Pasargadae, the city that hosts the tomb of Cyrus II, the great founder of the Achaemenid dynasty.
The site was not destroyed like Persepolis after the conquest of Alexander the Great. But its gradual abandonment meant that the stones of the palaces served as building materials for the inhabitants of the surrounding villages.
Only the tomb of Cyrus II was spared from destruction.
Alexandre paid homage to his remains during his visit to the city. The Muslim attackers respected the burial place of Solomon’s mother, the Prophet, which is there according to the local legends.
Archaeological excavations have brought to light the water canals over most of the site, which shows the existence of a large garden, a Royal Garden. These are the oldest Persian gardens, which served as a model for the famous Iranian gardens, “Pairi-Faeza” origin of the word paradise.
From the entrance to the site, you can see the famous tomb, enthroned in the middle of an esplanade, a double-roofed building on a stepped plinth. Some shuttles take you to the end of the site to visit the palaces, which are in deplorable condition today. There is a cubic tower of which only one side remains, built according to the same architecture as the Kaabeh-Zartosht in Naghshe Rostam.
At the “Entrance Palace” , on the sides of a door, a half-man, half-god figure with various symbols is represented. Some historians take it for a representation of Cyrus, without any certainty.
Naghshe-Rostam, literally the image of Rostam, is the necropolis of the Kings of ancient Persia
Naghshe-Rostam, literally the image of Rostam, is the necropolis of the Kings of ancient Persia. The site was named by the locals over the Sassanid bas-reliefs evoking the story of a hero in the Book of Kings, Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.
The rock shelters the burials of four Achaemenid kings, all of them are cruciform. In front of the reliefs, there is a building in the shape of a cube, called the Kaabeh-Zartosht. Its function remains unknown until now. Perhaps it was a temporary tomb or a fire temple.
Below the entrance to the four tombs carved into the rock are several bas-reliefs. The most importants are the one that Shapour is appearing on horseback, holding the hand of a Roman emperor Valerian and the other who is kneeling is the Emperor Philippe the Arab, the first one is captured and the other is paying the ransom demanded to regain his freedom.
Two equestrian scenes showing the victories of the Sassanid kings against their Roman rivals. And further on, we can see the representation of the investiture of Ardeshir, the father of Shapour, receiving the ribboned diadem directly from Ahuramazda, the supreme god of the cult of Zoroaster, symbolizing and affirming the legitimacy of the rule of the Sassanids.
The Zoroastrian religion became politicized from this point on, and priests played a predominant role on the political scene.
Persepolis is the most majestic city that the Achaemenid kings have built
Persepolis is the most majestic city that the Achaemenid kings have built. Started by the order of Darius, 520 BC, the rock had to be raised to find the extent necessary for its construction and to fit out the palaces and halls of various names and functions.
Architects and craftsmen from different regions are engaged in the work to create an artistic symbiosis representing all the people forming part of the empire and subject to the undisputed power of the Achaemenid rulers.
The heart of the site is a courtroom called Apadana. This is the courtroom where the representatives of the nations were received. They were on their way to Persepolis on New Year’s Eve, bringing their gifts to the Emperor. The representation of a procession of guests has been brought to light on the stairs of the Apadana.
Two tombs were built on the rock, behinde of the site, belonging to the kings of this Achaemenid dynasty.
The city succumbs to the sacking and the raging fire of Macedonian soldiers in 333 BC. The radiance of a lavish and unparalleled period was thus extinguished, consumed by this fire.
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
One of the architectural gems constructed by master architects in Shiraz is Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque: The Pink Mosque of Shiraz
Shiraz is well-known as the city of wine, poetry and fragrant orange groves. It is also famous for its happy, warm-blooded and hospitable people, leading an epicurean way of life. All these cultural characteristics have had a great influence upon various types of artistic and creative endeavors made in this city, giving rise to very unique, vivacious productions. One domain of art in which these cultural influences are apparently reflected is architecture. One of the architectural gems constructed by master architects in this city is Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque, which makes one of the top tourist attractions in Shiraz.
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque was built as part of a larger complex by a member one of the most influential families in the 19th century Shiraz, during the Qajar period. Nowadays, hundreds of travelers and tourists go to visit this majestically beautiful mosque, mostly because of its unique tile work and the magnificent play of light produced by colorful sash windows in one of its shabestans or prayer halls. Undoubtedly, doing a simple search on Google leads you to hundreds of photos taken in this very special room, representing people framed by uniquely colorful and mystical patterns of light.
After this brief introduction, let’s delve into some detail and get acquainted with Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, or the Pink Mosque, a must-see attraction in Shiraz, more fully.
A Brief History of Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a.k.a. the Pink Mosque, the Rainbow Mosque and the Mosque of Colors, was constructed as part of a larger complex, including a house, a bathhouse, a school and a water cistern, by the order of Mirza Hassan Ali Nasir al-Mulk, the son of Ali Akbar Qavam al-Mulk, the Kalāntar or mayor of Shiraz.
The construction of the mosque began in 1876 and ended after almost twelve years in the year 1888. The architects of the mosque were Mohammad Hassan-e Memar, a noted architect who had also built the noted Eram Garden, Mohammad Hosseini Shirazi and Mohammad Reza Kashi-Saz-e Shirazi, a tile-maker whose name appears on the tiles covering the southern iwan (porch) of the mosque.
The Architecture of the Pink Mosque
Well, the enchanting work of the master architects mentioned above begins just at the entrance gate of the mosque. The main entrance of the mosque is located on the north-western side of Nasir al-Mulk Mosque. This rectangular entrance is beautifully adorned with pink tiles, covering the entrance from top to bottom. Several lines of poetry by Shurideh Shirazi, a 19th-century poet from Shiraz, are inscribed on a marble stone installed right in the middle of the arched portal of the mosque.
To enter the mosque, you should pass through a majestic wooden door. Passing the door, you will found yourself in a vaulted vestibule leading to the courtyard of the mosque. But wait, do not hurry getting into the mosque. Just at the beginning of the vestibule, in front of the entrance gate, there is a frame made of tiles which bears two lines of poetry by the grand poet of Shiraz, Sa’di. Under these lines we have the name of the architect of the mosque and its completion date.
Well, now you can buy the tickets and enter the courtyard. As with most of the mosques in Iran, the courtyard is rectangular in shape and includes an approximately long, rectangular pond, providing water for making ablutions.
On the northern and southern sides of the pond, there stand two iwans (porches), delicately decorated with pink tiles. The northern porch, which is grander in terms of decorations than the southern porch, is also called Taq-e Morvarid or Pearl Arch. In addition to enchanting tile-work and murqans, you can witness another type of decoration used in Persian architecture called Kāseh-Sāzi, where the decorations take the shape of bowls.
On the eastern and southern sides of the pond, there are two prayers halls. The eastern prayer hall, which decorated with Quranic verses and tiles in floral patterns, is nowadays turned into an exhibition, putting on display the artworks of contemporary Shirazian artists. The ceiling of this prayer hall, supported by seven columns, is decorated with maqeli tiling, a combination of brickwork and tiles. Hidden in one of the rooms in this prayer hall, you can visit the water-well which provided the water needed in the mosque. It is called Gāv-Chāh, literally meaning cow-well, since the water was drawn from the well by means of a cow.
However, the southern porch is much simpler, consisting of six niches organized on two sides of a central niche which incorporates the mihrab. This porch is flanked by two tiled minarets.
But the most dazzling and the most crowded part of the mosque is its western prayer hall. It includes six columns, in the form of tree of life, which direct you toward the mihrab (altar) of the mosque. In addition, the walls of the prayer hall are delicately tiled; especially the central aisle which is covered with Qajar era floral patterns in pink, yellow, blue and white tiles.
But, the highlight of the western prayer hall includes its stained glass windows. Whenever the light passes through the colorful glasses and reflects on the carpets and tiles covering the prayer hall, surreal patterns of light and color are formed in this unique room in the world. Here, you can stand among these patterns and take distinctive photos. Furthermore, you can get lost in the mystical patterns created by light and color here and have a spiritual journey, away from the painful world of our everyday life. However, you should be aware that if you want to experience this metaphysical world, you should be there in the mosque on time. The best time to attend the Nasir al-Molk is between 8 to 11 a.m., depending on which season you are visiting the Pink Mosque.
What to Do After Visiting Nasir al-Molk Mosque
Having finished visiting Nasir al-Molk Mosque, you would have lots of opportunities to visit some of the great tourist attractions in Shiraz, such as Naranjestan Qavam, Zinat al-Muluk House, Khan theological School, Vakil Bazaar and also the old Friday mosque of Shiraz.
Golestan Palace, or the Palace of Flowers, houses some of the capital’s oldest royal buildings and is one of the most prominent historic complexes in Iran.
Golestan Palace, or the Palace of Flowers, houses some of the capital’s oldest royal buildings and is one of the most prominent historic complexes in Iran. During the Qajar rule, this now UNESCO World Heritage site was considered as the political capital of the Qajar dynasty. It witnessed coronations of seven Qajar rulers as well as both of the Pahlavi kings.
As most of the buildings within the site date to the Qajar era, it is generally perceived as a Qajar palace complex. The true history of its origins, however, stretches far back to the Safavid period when, in 1580, Shāh Abbās I built a citadel in Tehran. Later on, between 1760 and 1767, Karim Khan Zand built a divān-khāneh (court or seat of the government) within the Safavid citadel and changed the main design of the complex. At present, only the Marble Throne Veranda and Karim Khāni Nook date to this period.
After Karim Khan’s death, Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of the Qajar dynasty, took advantage of the ensuing civil unrest in Iran and expanded Qajar territory up to the cities of Tehran and Damghan. In 1795, he defeated the last king of the Zand Dynasty, Lotf Ali Khan, conquered Tehran the following year and declared himself the King of Iran. Aghā Mohammad Khan’s coronation at the Golestan Palace turned it into a place of unrivalled importance among the Qajar kings. Fat’h Ali Shah (1772-1834), who was also crowned here, commissioned further decoration and expansion of the palace complex.
Nāser al-Din Shah, impressed by the palaces he had visited in Europe, had the Palace extensively renovated, having it almost entirely reshaped. The complex did not undergo almost any changes until the fall of the Qajar dynasty in 1925.
Golestan Palace has subsequently witnessed coronations of the Pahlavi kings. During the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi, all the surrounding buildings known as andaruni or haramsara (domestic spaces that are reserved for the women of the palace and are inaccessible to adult males except for close relations) were completely demolished. These andaruni spaces, known as Farah-ābād during the reign of Fat’h Ali Shah, consisted of several interconnected, exquisite yards surrounded by rooms of various sizes intended for female dwellers of the royal harem who would spend their allocated time with the monarch here. There have always been numerous stories surrounding the haramsara, as told by the favorite wives of the kings, or stories about the famous clown Aziz al-Soltan or the coquetries of Babri Khan, the royal cat whose sudden disappearance made the residents of haramsara melancholic.
Salam Hall (Audience Hall) or Museum Hall
As a passionate collector of unique pieces of art, Naser al-Din Shah converted the Salam Hall into a royal museum, so the valuable gifts from European officials could be kept there.
As a passionate collector of unique pieces of art, Naser al-Din Shah converted the Salam Hall into a royal museum, so the valuable gifts from European officials could be kept there. He also ordered the demolition of Emarat-e Biruni (outdoor mansion), which had previously been used as the palace museum. The hall, nonetheless, continued to be used for the coronation of some Qajar kings and several royal receptions. The Salam Hall is also adorned with large, attractive chandeliers and eye-catching paintings by Kamäl al-Molk. To celebrate the coronation of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the objects on display in this hall were rearranged to what it looks like today.
Karim Khani Nook
Next to the Marble Throne Veranda, there is the second Zand monument, the Karim Khani Nook or Karim Khani Veranda which was Naser al-Din Shah’s favorite place of retreat, where he spent long hours in solitude.
Next to the Marble Throne Veranda, there is the second Zand monument, the Karim Khani Nook or Karim Khani Veranda which was Naser al-Din Shah’s favorite place of retreat, where he spent long hours in solitude. When looking at its earlier photos, the veranda has, alas, lost some of its original features. The stairway leading to the Karim Khani Nook has a tragic story of its own. Out of long-nurtured hate for Karim Khan, Agha Mohammad Khan had the Zand monarch’s body disinterred and reburied under the stairway. Later in 1925, Reza Shah Pahlavi ordered for Karim Khan’s bones to be reburied next to the Safavid King, Shah Soltan Hosein, in Qom. Some historians insist, however, that the remains were brought back to the Karim Khan Zand’S original grave in Shiraz.
One of the most interesting objects in the Karim Khani Nook is the tombstone of Naser al-Din Shah, assassinated in 1896. Brought here from the Shah Abdol Azim Shrine, it is a single piece of marble stone, bearing a life-like relief of the king carved by Abbas Gholi. More interesting, however, is the story, or rather stories, about the king’s assassination.
One common version among various divergent versions is that on April 29, 1896 Naser al-Din Shih attended the Shah Abdol Azim Shrine in Rey for prayer. Unlike other occasions, however, he ordered for the shrine to be kept open to the public. A man known as Mir-za Reza Kermani, taking advantage of this situation and bearing a petition in his hand, approached the king to ask for his favor. Once at the right distance, he pulled out a handgun and shot the king in the heart. In an attempt to save Naser al-Din Shah, a chair was brought from the private tomb of Badr family, which he was seated on. Faded traces of the king’s blood are still visible on the chair, placed in a corner of the main hall of the palace for the visitors to have a look at.
The rumor has it that in order to avoid any social unrest following the king’s death, it was decided to keep Naser al-Din Shah’s murder secret. The dead body of the king was, thus, placed into the royal coach (now kept in the National Car Museum of Iran) and sent to the Golestan Palace. However, in addition to the corpse of Shah-e Shahid (the Martyr King), there was another man in the couch who impersonated Naser al-Din Shah. Wearing white gloves, he would at times wave at people or touch his moustache in the same way as the dead king used to do. Once in the Golestan Palace, the body of the dead king was buried for a period of one year in the Royal Tekiyeh and later moved to the Abdol Azim Shrine.
Marble Throne Veranda
In 1792, when Aghā Mohammad Khan conquered Shiraz, he had the paintings, curtains, mirrors, and marble slabs from Karim Khan’s citadel in Shiraz transferred to Tehran
In 1792, when Aghā Mohammad Khan conquered Shiraz, he had the paintings, curtains, mirrors, and marble slabs from Karim Khan’s citadel in Shiraz transferred to Tehran, which at that time already had a Zand divan-khāneh, and installed in the Marble Throne Veranda, built in 1807. The veranda contains elements from both Zand and Qajar periods.
In 1807, Fat’h Ali Shah ordered construction of a marble throne, which came to be known as Takht.e Tavous (the Peacock Throne), consisting in total of 65 pieces of marble brought from mines in Yazd, to be placed permanently in the veranda. Designed by Mirza Baba Shirazi (Naqqāsh Bāshi) and the stonecutter, Mohammad Ebrahim Esfahani, this 250-year-old throne was completed in four years, from 1747 to 1751. The jewel-studded throne is carried on the shoulders of angels and demons, referring to the story of Solomon’s flying throne. This is why the Peacock Throne is also called the Throne of Solomon. Seventeen verses on its upper side praise Fat’h Ali Shah and the throne itself.
The Marble Throne Veranda was used on ceremonial occasions and for royal receptions. During religious celebrations and other festivals, the king would sit on the throne while statesmen, royal courtiers, ambassadors and foreign envoys would pay him homage. In 1925, Reza Shah Pahlavi held a symbolic coronation in the Marble Throne Veranda before his official crowning.
Naghsh-e Jahan Square
Naghsh-e Jahan Square, also known as Shah Square and Imam Square, has been the heart of Isfahan for at least four centuries. Being the second largest square in the world after the Tian Amen Square in China, this UNESCO World Heritage site was, and still is, a thriving economic center, a lively cultural hub and a huge tourist attraction, welcoming tourists from both Iran and all over the world.
Actually, Naghsh-e Jahan Square is a true realization of the title it carries; that is, the Image of the World: the bazaars surrounding the square offer all sorts of commercial items, the delicate handicrafts showing off behind the shop windows make their visitors’ jaws drop, the lavishly decorated monuments provoke a gasp of amazement and its cozy atmosphere, marked by top-quality coffeeshops and traditional restaurants, provide both the locals and tourists with an intimate space ideal for friendly get-togethers and picnics.
But how did the splendid Naghsh-e Jahan Square come into being?
A Brief Look at the History of Naghsh-e Jahan Square
Naghsh-e Jahan Square, the symbol of the Safavid Dynasty
In 1546, Shah Tahmasb I (1514-1576) moved the capital of the Safavids from Tabriz to Qazvin to keep away from the constant threat of the Ottomans. Almost 46 years later, in the year 1592, Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) decided to transfer the capital of the Safavids once more, this time from Qazvin to Isfahan. According to historians, three main reasons motivated Shah Abbas the Great to make this decision: 1. the relative short distance from Isfahan to Bandar-e Abbas, a portal city intended to be a gateway to European countries and thus a means of Iran’s economic expansion, 2. the pleasant climate of Isfahan, and finally, 3. the geopolitical location of the city, distancing further the nucleus of the Safavid power from their archenemy, the Ottoman Turks.
Before the transference of the capital to Isfahan, people of Isfahan used to live in the Saljuq-built part of the city, composed of a number of distinct neighborhoods located around the Masjed-e Jameh (now referred to as Atiq Jameh Mosque) and the Saljuq square (today known as Imam Ali Square). The rest of area up to the Zayandeh Rood was occupied with a large piece of free and uninhabited land.
However, when Shah Abbas chose Isfahan as the seat of power, he and his advisers embarked on a construction campaign which lasted from 1590-1 to 1598, when Isfahan was officially announced as the capital of Iran. During these years, the uninhabited area between the Zayandeh-Rood and the old Saljuq town underwent a huge transformation, being adorned with numerous new gardens and monuments. Among these structures, Naghsh-e Jahan Square (Meydan-e Naghsh-e Jahan) and, Chahr Bāq boulevard, a magnificent tree-lined promenade, made the backbone of the Safavid capital city.
Actually, being in an intense political competition with the Ottoman Turks, Shah Abbas used all the resources available to him to build the Naghsh-e Jahan Square as majestically as possible, something which could rival the monuments built by the Ottomans and represent the power and grandeur of the Safavid dynasty.
Therefore, great masters such as Ali Akbar Isfahani and Mohammad Reza Isfahani were summoned to construct the huge Naghsh-e Jahan Square, measuring 512 m by 159 m. Functionally, the square was divided along its two main axes: Qeysarie Bazaar and Abbasi Mosque making the popular axis (north to south), Ali-Qapu palace and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque forming the royal one (east to west).
As Jean Jardin (1643-1713), the French jeweler and traveler, describes the square, two hundred two-storey shops were built around square, each of them composed of two parts, one opening into the square and the other opening into the bazaar surrounding the square. On the second floor, there were also two-part rooms, one facing the square and the other connected to the corridors behind it. In front of the rooms opening into the square, there were small porticos guarded by plaster balustrades, painted red and green. Also, a stream of water was dug around the square, lined with plane trees to decorate them.
As a matter of fact, Naghsh-e Jahan Square served different functions during the Safavid period. Whenever people were called to prayer, they rushed to pray in Masjed Jame Abbasi. In the morning, businessmen and their customers took possession of the square. In the afternoon up to late at night, it was a site of leisure and entertainment. At the time of festivals and ceremonies, the decorated square welcomed the people of Isfahan for some hours of merry-making. And finally, on especial occasions, for example during Nowrouz (the Iranian New Year), the square turned into a field, occupied by polo players. The king and his guests were the special spectators of the match, watching it from the Ali-Qapu palace.
Naghsh-e Jahan Square during the Qajar Period
During the Qajar rule, the unfortunate square fell from grace and lost its splendor. For a while, it turned into a military barracks. The shops around the square became obsolete, the sumptuous monuments around the square lost their lavish decorations and the trees around the square, the ever-green symbols of life, were cut and disposed of.
Naghsh-e Jahan Square in the Pahlavi Era
In the 1930s, during the reign of Reza Shah, Darvaze Dolat square was expanded and two streets, Sepah and Hafez, were built as major entrances to the square. Sometime years later, a pool, measuring 30m ×80m, was built in the middle of the square. Almost at the same time, several flowerbeds came to decorate the Naghsh-e Jahan Square.
In 1935, the square was lit with electrical lamps, enabling people to enjoy the nights of the square as well. In addition, more than 100 disused shops were renovated, coming to life as handicraft shops. After Reza Shah’s reformations in the administrative system, several official buildings were added to the square, such as the two banks flanking the Qeysarieh gateway. Actually, the buildings surrounding the entrance of the bazaar belong mostly to the first Pahlavi era.
Sheikh Lotfollah was one of these doctors of religion who came from Lebanon to Iran
During the Safavid period, Iran was sandwiched between neighboring Sunni countries. Ottoman Turks, the most powerful of them all, were always threatening the boundaries of the Safavid Empire and a slight mistake meant losing the country. So, Safavid kings decided to establish Shiism as the dominant religion in Iran. As a result of these piolitical changes, a large number of Shiite scholars and faqihs migrated from Bahrain and Lebanon to Iran. Sheikh Lotfollah was one of these doctors of religion who came from Lebanon to Iran. First, he lodged in Mashhad but when Uzbecks attacked Mashhad, he moved to teach in Qazvin.
After a while, Shah Abbas invited Sheikh Lotfollah to Isfahan, married his daughter and built him a school and mosque in Naghsh-e Jahan Square, where he occupied the position of the Imam of the mosque and a teacher of religious matters until he died in 1623.