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.