A number of tourist sights in Shiraz are not administered by the central government, so the July 2004 official ruling reducing entry charges for foreign visitors does not apply to these sites.
Entering Shiraz from the north, the first visible monument is the Quran Gate (Darvazeh-e Quran), originally built in the 10th century in the city walls. It was Karim Khan Zand who ordered a Quran to be placed in the gatehouse so that all travellers would be blessed as they left for the open road.
In the 1950s increasing motor traffic dictated a new road and the demolition of the gate, whereupon a Shirazi citizen paid for its rebuilding in its present state. Halfway up the hillside, above the gate, is the tomb of one of Shiraz’s famous poets, Khvaju Kirmani (d 1352), and one of the eight known Qajar rock-reliefs, cl 824, showing Fath Ali Shah (d 1834) on a throne dais supported by two angels, with two of his numerous sons in attendance.
Recently, these hillsides have been landscaped with terraces, water cascades and the odd kiosk, and a tea house, the Khajou. While they offer unparalleled views of the city lights at night, the tramp noise and pollution are overpowering. Read more…
Nearby, down from the 18th-century bridge, is situated the Ali Ibn Hamzeh Holly Shrine, constructed perhaps in pre-Seljuk times to honour a relative of the fourth Imam. Its two minarets, exterior dome, entrance vestibule and courtyard rooms, however, date from the late 18th and 19th centuries. If, as is likely these days, a visit to Shah-e Cheragh shrine is not possible during your stay, this shrine possesses similar extensive Qajar mirror work on its interior walls and vaults.
There is one entrance into the shrine sanctuary (women are asked to don a chador) and as the qibla wall is immediately to the right on entry, one should move quickly to one or other side to minimise disruption to anyone praying. Read more…
Shah-e Cheragh Shrine is a funerary monument and mosque in Shiraz, Iran, housing the tomb of the brothers Ahmad and Muhammad, sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim and brothers of ‘Alī ar-Ridhā. The two took refuge in the city during the Abbasid persecution of Shia Muslims. The tombs became celebrated pilgrimage centres in the 14th century when Queen Tashi Khatun erected a mosque and theological school in the vicinity.
Shāh-é-Chérāgh is Persian for “King of the Light”. The site was given this name due to the nature of the discovery of the site by Ayatullah Dastghā’ib (the great grandfather of the contemporary Ayatullah Dastghā’ib). He used to see light from a distance and decided to investigate the source.
He found that the light was being emitted by a grave within a graveyard. The grave that emitted the light was excavated, and a body wearing an armor was discovered. The body was wearing a ring saying al-‘Izzatu Lillāh, Ahmad bin Mūsā, meaning “The Pride belongs to God, Ahmad son of Musa”. Thus it became known that this was the burial site of the sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim. Read more…
Away from traffic is the beautiful Bagh-e Eram, a garden named after one of the four gardens of Paradise described in the Quran. It is said that the governor of Shiraz visited the Louvre Museum in Paris and accordingly ordered the hike in entry price. Even though this garden is lovely, it is small and, of course, has no world renowned antiquities on display, unlike the Louvre.
It was created by a chief of the Qashqai clan around 1823, with a house later rebuilt by Hali Mohammed Hasan Mi’mar with reception rooms, an orangery, stables and pavilion. Both garden and buildings were confiscated in 1953 and given to the late shah for his private use; this was when the original mud-brick enclosing walls were torn down and replaced by fencing. Later, the university was permitted to establish a botanical garden.
After the fall Of the Pahlavi regime it was returned to the Qashqai family, but then given back to the university, and today it houses the Law Faculty. Sections of the lower garden are out of bounds, and water rarely runs in the irrigation channels, but it is still a lovely place. Most plants and trees are labelled with Farsi, Latin and common English names. If you are keen on roses, they are in the formal gardens behind the main building. Entry into the building itself is not permitted, but the exterior is photogenic enough with its late- 19th-century tiling under the roof. The main panel shows the legendary Sassanid king, Khosrau, coming across the Armenian princess Shirin bathing while to the right is the Quranic/biblical story describing how the beauty of the prophet Yusuf (Joseph) caused the ladies in Pharaoh’s court to cut their fingers while peeling fruit. Above, the meeting of King Soleyman (Solomon) and the Queen of Sheba, Bilqis, is depicted.
There are three other major gardens in Shiraz but two are 20th-century constructions, owing little to the classic Persian garden layout but pleasant enough now the price for foreigners has been lowered. Read more…
One garden surrounds the Tomb Of Hafiz (Aramgah-e Hafiz), the great Shirazi poet (1326—c1390) who wrote lyrical poems about love and the beloved, which are understood to be imbued with deep Sufi mystical meaning; his epithet ‘Hafiz’ alludes to his memorising of the Quran by heart. Because of this association, one or two dervishes still come here on Wednesdays and Thursdays, while families enjoy the small garden and pleasant late 18th-century (hay-khaneh to the far left. Karim Khan Zand ordered a suitable tomb to be built in 1773 to honour this famous son of Shiraz but that was torn down in 1938 to erect the present octagonal kiosk.
Further embellishments were made for the 1971 Pahlavi extravaganza. Enough said. The bookshop here at the left end of the first porticoed terrace often has a good selection of history and art books in English, as well as maps and postcards, but the English translations of Hafiz on sale render the poetry incomprehensible.
Before leaving, why not have your fortune told? For a small sum, a copy of Hafiz’s best-known anthology, the Divan, will be opened randomly at a page, or a canary plucks out a card with couplets; the verses offer a portent to the future. Read more…
In an easterly direction, some 10km further on, is Barm-e Delak, where there are two battered Sasanian rock reliefs 6m above ground level. The larger one depicts a shah offering a flower to a lady, perhaps the goddess Anahita, though some scholars think this shows Shah Narseh (d301) making a peace offering to the consort of either Bahram Il or Ill. The other panel definitely portrays Bahram Il raising his hand with possibly the influential high priest Kartir to one side. Read more…
The Tomb of Sa’di is set in similar grounds near to the Hafiz garden. Born around 1185 or 1208 (or possibly 1215) and dying around 1292, Sa’di fled the Mongol invasions, going to Baghdad and then Syria where he was imprisoned by the Crusaders. Ransomed by an Aleppan man, he felt duty-bound to marry the man’s daughter, an unhappy decision he commemorated in a couplet:
- A bad wife comes with a good man to dwell
- She soon converts his earthly heaven to hell.
His two major poetic works are the Golestan, a series of anecdotes composed in 1257, and the Bustan (1258) in which he wittily and humorously expounded his thoughts on justice and government.
One of his most famous sayings has prompted comparisons with the 17th-century English poet, John Donne:
- The sons of man are limbs of one another,
- Created of the same stuff, and none other.
- One limb by turn of time and fate distressed,
- The others feel its pain and cannot rest.
- Who unperturbed another’s grief can scan
Is no more worthy of the name of man. A version of this adorns the United Nations building in New York.
Again, the tomb itself is a product of the early 1950s, replacing a Zand structure. If a group has collected in one section beyond the tomb, the probable reason is the underground irrigation channel (qanat) running through the garden, whose water is said to be good for skin problems.
Afif-Abad Garden is a museum complex in Shiraz, Iran. Located in the affluent Afif-Abad district of Shiraz, the complex was constructed in 1863. It contains a former royal mansion, a historical weapons museum, and a Persian garden, all open to the public. It’s an old and beautiful garden with it’s residence by the middle of the city. A very quiet and pleasant place to visit and take lots of photos even for couples. You can also rent traditional clothes for more interesting photos.
Also suggested is the Bagh-e Dalgousha (‘Garden of Heart’s Ease’) nearby. The extensive grounds broadly retain their 1820 layout (actually originally set out in 1790) although the water channels have been relined with tacky turquoise tiles and the original mud-brick walls were destroyed in 2000 for new railings. In the centre stands a pavilion from late Zand or early Qajar times, in this dramatic setting with the surrounding hills and tall cypresses. Together with the Bagh-e Eram, this garden and a small one within the newly opened Arg of Karim Khan Zand are the best examples of the ‘classical’ Persian garden outside Mahan and Kashan.
The citadel, Arg-i Karim Khan Zand
The City centre The citadel, Arg-i Karim Khan Zand was built around 1767 and is perhaps the best preserved 18th-century example in Iran. Its use from the 1930s as a police station and prison long prevented access, but in autumn 1999 part of it was opened to visitors. Four 15m round towers with good brick patterning mark the corners of the enclosure joined by 12m high walls which, in Zand times, surrounded an audience hall, barracks, bathhouse, and garden with two pools. When a Qajar prince used the Arg as his official governor’s residence, further building and decoration were undertaken.
Over the main entrance is a huge tiled panel depicting an episode from the Shah-nameh in which the famous Persian warrior, Rostam, fights the white Div (demon). The entry vestibule leads into the main Zand court.
A notice in charming, broken English quickly dispels any tiredness and it’s pleasant walking around the central, four-garden layout, noting the original stone water channels in the paving.
Restoration work means it takes but little effort to imagine colourful 18th-century public audiences held under the painted talar verandas, with waterpipes and tea prepared with hot coals from the numerous fireplaces. A suite of rooms which once housed the Cultural Heritage Organisation is now a museum of daily life of the period, complete with atrocious waxwork dummies which completely kill the atmosphere, as do the red ropes limiting free access. The small hamam near the courtyard entrance, until recently a delightful tea house, is now firmly locked. Nearly all the teahouses are currently shut except for State operated ones; no reason has been given. Outside, across the street is the small octagonal reception pavilion of Karim Khan Zand, Bagh-e Nazar.
Set in a small garden gloriously smothered in bougainvillea, it offers another peaceful haven away from Shiraz’s traffic and crowds. At its centre is an octagonal pavilion, home to the small Pars Museum. Now reopened after restoration, it houses a small collection of mainly 18th- and 19th-century items. Most of its original interior is intact and the tiled panels outside are mainly contemporary with the building. Karim Khan (d1779) must have loved this place as it was chosen as his mausoleum, but he was not allowed to rest in peace. Agha Mohammad Qajar (not known for his generous nature) ordered the remains to be exhumed and sent to Tehran, where they were reburied in the Golestan Palace, so that every time the Qajar shah and his ministers crossed the threshold they trod on Karim Khan. At least Reza Shah Pahlavi stopped this practice in 1925, allowing the Zand family to re inter his remains.
Bazaar-e Vakil: The main bazaar area is within walking distance of the Arg. As the name suggests, its construction formed part of the extensive building programme undertaken by Karim Khan, so-called vakil (regent) to the last Safavids. Rents from the bazaar and its hamam endowed the Masjid-e Vakil, constructed around 1773, and for many years out- of-bounds to foreign tourists.
It retains a sense of intimacy despite its large size and is organised on the two-ivan plan. Forty-eight stumpy stone columns, each carved in a barley-sugar spiral, mark the sanctuary area. The original mihrab of 1634, which suggested that an earlier mosque had been demolished, is no longer in place, but the 18th-century, 14-stepped minbar cut from one huge block of marble, is.
Some idea of the tile decoration inside can be imagined from the exterior panels. Purists may raise eyebrows at the flamboyant flower motifs and the colourful pastel palette but our spirits soar at such cheerful ornateness. Not all the tiles are original, as some restoration was carried out in 1828 and later years. Next door towards the main road is the bathhouse, converted in 2001 into a tea house and restaurant but now closed by the authorities. It has recently reopened as the private traditional Art & Handicraft Museum so at least the charming interior can still be seen.
Backtracking past the mosque takes you into the carpet section of the bazaar. The Bazaar-e Vakil maintains much of its late 18th-century character with a northeast to southwest orientation (the direction of Mecca) laid out about a century earlier. Originally, it was one long avenue with four large caravanserais to accommodate merchants, but in the 20th century a main road was constructed across the avenue and two of the four caravanserais were demolished in a widening scheme.
Masjid-i Nasir al-Mulk
Exiting the bazaar by the carpet quarter, turning right and then right again, leads to a charming mosque, the Masjid-i Nasir al-Mulk, rarely visited by tour groups. It is a two-ivan mosque built 1876—87 by Mohammed Hassan, with a covered arcade on the left (facing the sanctuary) and the winter several synagogues in the city, and Shiraz also has a fire temple.
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