by a pair of minarets, the highest in Iran (48 m). The facade of the portal is decorated with dazzling tiles, mainly in blue. Within the mosque is a long, arcaded courtyard (cream). Behind a low-lying Ivan (hall) is an altar chamber, a room cooled by a ventilation system. This chamber under the squat tiled dome is decorated with faience mosaics and its high faience mihrab (prayer niche indicating the direction of prayer) from 1365 is one of the most beautiful of its kind.

Especially worth seeing in the vicinity is the mausoleum Rokn od-Din – this has a turquoise dome with blue grid. The grave structure is characterized by the magnificent, reminiscent of floral carpet patterns paintings of the inner dome around which runs a tape. Here is buried Rokn od-Din, who founded the Friday Mosque and created many foundations. The mausoleum is visible from all elevated points in Yazd and is about 700 years old.

When entering the prayer ivan of the Jame Mosque, a Friday mosque, as the word “Jame” already says, it gets really atmospheric. Even the richly decorated with tiles and mosaics entrance portal lets the head fall for many minutes in the neck and shocked by the prayer rugs still in the interior of the octagonal, half-open and richly decorated patterns.

You can end your beautiful day with a tour of the old town, marvel at the beautifully decorated dome of the Rokn-od-Din mausoleum (tomb of the founder of the Friday Mosque of Yazd).

After a short stroll through the relatively manageable bazaar of the desert city, you land unexpectedly in a particularly atmospheric place. In a mausoleum on the boulevard Salman-e Farsi stands the shrine of Prince Fazel. It is worth visiting the place because the green color will give you a calm and relaxing time.

Written by: Ebrahim Barzegar

 

 

 

 

Iran’s Economuseum becomes a major tourist attraction
An ancient building in southeastern Iran has become a museum of traditional professions that attracts a large number of visitors.

A historic school in the city of Kerman, in southeastern Iran, has been restored and renovated and renamed “Economuseum”. It is a place where visitors can familiarize themselves with the different traditional professions of the city.

For starters, the Grand Bazaar of Kerman has numerous attractions. Anyone entering the market can spend hours visiting the historical monuments there, including old small workshops. Old men have still kept alive and probably forgotten professions in the province.

According to a Persian report from the Mehr News , one of the ancient monuments in the main hall of the bazaar was recently restored.

Visitors can now see for themselves the traditional professions of Kerman people there. Each camera is dedicated to a certain art and industry. Ceramics, carpet weaving, carpet weaving and a room with symbolic decoration suggesting that Kermanis decorate the rooms of their houses. A public road in the monument is going to be adapted and put into service, too. This place is known as the Lady Bibijan School. The building was opened to the public in 2015 as the Econonomuseum of Professions, which houses visitors and tourists.

The historic building built in 1888 was first used as a joint Iran-UK bank. Later, after the bank was transferred to the British consulate, the building was renovated in 1933 for use by students. In 1941, it was named after the lady “Bibi Hayati”, and was used as a school until 1977. It was then abandoned and extinguished. And several years ago, it was restored and converted into a museum.

 

The Memory of Saint Thaddeus and His Faithful Followers

 

Iran’s Qara Kelisa will honor the memory of Saint Thaddeus and his faithful followers during a ceremony in the northern province of West Azerbaijan.
The church is located at the end of a road which has been constructed merely for this church and a small nearby village. Qara Kelissa was registered as the ninth historical-cultural heritage of Iran at the 32nd International Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Quebec, Canada.

Scores of Armenians, Assyrians, and Catholics from Iran and other countries will attend the annual event as part of their pilgrimage on the Day of St. Thaddeus.
The ceremony is known as one of the largest religious ceremonies held by Armenians.
Qara Kelisa, also known as the St. Thaddeus Church, is one of the oldest and most notable surviving Christian monuments of Iran that carries great significance for the country’s Armenian Orthodox community.

The church is composed of two parts: a black structure, the original building of the church from which it takes its name and a white structure, the main church, which was added to the original building’s western wing in 1810 CE.
An ancient chapel two kilometers northwest of the church is said to have been the place where the first Christian woman, Sandokh, was martyred. The chapel is believed to be as old as Qara Kelisa. The structure was inscribed along with two other monastic ensembles of the Armenian Christian faith namely St. Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor.

Saint Thaddeus Monastery
The Saint Thaddeus Monastery is an ancient Armenian monastery located in the mountainous area of Iran’s West Azarbaijan Province, about 20 kilometers from the town of Maku. The monastery is visible from a distance because of the massiveness of the church, strongly characterized by the polygonal drums and conical roofs of its two domes. There are several chapels nearby: three on the hills east of the stream, one approximately 3km south of the monastery on the road to Bastam, and another that serves as the church for the village of Ghara-Kilise.
One of the 12 Apostles, St. Thaddeus, also known as Saint Jude, (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot), was martyred while spreading the Gospel. He is revered as an apostle of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Legend has it that a church dedicated to him was first built on the present site in AD 68.
Not much appears to remain of the original church, which was extensively rebuilt in 1329 after an earthquake damaged the structure in 1319. Nevertheless, some of the parts surrounding the altar apse date from the 10th century.
Most of the present structure dates from the early 19th century when Qajar prince Abbas Mirza helped in renovations and repairs. The 19th-century additions are from carved sandstone. The earliest parts are of black and white stone, hence its Turkish name Kara Kilise, the Black Church. A fortified wall surrounds the church and its now-abandoned monastery buildings.

According to Armenian Church tradition, the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew traveled through Armenia in AD 45 to preach the word of God; many people were converted and numerous secret Christian communities were established there.
The ancient Christian historian Moses of Khorene tell the following story, considered a legend by most modern historiography.
Thaddeus converted King Abgar V of Edessa. After his death, the Armenian kingdom was split into two parts. His son Ananun crowned himself in Edessa, while his nephew Sanatruk ruled in Armenia. About AD 66, Ananun gave the order to kill St. Thaddeus in Edessa. The king’s daughter Sandokht, who had converted to Christianity, was martyred with Thaddeus. Her tomb is said to be located near the Ghara Kelisa.

History and Architecture
In Turkish, Qara means black and the church was called so because a part of it was black. Apparently, the main building of the church was built entirely of black stones but after reconstruction part of the stones was replaced by white ones. This was most probably done intentionally so that future generations would be informed of the original shape and façade of the church.
The church was destroyed and reconstructed at different eras for different reasons. A great part of the church was destroyed in the year 1230 (616 Lunar Hejira) during the attack of Genghis Khan.
When Hulagu Khan was residing in Azarbaijan, Khaje Nassireddin Toosi embarked on its reconstruction.
The main church, built in 1811-1820 is a massive structure, built of light sandstone and adorned with blind arches and decorative and geometric shapes.
Its twelve-sided tambour has been built in alternating light- and dark-colored stones and has an equal number of windows.
The church has two large courtyards, the first of which seems to have been used for agricultural purposes, while the second encircles the white structure, the portico, and a number of rooms.
The first courtyard includes oil-extracting rooms, a miniature windmill, an oven, and a fountain. It is decorated with ornamental motifs and two intricately designed stone crucifixes.
A small door opens to the second courtyard where the refectory and the kitchen along with rooms for resident monks and abbots are located.

The portico, which has been left unfinished, dates back to the mid 19th century.
The building’s exterior is adorned with five rows of alternating dark and light stones as well as numerous round and blind arches, decorated with rosettes, coats-of-arms, flowers and animal figures.
Statues of angels adorn the front facade of the church and its northern and southern facades are decorated with dark-colored stone crucifixes.
Sculptured bas-reliefs bearing passages from the Old and New Testaments, mythical animals, and effigies of saints have added to the beauty of the monument.
Armenians hold that Qara Kelisa is the world’s first church and was constructed in 68 CE by one of the apostles of Jesus, Saint Thaddeus, who traveled to Armenia, then part of the Persian Empire, to preach the teachings of Christ.
The church was destroyed as a result of an earthquake in 1319 and as narrated by Andranik Hovian there is a document showing it was rehabilitated by Saint Zachary in 1329.

 

 

Amazing 12,000-year-old, Meymand Village

Man and nature joined together to create one of the most amazing and extraordinary places in the world in southern Iran.
Meymand is a rocky village in the district of Meymand in the central part of the city of Babak in the province of Kerman in southeastern Iran.
Meymand dates back to 8,000 to 12,000 years, is another example of the historic tourist attraction in Iran.
The village of Meymand and the Kandovan rocky village in Tabriz are among the few architectural forms of the rock that are widely used in the entire structure of the villages.

As an example, the most important attributes of these villages in comparison with those of the Cappadocia village of Turkey are the residential units of these two villages.In other words, life is still in this village.
The village was registered on July 4, 2015, at the thirty-nine UNESCO World Heritage Summit as the 19th UNESCO World Herald of Iran.
Meymand Village attracts thousands of tourists eager to see its cavern-like houses and experience the traditional rural culture of the region.
This ancient man-made building is certainly among the first human settlements in Iran.It is not yet known who created this collection, and what were the motives of these people for the construction of such structures.
But the motives of the people are very important,Because with simple facilities, the creation of such magnificent collection with an outstanding architecture is admired.

Some people believe that Mithraism used these caves only for the worship and burial of the dead.And after a while due to the emergence of water and air or any other effective environment, these caves have been chosen to reside.The religion of Mithraism was prevalent in Iran before the advent of Ayn Zoroastrianism and continued until long after its emergence.
At the time of Sasanian, Shahrbabak was considered as the birthplace of Babak Sassanid.After the advent of Islam and its entry into Iran, the people of Meymand who believed in the Zoroastrian religion accepted Islam.

Traditional houses in the village are carved out of the rocks and include corridors, pillars and a stove used to cook and heat the house during glacial winters.Locals say their ancestors did not use hammers and scissors, but a type of pointed stone to sculpt images in rocks. The method is still practiced today in the region.
The current inhabitants of the village build their cave houses, known as Kicheh, by chiseling six to nine-meter horizontal cuts into the hillside’s soft sedimentary rock.Meymand’s sedimentary rocks are soft enough to be shaped by hand and hard enough to support the roof of cave units.
There are about 400 Kitchens in Meymand. Each Kicheh covers an area of about 16 to 20 square meters and is nearly two meters high.

The houses are built on one another and accommodate 130 to 150 people, many of whom lead a nomadic life, escaping warm weather by switching to higher pastures in summer.
The houses usually consist of a single square or round room with carved windows as much as possible. Some houses are windowless and dark due to lack of natural light and soot-coated walls.

Larger houses have more than one room and sometimes an adjacent shelter or animal shelter. The doors are generally rectangular and wooden, with a latch that locks on a hole drilled in a stone frame.
Tourists, who arrive in the village can either stay in guest houses or enjoy staying in cozy, soot-stained cave houses.Guest house rooms are covered with pressed wool felt, called Namad in Persian, and carpets.Meymand also has a public bath, a school, a restaurant, a museum and a number of shops mostly offering herbal medicine and traditional handicrafts.

 

 

Kashan a spectacular city, For all seasons, cheap and beautiful
Kashan is the city of Golab (Rose water) and the birthplace of famous Iranian artists.

Kashan is one of the oldest cities in Iran.This city is located close to Tehran, so access to this historic city is very easy and fast.Tourism Capacity, Natural, Historical, Different weather in parts, Flowers and Vegetables, Different mountainous geography, FinalyCool and green space to the desert and hot areas … attracts every visitor and finally you can understand a variety of climatic features in a small range.

By one day tour in Kashan, you can visit all historical sites of this city and also some beautiful countryside around Kashan.
So join us on this one-day tour:

How we go:
You can use the passenger terminals in the north ( Beyhaghi ) and south ( South Terminal ) of Tehran for going to Kashan.Several highways between Tehran and Kashan and Isfahan have made it easy to get to the city.

Places to visit:
This historic city with more than 8,000 years history, also with dozens of monuments can be a perfect tourist day for you.

Sialk hills:
Silak hills are the name of the first urban civilization in central plateau of Iran with over 8,000 years of history.Sialk is one of the historical places after the Jiroft civilization of Kerman on the Iranian plateau.

FIn Garden:
One of the most beautiful Persian gardens and the coronation place of a number of Persian kings.This garden with over 23,000 square meters is one of the oldest gardens in Iran, which dates back to the Safavid period(1502–1736).

 

 

 

Old Houses:

Kashan is very famous for its beautiful houses in the cities of Iran.The most beautiful houses in Iran with, beautiful architecture, nice decorations, mirror-works, as well as other architectural features in these houses can be viewed.These houses are the Jem of Kashan architectural.Some of these houses have changed to House/Hotel like Amery Hotel, Manouchehri House, Irani house or Noghli house that you can have a dreamy night in these homes.

Mosques:
This city is one of the religious cities of Iran and has a variety of beautiful mosques which With its beautiful architecture, attracts the attention of every tourist.

Bazaar of Kashan:
Bazaar of Kashan is an old bazaar in the center of the city of Kashan, Iran. It is thought to have been built in the Seljuk era with renovations during the Safavid period.The bazaar has a famous architecture, especially at its Timche-ye Amin od-Dowleh section, where a grand light well was built in the 19th century.

Getting around Kashan:

Abyaneh village: .This village is located 40 km from Kashan.
This historical village is very famous for its architectural style and traditional folk culture.Every year, thousands of tourists visit this historic village.

Nyasar village: This village is one of the mountainous regions of Kashan.This mountain village has a cool climate
Which in summer is one of Kashan’s bungalow?Also in this area, you can find historical monuments like Sassanid fire temple ,Reis cave, and Niasar Waterfall.

Qamsar: The capital of Iran flower and rose water.
This lush valley is located 60 km from Kashan
Every year in a special event in April, thousands of liters of rose water are obtained from the flowers of this city.
Salt Lake Aran and Bidgol: karvanseraiIt is located 35 km northeast of Aran and Bidgol city and is about 647 square kilometers.The depth of this lake varies from 5 to 54 meters.The beauties of Maranjab desert are vast Aran & Bidgol Salt Lake with its wonderful Floating Island (its call floating because it is as if there is a lost ship in the vast horizon of the desert), huge sand dunes and tamarisk trees forest. caravanserai with a pool of water in front of it in this area which is a camping point of Maranjab desert. To enjoy the touch of the sands on your fingers while walking bare foot on the sand hills and watching the dawn of the sun among the Tamarisk trees and sunset far far away, behind the horizon of the salt lake and unforgettable desert night ski where you can pick stars, stay in this desert one n.ight.

What to buy: Rose water and herbs, Pottery, Baghlava (Sweet) and the most important of them Kashani carpet are the souvenirs of Kashan.

 

 

The Ancient Windmills, Nashtifan Windmills; A building that serves the wind

Nashtefan mills are located in Khorasan Razavi, Khaf district, Nashtefan village.Khaf spray windmills from the largest collections of clay, mud, and wood from the Safavid period, and the largest and oldest collection of mills in the world.The durability of these windmills depends on 120 days winds of Sistan & Baloochestan province.One of the most significant and impressive cultural buildings in the Nishtefan area are the windmills.The collection of Nashtefan mills is a historical and technological monument left over more than a thousand years ago in Iran.These historic monuments as one of the tourist attractions of Khorasan Razavi host annually hundreds of foreign tourists and thousands of domestic tourists.

In the past, windmills were usually used to make wheat flour.Windmills have also been used to do other things, such as pumping water.There is no exact information about the date of these Windmills.The advent of windmills is due to 120 day Sistan winds, that the city’s residents used 120-day wind power.When the Nashtifan people used the wind to control the
Windmills, Not only has it boost But also has been a very smart technology.
The windmills of this area are made of the simplest materials, including clay, mud, and wood.

 

Citadel of Karim Khan e Zand

Citadel of Karim Khan e Zand

While reading and preparing to take a trip to Iran, you will easily notice there are a lot of historical sights and monuments to visit in each part of the country. Shiraz is also an ancient city with several old monuments still standing in good conditions. What you read here is an introduction to one of the most outstanding structures remained from Zand Dynasty, 2nd half of 18th century, Arg-e-Karimkhani .

Arg-e-Karimkhani (Karim Khan Citadel)

This structure can be easily found at a corner of Shahrdary Sq close to Shiraz bazaar. The appearance of the building resembles a solid fortress entirely made from bricks with military as well as residential functions. The construction of Karimkhan Citadel goes back to the second half of 18th century when Karimkhan-e-Zand was ruling in Iran from Shiraz, his capital city.

The structure reminds you of the plain brick-made buildings of 11th and 12th centuries when Seljuks were ruling in Iran. The corner bastions are very robust and decorated with bricks. One won’t realize how delicate some of the details inside the building could be without exploring it. At the south eastern corner of the citadel, a bastion is leaning like it’s going to fall down! It’s been like that for years and has been reinforced to stand on its place.

Above the entrance gate, you will notice a sizable tile-worked scene of Rostam’s battle against a demon. Rostam is the protagonist character of Shahnameh, the epic poem book of Ferdowsy, the most well-known Iranian poet of 10th and 11th centuries. After entering the vestibule a corridor leads you into the large courtyard with an astonishing orange garden!

The garden inside the large courtyard of Arg-e-Karimkhani takes approximately up to 80% of the area. The rest, courtyard floor, is all covered by marble stone from the time of construction. A pathway from the center of the garden leads to the middle of each side of the courtyard opposite a portico leading to some of the rooms of the building.

Main Rooms of Karimkhan Citadel

As you enter the courtyard from the vestibule, at the opposite side of the courtyard, under the large wind catcher, there’s a portico that could be seen right away. Inside the beautifully decorated rooms of this section, attractive wax statues revive the setting inside the court of Karim Khan where he met with officials and ruled over the territories under his domination.

The fresco embellishment of the walls and ceilings are fabulous examples of how beautifully Zand art vitalized official and non-official buildings of that period. A combination of gold leafs with relatively dark red colors were used to give elegant taste to the interior walls of the royal buildings.

Adjacent to this mail room, sometimes a couple of other rooms are opened to the public to see the local costumes of Iranian women of various ethnic groups. The colorful gowns seen here are still worn by local people when you travel to different parts of Iran.

Bathhouse of Arg-e-Karimkhani

On the very south eastern part corner of the courtyard, there’s a door that leads to the Arg-e-Karimkhani’s bathhouse, Hammam. This handsome bathhouse has got all the architectural sections of any similar structures, which make it worth a visit. The simple yet likable plasterwork decorations on the walls of this hammam, imply the love in flowers and nature, what Shirazi artists have always been inspired by.

Marble floors and seats, insulated pools for hot and cold water, clay-made pipes for heating beneath the floors and transferring water, and so forth are all observable and the echo returning your voice inside the big hall of this hammam reminds you of the lively setting of old bathhouses where royal family met and had themselves washed and massaged by the servants.

A General view of Soltaniyeh mausoleum

A General view of Soltaniyeh mausoleum

The ancient town of Soltaniyeh is located approximately 40 km west of Zanjan on the old road of Zanjan-Qazvin. Driving from any direction, you can redirect a bit into the present town of Soltaniyeh and pay a short visit to a fantastic World Heritage Site, Soltaniyeh Mausoleum. This town thrived under Oljayto, the Mongol king of Ilkhanid dynasty in Iran (14th century) and turned into the capital city of Iran.

He decided to build this burial structure in early 14th century because of his religious interest in Imam Ali, the first Shiite Imam as well as the rest of the Shiites’ imams. Eventually, he communicated with the religious leaders of Najaf and Karbala, today’s Iraqi cities, and got informed that exhumation weren’t allowed in Islam. According to many researchers, as he wasn’t allowed to bring back the bones of all the Imams to this mausoleum, he was the person who was finally buried there. Of course, some other researchers disagree with this assumption.

Historical Background

Although settlement had started in this area since first millennium, it was at the time of king Arghun of Ilkhanid dynasty around the end of 13th century that decision was made to further develop this area. He constructed a summer residence there due to the rich pasture for horses. Then, his son, king Ghazan came up with a decision to build a city there, of which little information is handed over to us. Later, his son, Oljayto, the first Ilkhanid king who converted to Islam, enlarged the city and called it Soltaniyeh, meaning imperial.

The ancient city was continuously inhabited until 16 and 17 century and together with Tabriz, Soltaniyeh turned into one of the main stops on Asia-Europe trade route. Several caravansaries were built along such routes. Some of them are close to this city which was a major stop on this well-known route.

The Monument of Soltaniyeh Dome

Inscription decoration at the ceiling under the Soltaniyeh dome

Inscription decoration at the ceiling under the Soltaniyeh dome

Soltaniyeh Dome, a highlighted accomplishment of Iranian architecture, is among the top three huge historic buildings in the world. The other two structures are Santa Maria Cathedral in Florence, Italy and Ayasofya Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

What distinguishes Soltaniyeh mausoleum, known as Soltanieh dome by many, is the substantial success of Iranian architects of that time. Building this burial structure, they had proved their achievement in innovative engineering creating spatial proportions, architectural forms and eye-catching decorative patterns using ground-breaking techniques at their time.

At the south west of the ancient city, a royal citadel was built with surrounding walls and watch towers with a moat around it filled with water to make sure it’s well-protected. The mausoleum was also built inside this royal citadel section. The construction continued for almost 10 years and resulted in an architectural masterpiece in central and western Asia.

There were three main sections in this mausoleum: The domed chamber, cellar and Torbat Khaneh. Most of the decoration have been applied to the inner part of the structure of the domed chamber. The cellar, the entrance of which is situated inside the domed chamber, is supposed to have accommodated the grave of the person(s) for whom the mausoleum is built. And Torbat Khaneh (meaning the house of holy earth), refers to the section attached to the domed chamber and originally allocated to the corpses of Shiite Imams.

Structure of Soltaniyeh Mausoleum

Islamic art if form of painted inscription of Koranic verses, holy names, etc.

Islamic art if form of painted inscription of Koranic verses, holy names, etc.

 

Obviously, like many other examples of Islamic architecture of 13 and 14 centuries, bricks and mortars have been the main construction materials used to build the monument. It’s built on a rectangular plan together with the spaces around the domed chamber. The space allocated to the domed chamber is in octagonal shape. Symmetry has been firmly observed in the construction. There are several ideas about the main and other entrances to this Mausoleum. Seemingly, there must have been three doors leading visitors to the inner part of the building. The floors have been treated with alabaster stone creating a clear white surface.

The double-shell dome is approximately 50 meters high with a diameter of approximately 25 meters. This indicates how heavy it is – 200 tons! Various sections of the structure have been joined to one another using dented wooden beams made from pine trees saturated with particular kinds of oil to make sure they could reduce the structure’s tension. The incredible fact about the structure is that its foundation is maximum 90 centimeters deep into the ground, not more. It has resisted against more than 300 earthquakes so far suffering some damages, but it still stands there with its entire splendor.

Plaster work decoration of the balcony under the dome at Soltaniyeh

Plaster work decoration of the balcony under the dome at Soltaniyeh

On top of the octagonal structure, what you see from outside is a series of eight minarets standing at the corners of this 8-corner structure. The blue dome is shining inside the space surrounded by these minarets. You won’t see much decoration on the façade of the structure from outside. As a matter of fact, you will notice the magnificence of the monument when you visit inside the building.

Decorations inside Soltaniyeh Dome

Inscription by plain & glazed bricks inside Soltaniyeh mausoleum

Inscription by plain & glazed bricks inside Soltaniyeh mausoleum

 

The Islamic arts used at this monument are of various forms. The decorative elements applied in Soltaniyeh Mausoleum are:

  • Brick decorations
  • Plasterwork decorations
  • Inscriptions
  • Tile works
  • Painted decorations
  • Stone decorations
  • Wooden decorations

The interior walls have been largely decorated by plaster and glazed bricks. The fascinating inscriptions and motifs have been made with plasterwork. The ceiling of the balcony just under the dome, which can be seen from outside, has got unique orange-color plaster works in form of geometric and plants patterns and inscriptions.

Orange-color decoration of Soltaniyeh balcony under its dome

Orange-color decoration of Soltaniyeh balcony under its dome

 

There are religious inscriptions uniquely worked out in small and large sizes and particular scripts of kufic and Thuluth. Sometimes plaster has been used for this art and sometimes glazed bricks. The study of the content of these inscriptions indicates the political-religious developments of Oljayto’s ruling period.

 

The ancient city of Bam and its protective walls

The ancient city of Bam and its protective walls

 

The ancient city of Bam, a world heritage site registered in UNESCO’s list, has emerged at least at the time of Achaemenians (6th to 4th centuries). The flourishing time of Bam traces back to 7th to 11th centuries when it was at the crossroad of ancient trade routes. This city started to be inhabited since Achaemenian period until around 200 years ago. After that, it was used as military station for soldiers until approximately 80 years ago.

The creation of the ancient city of Bam was indebted mainly to the ancient underground water supplement system of Iran called Kariz (qanat in Arabic). This system has been continuing the provision of water for this city till now.

Whereabouts of Ancient City of Bam

It has been located between the Southern part of Kavir-e-Lut, Southern desert pit of Iran and the Northern part of Barez local mountain range, South East of Iran. The importance of Bam has been due to its geographical location in a broader scale, in connection to the centers of commerce in Western Asia during antiquity.

Originally, like any other communities at or inside deserts, the city was surrounded by protective walls and its governor was living within another walled section, a citadel, inside the walled town. The entire walled city of Bam was 200,000 square meters. Desert towns feel safer this way and can grow much more confidently. The surrounding wall is as long as 1810 meters and its height varies from 15 to 18 meters. There seems to have been 38 watch towers along this wall and a deep moat outside the city’s walls, which was filled with water at the times of danger.

Apart from the walled town and its citadel being the central focus of this valley, the cultural landscape of Bam is connected to a series of forts and citadels now destroyed. Today you may see a fortress of 7th century called Qale Dokhtar at the North of Bam and a couple of shrines dated back to 11th and 12th centuries – Emamzadeh Asiri and Emamzadeh Zeyd mausoleums.

Various Parts of Ancient City of Bam

Tourists visiting the ancient city of Bam after earthquake

Tourists visiting the ancient city of Bam after earthquake

 

What makes the ancient city of Bam unique in regards to its construction is the vernacular technique applied there: Traditionally, the architects have used mud layers (Chineh), sun-dried mud bricks (khesht), and vaulted and domed structures. This is the best example of desert architecture that you will find in several parts of Iran around the deserts. No matter which part of the city we visit, we will see the same style and technique applied to the structures.

The ancient walled city of Bam consists of 2 main sections for the governor (citadel) and common people. The Governor’s section, built on top of a rock higher than the rest of the city, includes royal stable, garrison and governor’s house. The common people’s section, spreads out from the foot of the governor’s section to the city walls in a relatively flat area, has got all including what a city required: 528 residential houses, main bazaar, Meydan (Tekieh), Friday mosque, Mirza Naeem School, Zurkhaneh (traditional sport club), Malek-o-Tojar House (a merchant house), caravansary, public bathhouse (hammam), Jews’ Sabat (rest area) and a noble’s house.

Some of the most important structures are:

Bazaar: it’s 115 meters long accommodating 42 shops in it. It used to offer silk and cotton fabrics to the traders traveling on the spice route, a sub-branch of silk route.

Friday Mosque: It was built on the site of a former temple, a Zoroastrians’ fire temple, with four eyvans (porticoes), later changed to three.

Zurkhaneh: The tradition of building such clubs dates back to ancient times in Iran when this sport was exercised.

Mirza Na’eim School: it’s a beautifully built structure consisting of two sections of interior (living quarter for the teacher) and exterior (studying quarter for the students).

What separates the common people’s section from the governor’s is the government’s reinforced gate. There are two rooms attached to this gate when you enter with their upper floors for the guards. After you cross this gate, you will see a different section. First you go to the left where the royal stable is located. You turn right and go through a garrison where the governor’s soldiers and guards were stationed. A corridor on the right side leads you to a steep slope which goes up first toward the commander’s house on the right and eventually leads to the top, house of governor.

Governor’s Section at the Ancient City of Bam

Governor’s Section at the Ancient City of Bam

 

The main part of this section is where the Bam’s governor used to live:

House of Governor: it consists of summer eyvan, winter eyvan and open space. There’s a building called four-season mansion. It could be used during all seasons as the name implies. It was a three-storey building. On top of all, there’s a watch tower square in base, which used to be circular and changed shape under Qajars after some destruction. Behind all parts of the governor’s section, there’s a private bath.

Water Supplement System at Bam

Apart from the Kariz system that brought water from Barez Mountains to the vicinity of the walled town and was transferred inside the walled city of Bam through a U-shaped pipe, many houses had their own wells. There was a deeper well half way to the top at the garrison and one well, the deepest, next to the private bath of the governor. Some water canals are on the surface for the irrigation of the trees.

Water supplement helps the irrigation of palm trees

Water supplement helps the irrigation of palm trees

Bam’s Present Condition

Outside the walled city, as the time passed by, the population grew and the security is the region was supported, some new houses were built and people started relocating to those houses. The centers of business moved outside and main places for religious ceremonies went outside the city walls. There are several palm tree areas and many trees along the streets shaping a garden city out there. Gradually, the walled city was evacuated and the new city of Bam was formed.
Some started looting the ancient city for the antiques, some for its fired bricks and some for the old soil to be used for their gardens. All these contributed to the tear and wear of the ancient walled city of Bam.

The 2003 earthquake largely devastated the new city and the ancient city of Bam. The newly restored city has kept its city planning and the ancient monuments’ restoration is underway. Fortunately, the foundations of several walls were still standing after the earthquake. This made the restoration job move convenient.

The city is undergoing more restoration these days, but it’s worth some exploration. Even before the earthquake when several world travelers visited the city, it wasn’t complete and intact. When you go to the ancient city of Bam, you see more or less what could be seen before 2003’s natural disaster.