Cyrus II, who was later known as Cyrus the Great, is the founder of Achaemenian dynasty, creator of Persian Empire and the father of a nation called Iran. He was appointed as governor at the Southern part of Iran by Medes who rules from Zagros Mountains at the Northwestern and Western of Iranian plateau. He was also the king of an area known as Anshan for eight years. It was a territory at central Iran.

cyrus-the-great

Famous Reliefs attributed to Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae

Two Major Accomplishments of Cyrus the Great

The reputation of Cyrus the Great is due to two major accomplished tasks he had brought to reality:

  1. He changed the small country of Persia to a powerful empire in a vast territory. No other government had reached this level of authority in the world till then.
  2. His ethical values had made him a well-behaved emperor with humble policies and favorable method by which he treated the conquered nations.

The world was dominated by brutal arrogant rulers who didn’t care about their nations’ rights. In fact, they oppressed everyone with sheer rigidness to put awe in their hearts. Cyrus changed all such mannerism.

When the final years of Medes’ domination was accompanied by oppressing people and treating them unfairly, the level of injustice was so high and suppression so severe that Median people had no choice but to wait for someone to save them from their brutal ruler. Cyrus turned to be this savior character. When he came to power, the new situation couldn’t corrupt him and make another monster out of him. Instead, he won lots of hearts and gained many nations’ respect for his mannerism. Cyrus united Medes with Persians.

cyrus-tomb-pasargadae

The tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae

 

The Policies of Cyrus the Great

He maily focused on bringing peace, security, understanding, respect for others’ opinions and justice to his empire. He deeply influenced the civilization at the world of his time with positive impacts. The century in which he established Achaemenian Empire became the golden era of the world history and the century of creating arts and cultures. Subsequently, he brought about the acceleration in evolution of human societies and the development in ethical values, civilizations and human rights.

Cyrus the Great is well-known for his policy of tolerance and respect. When Cyrus defeated Croesus, the last king of Lydia, he ordered him to be saved, not killed and made him an advisor for his empire. He conquered Babylonia without a fight. He respected hand-made gods of all conquered nations despite of the fact that he believed in an unseen God. He went further and even helped the followers of other religions to rebuild their temples and take back their gods to their worshipping places. Historians and the Old Testament has recorded the way he treated captivated Jews forever.

pasargad-palace

Ruins of the residential palace of Cyrus at Pasargadae

Cyrus allowed the nations under Persian Empire to keep their religions, traditions, dress code, language, etc. He didn’t force the ideas, rituals and beliefs of Persians to the rest of the world. However, today we see that there are lots of powerful influences of Persian culture outside the present boundaries of Iran in a vast area.

The mighty rulers before him used to build minarets out of people’s heads and created heaps of corpses to demonstrate their power to the subject nations. They burned the people alive in fire, gouged their eyes, cut their tongues and boasted of the number of young girls and women imprisoned and taken away by their brutal soldiers. On the contrary, he didn’t carry out bloodshed, plunder, brutality, etc to prove his power. He established a government that tried hard to found unity and peaceful coexistence among nations from India to the Mediterranean Sea. To win people’s support, he used a different policy: He supported their rights, promoted justice and worked for their prosperity.

 

tall-e-takht-pasargad

Ruins of the fortification at Tal-e-Takht at Pasargadae

The Legacy of Cyrus the Great

After the death of Cyrus the Great, Pasargadae, his capital city, wasn’t the capital anymore. Yet, it kept its significance among the succeeding Achaemenian kings. They held their coronation ceremonies there first and paid their respects to him as the founder of the dynasty. Then, they went to Persepolis to keep up with their festivities.

He built the first series of Achaemenian palaces in Pasargadae. He planned and made the first examples of Persian gardens at Pasargadae. He planned water channels and basins along the ducts there. We see the same style of parks and gardens made in Iran using the same plan.

persian-garden-channels

Water Channels of Persian Gardens remained at Pasargadae

 

Without Cyrus the Great, there wouldn’t be any nation called Persia and later Iran. He united different ethnic groups via mutual respect and humanitarian supports under one flag. He taught everyone that tolerance and kindness is more powerful than any other weapons.

Even until 20th century, all dynasties in Iran tried to connect themselves somehow, through bloodline, etc, to Achaemenians and Persian Emperors. He’s the author and father of Iran. He’s the source of pride for everyone in Iran.

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.

 

iran-esfahan-imam-detail-geoex

iran-esfahan-imam-detail-geoex

Everyone says you’ll be surprised by Iran (except for those who say, you’re nuts for going — and they’d probably be the most surprised of all). So I went in expecting to be surprised, but I still wasn’t prepared.

I was surprised by the red poppies bursting out all over the landscape, the snowcapped mountains where I’d expected desert, and the national commitment to mystical poetry and song. The most profound surprise of all was the genuine warmth of the people. From Tehran to Tabriz to the smallest village in the desert, people went out of their way to express appreciation at our visit. In Yazd, a restaurant owner went so far as to place an American flag on our table and blast “The Star-Spangled Banner” from the speakers, causing the other patrons to rise from their seats out of respect. Now, that’s surprising.

Below are a few of my favorite memories:

 

Our "Treasures of Persia" group examines the tomb of Nasser al-Din Shah at Golestan Palace in Tehran. The 19th-century Persian king was famous for his courtly visits to Europe, his large harem, and his assassination by a revolutionary in 1896.

Our “Treasures of Persia” group examines the tomb of Nasser al-Din Shah at Golestan Palace in Tehran. The 19th-century Persian king was famous for his courtly visits to Europe, his large harem, and his assassination by a revolutionary in 1896.

The palace was a pleasant surprise — an equivalent place in Europe would be overrun with tourists and selfie sticks. Instead, it was magnificently quiet; you could hear the babble in the fountains and the chattering of parrots overhead.

iran-jess-silber-geoex

iran-jess-silber-geoex

I had my picture taken by a young Iranian couple who were also strolling around Golestan, being tourists themselves. They were thrilled to see a group of Americans touring their capital.

iran-tehran-street-art-geoex

iran-tehran-street-art-geoex

One thing that surprised me about Iranian cities was the fun public art. I expected to see lots of sober portraits of the Supreme Leaders, Khomeini and Khamenei, and yes, I did see those. But I didn’t expect colorful murals and whimsical sculptures, and I saw lots of those, too. I think the picture above is actually an advertisement, but it’s a nice reminder of how Iranian cities can be joyful places, not just somber ones.

On Iran's rural border with Azerbaijan, set within a canyon and reachable only by a steep walk, the centuries-old St. Stephanos Church feels like it's in a different world from cosmopolitan Tehran.

On Iran’s rural border with Azerbaijan, set within a canyon and reachable only by a steep walk, the centuries-old St. Stephanos Church feels like it’s in a different world from cosmopolitan Tehran.

 

Iran’s Islamic architecture is dazzling, no surprise there. But there are other religions in Iran, and exploring sites sacred to Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism was a surprise highlight. Saint Stephanos Church is a long drive from the closest major city; perched just across the border with Azerbaijan, it holds court in a canyon of red rock that feels like one of the archives of time.

The Iranians that we met on the "Treasures of Persia" trip were always eager to have their picture taken with us. Same goes for this group of guys who ran into us at St. Stephanos Church.

The Iranians that we met on the “Treasures of Persia” trip were always eager to have their picture taken with us. Same goes for this group of guys who ran into us at St. Stephanos Church.

We visited Saint Stephanos on a weekend, and it was busy. At each corner and courtyard of the church complex, we were approached by people who wanted to welcome us and chat with us — or take their photo with us. Kathie is pictured here with a group of gentlemen who wanted to immortalize the visit.

A spring fills this volcanic crater at Takht-e Suleiman, Iran - it's easy to see why it was considered a sacred site to different civilizations throughout Iranian history.

A spring fills this volcanic crater at Takht-e Suleiman, Iran – it’s easy to see why it was considered a sacred site to different civilizations throughout Iranian history.

At first I was a bit skeptical as we walked up to Takht-e Suleiman, a windy mountaintop UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’d driven hours through mountain landscapes to get there, and as you approach, you can’t see much except the crumbs of ruins. But the opaque, blue-green pool in the center of the site, formed in a volcanic crater, brought into focus how magnificent and spiritual it was. “One of the most sacred places in Iran,” our trip leader, Sylvie, said, and it was pretty easy to see why.

 

A group gathers around the National Guide at Takht-e Suleiman, a remote, ancient ruin and sacred site in northern Iran.

A group gathers around the National Guide at Takht-e Suleiman, a remote, ancient ruin and sacred site in northern Iran.

As with so many other places in northern Iran, we pretty much had the whole site of Takht-e Suleiman — all of its chambers, tunnels and temples — to ourselves to ponder and explore. Here, our national guide, Peyman, is explaining the Zoroastrian fire temple that once burned here.

The atmospheric ruins of Takht-e Suleiman, a sacred site in rural Iran.

The atmospheric ruins of Takht-e Suleiman, a sacred site in rural Iran.

There was just one other group of tourists visiting the ruins at Takht-e Suleiman that day, an older couple strolling with a young man. The woman asked me to take a photo with her. After the young man had taken the picture, the woman squeezed both of my hands in hers and kissed both of my cheeks. I don’t think anyone has ever been so happy to take a picture with me in any other country I’ve visited.

Military service is compulsory for young men in Iran. These two soldiers serve their time as guards at the crumbling Anahita temple, a pre-Islamic ruin in the town of Kangavar.

Military service is compulsory for young men in Iran. These two soldiers serve their time as guards at the crumbling Anahita temple, a pre-Islamic ruin in the town of Kangavar.

Military service is compulsory for most young men in Iran. These two soldiers serve their time as guards at the crumbling Anahita temple, a pre-Islamic ruin in the town of Kangavar, dedicated to the Zoroastrian goddess of water.

An Iranian woman in Kangavar offers warm bread to a traveler and GeoEx Trip Leader Sylvie Franquet.

An Iranian woman in Kangavar offers warm bread to a traveler and GeoEx Trip Leader Sylvie Franquet.

An Iranian woman in Kangavar offered warm bread to some members of our group. At first we declined, trying to adhere to the Iranian custom of taarof, which governs etiquette, but as you can see, eventually the aroma of warm bread overcame us.

Lions, gryphons, and bulls are represented in the capitals of columns and other ruins at Persepolis.

Lions, gryphons, and bulls are represented in the capitals of columns and other ruins at Persepolis.

Persepolis! Ancient cities haven’t always been my thing — in the Roman Forum I was preoccupied by the scrawny cats begging between the columns — but this site is magnificent from the very first approach. The city was a ceremonial capital for the Achaemenid kings, built on these tremendous stones that heave it toward the sky like an altar, and decorated with astonishing carvings and reliefs. It was more recently famous for being the site of the last Shah’s final big party in 1971, which lavishly celebrated 2,500 years of Persian civilization and provoked the outrage of then-exiled Khomeini.

This third-century relief at Naqsh-e Rustam, just a few miles from Persepolis, depicts the beginning of an empire: Ardashir, the first Sassanid king, is receiving a ring of kingship from the Zoroastrian deity Ahuramazda. The empire only ended four centuries later with the arrival of Islam in Iran.

This third-century relief at Naqsh-e Rustam, just a few miles from Persepolis, depicts the beginning of an empire: Ardashir, the first Sassanid king, is receiving a ring of kingship from the Zoroastrian deity Ahuramazda. The empire only ended four centuries later with the arrival of Islam in Iran.

The highway from Shiraz to Yazd follows historical trade routes, passing the same desert mountains as the camel caravans of previous centuries.

The highway from Shiraz to Yazd follows historical trade routes, passing the same desert mountains as the camel caravans of previous centuries.

The highway from Shiraz to Yazd follows historic trade routes, passing the same desert mountains as the camel caravans of previous centuries.

This man has greeted travelers to the Towers in Silence, a Zoroastrian ruin on the outskirts of Yazd, for years - maybe decades. "Over the years I've come here, he's gone through three different donkeys," the guide explained, "but it's always the same man."

This man has greeted travelers to the Towers in Silence, a Zoroastrian ruin on the outskirts of Yazd, for years – maybe decades. “Over the years I’ve come here, he’s gone through three different donkeys,” the guide explained, “but it’s always the same man.”

I’m posing here with a gentleman who has greeted travelers to the Towers in Silence, a Zoroastrian ruin on the outskirts of Yazd, for years — maybe decades. “Over the years I’ve come here, he’s gone through three different donkeys,” our guide explained, “but it’s always the same man.”

iran-tile-work-yazd-geoex

iran-tile-work-yazd-geoex

Kathie admires the tile work and calligraphy at the Friday Mosque in Yazd.

Only 20 columns support the ceiling of the Chehel Sotun, or Forty Column Palace. The other 20 are created by the reflection in the pool at the entrance to the palace.

Only 20 columns support the ceiling of the Chehel Sotun, or Forty Column Palace. The other 20 are created by the reflection in the pool at the entrance to the palace.

Only 20 columns support the ceiling of the Forty-Column Palace. The other 20 are created by the reflection in the pool at the entrance to the palace.

Esfahan's Forty-Column Palace has an impressive variety of mustaches depicted in the artwork on its walls. On the day we visited, they honored their mustache heritage with a make-your-own-Persian-'stache station.

Esfahan’s Forty-Column Palace has an impressive variety of mustaches depicted in the artwork on its walls. On the day we visited, they honored their mustache heritage with a make-your-own-Persian-‘stache station.

The Forty-Column Palace might have only had 20 columns. What it had in excess was mustaches depicted in its artwork and frescoes — an impressive variety. On the day our group visited, the palace happened to have a temporary exhibit dedicated to this mustache heritage, including a “make your own historical Persian mustache” station that we took full advantage of.

The exterior of the Imam Mosque - known as the Shah Mosque before the 1979 Islamic Revolution - features master calligraphy and tile-work. Here, it is covered in ornamental red bulbs to honor the birthday of the Hidden Imam, a Messianic leader believed by some Shia to be living in secrecy among the people.

The exterior of the Imam Mosque – known as the Shah Mosque before the 1979 Islamic Revolution – features master calligraphy and tile-work. Here, it is covered in ornamental red bulbs to honor the birthday of the Hidden Imam, a Messianic leader believed by some Shia to be living in secrecy among the people.

The exterior of the Imam Mosque, in Esfahan, is covered in ornamental red bulbs to honor the birthday of the Hidden Imam, a Messianic leader believed by some Shia to be living in secrecy among the people.

Esfahan's Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was built in the 17th century as a private mosque for the women of the Shah's family. The pious women were invisible while at prayer thanks to a long, curving hallway that twists away from the entrance doors.

Esfahan’s Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was built in the 17th century as a private mosque for the women of the Shah’s family. The pious women were invisible while at prayer thanks to a long, curving hallway that twists away from the entrance doors.

Lots of people have written about the beauty of the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque in Esfahan. I am happy to confirm that they were all correct. It’s a masterpiece. The mosque was built in the 17th century as a private mosque for the women of the Shah’s family. The pious women were invisible while at prayer thanks to a long, curving hallway that twists away from the entrance doors.

Abyaneh, a rural village in the Karkas mountains north of Esfahan, is beloved for its red-brick historical houses and its dried fruit.

Abyaneh, a rural village in the Karkas mountains north of Esfahan, is beloved for its red-brick historical houses and its dried fruit.

As our trip wound to a close, we stopped in the village of Abyaneh, in the Karkas Mountains north of Esfahan. It’s beloved for its historic red-brick houses and its fruit leather (it tastes better than it sounds).

 

 

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.

Mausoleum of Saadi Shirazi, The Persian Poet of 13th Century

Mausoleum of Saadi Shirazi, The Persian Poet of 13th Century

The mausoleum of Saadi, known also as the tomb of Sa’dy or Sadiyeh, is one of the major tourist attractions of Shiraz. Huge number of Iranians and non-Iranians pay a visit to this burial place and show their respect to Saadi and interest in his works, prose and poems. This Iranian poet is a globally known scholar whose words have touched many hearts across the world and wakened up many minds to take new steps in their lives to reach higher levels of humanity. The ambiance of this location is much more attractive than its architecture although it has got interesting character by itself.

A Few Words about Saadi

Saadi lived in 13th century, but he’s a man for all centuries. The rich depth of his writings and ideas with social and moral values have gone beyond time. His words have been quoted by Persian speaking people inside Iran and outside alike. Even Western sources have quoted him and continue to do so. He’s  widely recognized as one of the great masters of classical Persian literature. Some even title him second only after Ferdowsy whose position for saving the Persian Language is unparalleled and no one could even do what he did.

The reputation of Saa’i in Persian literature is because of his eloquence in using the language. After 8 centuries, his works are still easy to understand and his ideas are still admirable for the speakers of the language. His style of Farsicizing borrowed words from Arabic in Persian made it a lot easier to use those words in everyday use and understand them although Arabic was not a language of the same origin as Persian.

Saadi was a man of learning. Spending infancy and childhood without a father and going through youth in poverty and hardship never stopped him from pursuing learning. Therefore, he left his birthplace to Baghdad where Nezamieh university was the center of knowledge and many studied there in the Islamic world. Among various subjects that he studied there, he proved to be excellent in Arabic literature, Islamic sciences, history, governance, law and Islamic theology.

Saaadi was a man of traveling. Mongols invasion and unstable situation in Iran led him a lifetime of living abroad in various countries like Anatolia, Syria, Egypt,Iraq, Sindh (Today’s Pakistan), India, Central Asia, Hijaz (Today’s Saudi Arabia), etc. Eventually, after 30 years, he returned to his birthplace as an elderly man and was welcomed and highly respected.

He was titled “Sheikh” because of his knowledge and found followers who pursued his values and words.

Saadi’s Literary Works

Saadi’s Mausoleum inside a Persian Garden, Shiraz, Iran

Saadi’s Mausoleum inside a Persian Garden, Shiraz, Iran

Within two years after his return to Shiraz, Saadi wrote his two most famous books: Bustan, also known as Bostan (The Orchard) in 1257 and Golestan, known as Gulistan (The Rose Garden) in 1258. Bostan is entirely in verse introduces moral virtues and Gulistan is mainly in prose containing stories and personal anecdotes.

His works in forms of Lyrics and Odes are also well-known by the enthusiasts of Persia literature. He has created some works in Arabic as well.

I’d like to quote one of his most famous works. There are several translations of his works, but I’d rather use the one by M. Aryanpoor as below:

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’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!

The Construction & Architecture of the Mausoleum of Saadi

Tiles Decorating the Entrance of Saadi Mausoleum

Tiles Decorating the Entrance of Saadi Mausoleum

 

Saadi was buried in a village outside Shiraz which is now part of the city although it’s at the outskirt in a relatively poor neighborhood. Under Karimkhan-e Zand, the 18th century ruler of Shiraz, the present Saadi’s mausoleum was built to further honor him. It’s in form of a multi-sided building with a cupola on top. From outside it may look like a square structure due to its flat facade decorated with Shirazi tiles depicting tree of life in various colors. Inside, you can see the 8 corners of the building and large lamp hanging from the ceiling. His grave is beautifully carved in Persian.

Later this building was connected to another tomb of a Shirazi poet, Shurideh Shirazi by a colonnade portico. Under Reza Shah, the father of the last Shah of Iran and founder of Pahlavi dynasty, the mausoleum was restored and annexed by some newer parts. Andre Godard, the French architect had been assigned the task of restoring several historical monuments in Iran and so forth.

The Mausoleum of Saadi is located inside a garden where beautiful flowers and several cypress trees are planted to make the setting even more beautiful. A fish pond in an underground reached by some steps lead visitors to some water channels that has been in use since the time of Saadi at this place. Today there’s some fish crossing channels and coming to the center where people can see them.

Recently, as more and more people come to this place to visit Saadi’s Mausoleum and show their respect to the poet, the garden has been enlarged and can accommodate three times more visitors in it.

 

Mausoleum of Hafez in Shiraz, Iran

Mausoleum of Hafez in Shiraz, Iran

You should visit the mausoleum of Hafez if you go to Shiraz. Hafez is the 14th century poet of Iran who was born, lived and died in Shiraz. Iran was ruled by Ilkhanid era. Shiraz exceptionally escaped the devastation and massacre of foreign Mongol invaders. Yet, living was tough and difficult for the intellectuals who wanted to express themselves and criticize the ruling system. This led Hafez to use figurative language in his works, a feature that has added to the beauty of his poems.

Father of Hafez was a wealthy merchant who died and left him and his mother in poverty. Therefore, he had to work hard and spend some time working in a bakery. However, he proceeded in learning literature and soon proved his proficiency in composing Persian poems. Many were attracted to his poems and since then he’s considered the master of Persian ghazals and no one else has been able to create such literary works.

Despite all dreadful restrictions when nobody could violate from the authority rules, Hafez used his tactfulness and brought his ideas to the public in the language of poetry without being a victim of his bold action. This quality is called “Rendy” in Persian.  He mentioned several concepts of human life in his works, but one concept has always been continually present in his works – love.

The reputation of Hafez went beyond the borders of Iran and found some followers in India. Gute, the German poet was later inspired by him. When Hafez died, he was buried in the graveyard of Shiraz. That area has been the cemetery of the city. That’s why even today there are lots of graves in that area and some family tombs can be seen in the vicinity of the mausoleum of Hafez.

The Architecture of Hafez Mausoleum

Colonnade Portico divides the garden into two parts between the entrance and the tomb itself

Colonnade Portico divides the garden into two parts between the entrance and the tomb itself

Under Karimkhan-e-Zand, a mausoleum was built to honor Hafez at his burial place with eight pillars supporting a roof made of copper. The ceiling of the mausoleum of Hafez  is decorated with mosaic works that shines in lively colors. This structure is located in a garden with family tombs on one side and a wall decorated by arches on the other side. Lots of flowers are planted and always kept in good condition by the organization in charge of maintaining the garden.

Under Reza Shah, the founder of Pahlavy dynasty, the last ruling monarchs of Iran, beginning with 1925, more redesigning of the mausoleum occurred. Andre Godard, the French architect was assigned the task of expanding and replanning the garden to make it more beautiful. As lots of visitors from inside and outside Iran go to this mausoleum everyday, more pace is needed. Therefore, the adjacent gardens have been connected through new doors recently to provide more space for the people.

A foundation of Hafez enthusiasts has got an office in the mausoleum of the poet. It’s located in a beautiful building to the west of the the main tomb. Together with the office of the mausoleum, this foundation hold exhibitions, provides information, etc to make this famous Iranian poet and poetry-related traditional arts more known to the public.

How Iranians Visit The Mausoleum of Hafez

Iranian woman praying at Hafez tomb

Iranian woman praying at Hafez tomb

 

For Iranians, visiting the Hafez tomb is like going to a relative’s tomb. The feelings, of course, are more with respect than grievance. Some bring rosewater to wash the tombstone and put some flowers on the grave. Then, they touch the tombstone with few fingers praying by reciting a chapter of Koran to ask for blessing of his soul. Some proceed to request Hafez to talk to them through his poems and tell them about the state of their lives or give them some wise advice through the words in his poems. Then, they open their eyes and open the book on any page it randomly opens and continue to read it enthusiastically.

The concepts and topics mentioned in Divan-e-Hafez, his complete works, are so life-related and overwhelmingly attractive that one connects to them easily as if the poet is living at this time and offers us his wise words in a friendly manner to enrich our lives. That’s why man y love him and keep reading his poems on a daily basis.

 

arg-e-karimkhani-citadel

arg-e-karimkhani-citadel

If you’re interested in walking and if long-distance drives have made you tired enough to long for a walking tour in Shiraz, you will enjoy this sightseeing excursion. It takes half a day and you visit 6 major sites before ending up in an enjoyable local restaurant where traditional food is served.

What I’m introducing to you at this post is the Zand Quarter that was initially built in the second half of 18th century when Karimkhan-e-Zand was ruling over most parts of Iran from Shiraz. This is the flourishing era of Shiraz when a lot was constructed and economy was thriving. The king, who preferred not to be called as such and named himself Vakil-o-Roaya (Attorney of Servants), had chosen to build a citadel in the heart of the city and ruled form there. So, you can begin your sightseeing from this spot.

1. Arg-e-Karimkhany (Karimkhan Citadel)

When you’re taking your tour to Iran, you rarely come across such a thing as an old citadel of huge size and quality in the center of a city. This is a rectangular brick-made fortress with bastion at all its corners located at the North East of Shahrdary Square. Karimkhan used to live inside this structure and ruled from this point. The stronghold appearance of this arg may make you think of anything but a presidential palace, but it has actually been such a building inside for him.

Karimkhan’s residence has got a decorative panel of glazed tiles on top of its Eastern entrance depicting Rostam, the protagonist of Shahnameh, the epic poems of Ferdosy, Iranian poet of 10th and 11th centuries. It resembles fighting against demonic forces. Inside, you’ll find a garden with orange trees and four major sections in the middle of each wing. In addition, there’s a private bath at the South East of this large courtyard that’ worth a visit.

2. Pars Museum

A View of Pars Museum Facade in Shiraz

A View of Pars Museum Facade in Shiraz

Around Arg-e-Karimkhani, there is a little park these days and the pedestrians’ street, which is in fact a roof on top of an underpass for cars driving under Zand quarter. On the other side of this street and almost at the south of the citadel, there can be seen a mall but elegant octagonal building inside a garden called Nazar.

This mansion used to be called kolah farangy (foreign hat) building too, because it seemed to be like what people used to know as a foreign hat. It has been converted into what is called Pars Museum today.

Karimkhan used to meet with the dignitaries both inside and outside Iran who came to his court for official visits. Now, it is the exhibition of exquisite Qorans, lacquer-painted boxes, beautiful paintings, etc among other stunning objects that invite visitors to spend some time there to appreciate the art of Iranians.

3. Vakil Mosque

A View of Vakil Moque in Shiraz

A View of Vakil Moque in Shiraz

Walking along the fences of Nazar garden toward East and a little before the main entrance to the bazaar, on your right-hand side, you will see a relatively broad street leading to the entrance of Vakil Mosque.

From far distance, it easily invites you to its colorful celebration of striking glazed tiles bearing beautiful floral patterns. After passing across a wide-open courtyard, you will enter the Southern Shabestan where a columned hall is hidden behind its tall entrance portal.

This hall is generously filled with pillars set in precise order and distance. They are so monochromatic that you will immediately notice the tiled ceiling leading you from the entrance to the mehrab. You won’t hues there’s such an elaborate mehrab and menbar (preacher’ seat) somewhere in this mosque when you were strolling at the courtyard.

4. Vakil Bathhouse

Inside Vakil Bathhouse in Shiraz during a Carpet Exhibition

Inside Vakil Bathhouse in Shiraz during a Carpet Exhibition

 

This public bath is a few meters to the West of Vakil Mosque. You will find interesting architecture of Zand Era as well as tasteful decoration of cultural authorities of Shiraz in it.

The vax statues of people from all walks of life living during that period, tells you more about life in 18th century Iran. You will learn about different parts of a typical public bath as it used to be.

This bath used to had been converted into a restaurant and then an exhibition of Persian rugs. Eventually, it’s been decided to use it as a museum in which traditional bath ambiance is introduced.

5. Vakil Bazaar & Sara-ye-Moshir

Just go back to the main street where you were walking from Pars Museum toward East and walk a bit further on the same direction to get to the main entrance of the bazaar. You will reach a point where on both Northern and Southern sides of the street, you will find entrance to Shiraz bazaar. Which one is the more exotic for most of the visitors? The Southern one does. It’s got very colorful shops and aromatic atmosphere thanks to the herb shops at the beginning of its passageway. The Northern one is the section where most of the local people go to for shopping necessary items of an ordinary lower middle-class family. It has its own charm as well. If your time allows, you may want to explore this one as well.

You will be amaze by the fascinating high-arched ceilings of Vakil Bazaar at the Southern section. Soon after you enter, there’s a chaharsoo, a dome with four directions underneath. It gives you an idea of the passageways crossing the main one offering similar items, workshops, warehouses, etc. Proceed to the end of this passageway and you will see dozens of fabric stores selling glittering materials usually Qashqai nomads go to Shiraz to buy to make their traditional costume.

At the end, turn left and walk less than 10 meters to find an entrance on the left that leads to the astonishing set of stores offering Iranian traditional handicrafts from carpets to enamel works, from inlaid wood-works to copper-made items, etc. This colorful place I called Sara-ye-Moshir.

This section is an impressive part of the bazaar easily distinguishable for its charming tile works and the pool in the middle of its courtyard. Several types of handicrafts from Fars province can be found here.

6. Eat in Sara-ye-Mehr Restaurant

This is a traditional restaurant inside Sara-ye-Moshir. The ambiance and decoration are like Iranian teahouses in the past couple of centuries. Traditional food is served including kebabs, stews as well as Dizi, traditional broth. The food is delicious and your dining experience will keep you in the same traditional mood of the past. You may feel you eat during Zand period!

Half Day Tour Ends Here!

This walking tour is very appealing to most of the foreign travelers. You will enjoy it and feel you’ve seen plenty of Iran in the 18th and 19th centuries. You will be immersed into the local culture so much that you may forget this country has changed! I’m sure you will get a strong impression of the pat as well as today’s traditional Iranian lifestyle. So, take this walking tour of Shiraz in half a day and get acquainted with what’s out there.