What to see in Shiraz
15 November 2018
Shiraz is an Iranian city with 4000 years of history and is a not-to-be missed destination for its traditional houses, mosques, Persian gardens and unique architecture that will fascinate the visitors.
THINGS NOT TO BE MISSED IN SHIRAZ
With a population of almost one and a half million of people, Shiraz is the fifth largest city in Iran and is located at an average altitude of 1500 meters not far from the shores of Persian Gulf. Its ancient origins are testified by the nearby ruins of Persepolis, while in more modern times the city was the residence of wealthy political families and was elected as capital during the Zand dynasty in the 18th century. Mosques, gardens and traditional houses show a unique architecture that will leave visitors amazed.
Sample itinerary in Shiraz:
- Pink Mosque - the Nasir ol Molk mosque, also known as Pink Mosque, features decorations made by millions of ceramic tiles forming huge mosaics where the predominant color is pink. The main sanctuary is illuminated through a large stained glass window in typical Persian architecture which, when hit by sun's rays, projects infinite beams of multicolored light onto the hall.
- Qavam House - it's an amazing traditional house belonged to important families and finely decorated with precious frescoes. On the other hand, the mirror rooms have walls and ceilings completely covered with fragments of mirrors and colored glasses that create an absolutely stunning effect.
- Zinat al-Molk House - another traditional palace with about twenty rooms adorned with superb frescoes, bas-reliefs and paintings, with plenty of rooms having the walls completely covered by mirrors and colored glasses.
- Karim Khan Castle - in the center of Shiraz at the sides of the main square, stands the fortress of Karim Khan, looking like a medieval castle. The structure hosts a museum and the traditional baths.
- Vakil Mosque - another beautiful mosque where pink color predominates over the more classic blue seen in the mosques of other Iranian cities. The prayer hall has an impressive colonnade where each column consists of a single block of stone.
- Vakil Bath - a series of mannequins show how the activity took place inside these public baths, also known as Hammam-e Vakil, among rooms finely decorated with frescoes and marble.
- Tomb of Hafez and Saadi - Hafez and Saadi are two poets much loved by Iranians and their tombs are housed at respective mausoleums, surrounded by lush citrus gardens.
- Vakil Bazaar - it's the main bazaar of Shiraz, located in the city center. Here visitors can buy everything from carpets to spices, walking through a dense maze of alleys that occasionally lead into elegant courtyards.
- Shah Cheragh Shrine - it is one of the most important places of worship in Iran and houses the graves of Ahmad and Muhammad, sons of the Shiite Imam Muss al-Kazim and brothers of Ali al-Rida. The main shrine is known as the "mirror mosque" as walls and ceilings are decorated with millions of mirror fragments that reflect the light coming from huge chandeliers. For security reasons it is not possible to access this mosque by carrying backpacks, cameras or telephones.
- Persepolis, The Necropolis and Pasargadae - are the ruins of ancient cities that can be visited on a day tour from Shiraz. To Persepolis, Necropolis and Pasargadae we dedicated another page.
For a complete tour of Shiraz visitors will need a couple of days, in addition to the time required to visit Persepolis, the Necropolis and Pasargadae. The city has an international airport and is very often used as a departure or arrival point for most tours in Iran. Now let's see some photos of Shiraz and the main attractions we visited during our trip.
Our tour in Shiraz to discover its most important attractions starts from the citadel of Karim Khan
, a fortress built in the 18th century by the Zand dynasty, located in the central Shahrdari square. The complex resembles a medieval castle.
The Karim Khan Citadel
is also known as Arge Karim Khani
or Arge Karim Khan
and was used as king's residence during the Zand dynasty, while during the subsequent Qajar period it was used as the governor's head office. Unfortunately there is not much left of the beautiful original frescoes, as the paintings were plastered when, after the Qajar dynasty, the structure was finally converted into a prison.
In the Karim Khan fortress, visitors can observe windows based on classical Persian architecture
, with the traditional pattern recalling sun's rays or insect's composed eyes. The colored glasses are supported by a structure consisting of wooden sticks fit in together without using any glue.
The traditional baths
(Hammam) in Karim Khan fortress, with their beautiful decorations and marble floors.
Not far from the center of Shiraz we find Vakil Mosque
, built between 1751 and 1773 and subsequently restored during the Qajar dynasty in the 19th century. The main iwan in Vakil Mosque has decorations made by thousands of ceramic tiles forming large mosaics where, unlike most other Iranian mosques, the predominant color is pink (rather than blue) with lot of flowers depicted (a feature that we will observe once again later in its full splendor at the Pink Mosque). The main prayer hall has 48 monolithic columns (made from a single boulder) carved in a spiral pattern and with a capital depicting acanthus leaves, which support a predominantly blue and yellow majolica ceiling.
In Vakil mosque there are also some unusual bas-reliefs, but also the workers' signature on the boulders that make up the floor, in order to evaluate the work done and receive the relative pay at the end of the day.
Exploring furthermore the central areas of Shiraz, we find the Vakil Baths (Hammam-e-Vakil) dating back to Zand era (mid of 18th-century) featuring fine frescoes on the walls and nicely decorated domes.
A series of models illustrate how these bathrooms were used, while in the last photo we can see frescoes on several layers, added at each renovation work.
An attraction not to be missed when visiting Shiraz is the stunning Qavam House, a traditional house dating back to the late 19th century. Along the outer walls we soon spot lot of elegant bas-reliefs and a beautiful mosaic of ceramic tiles representing 3 Qajari figures.
family, once owner of this traditional house in Shiraz, was first a family of wealthy merchants, but during the subsequent generations it became active also in government during various dynasties. Qavam House, also known as Naranjestan
, presents all the splendor, elegance and sophistication sought by high class families during the 19th-century, with many paintings inspired to the English Victorian period.
One of the focal points of Qavam House is the mirrored portico
which leads to the various rooms. A stunning mirror system creates plays of shapes and colors that considerably increase the feeling of size of the environment.
The ceiling of Qavam House's portico shows decorations made with thousands of mirror fragments and colored glasses set in precious paintings depicting flowers, birds and typical figures of art in Europe. The detail is incredible and can be appreciated only enlarging the photos a lot.
The portico leads to one of the interior rooms of Qavam House, the mirror room, decorated with an infinity of glass and mirror pieces.
In Persian architecture, the tradition of using pieces of mirrors to decorate the environment derives from the fact that in ancient times the mirrors were transported through the desert by camels, therefore arriving at destination almost always broken. Anyway, once trying to repair them by joining the pieces together, or by using individual fragments in some way, the architects discovered that the final effect was very pleasant and appreciated by the commitments, thus starting this way of using mirrors.
Playing with mirrors in Shiraz traditional houses
Other rooms of Naranjestan (or Qavam) House, with elegant painted ceilings.
From the window of one of the rooms on the first floor of Qavam House, visitors can admire the mirrored portico and the beautiful courtyard with its pool and garden.
Other fine bas-reliefs under the portico of Qavam House.
One of the most famous and not-to-be misses attractions of Shiraz is Nasir ol Molk Mosque
, also known as the Pink Mosque
because its dominant color in the amazing mosaics. The Pink Mosque dates back to late 19th century and was built during the Qajar dynasty by architects Mohammad Hasan Memar and Mohammad Reza Kashi-Saz Sirazi, who used the typical elements of Islamic and Persian architectural styles.
Unlike the other mosques visited in other Iranian cities, the predominant color in Nasir ol Molk
Mosque is not blue, but pink. Thousands and thousands of ceramic tiles make gigantic mosaics with detailed images of roses, iris and other flowers.
The winter prayer room of Pink Mosque
has a beautiful colonnade and large windows, where the sun's rays in the morning creates beams of colored light projected onto the room, creating an amazing effect. Unfortunately, however, a rare cloudy day prevented me from photographing this show.
We then visit another traditional house in Shiraz
: Zinat al-Molk House, which is located within a short walking distance from Qavam House.
Zinat al-Molk House dates back to the beginning of the last century and its finely decorated portico provides access to numerous rooms.
But the real surprise of Zinat al-Molk
House, are the mirror rooms
presenting walls and ceiling completely covered with pieces of mirrors and colored glass.
The amazing mirror room
in Zinat al-Molk traditional house.
Our tour in Shiraz continues by visiting the Tomb of Saadi and the related mausoleum dedicated to this Persian poet lived in the 13th century and particularly loved by Iranians. The mosaics in the main sanctuary show some verses of his poems.
Finally, we visit the tomb of Hafez and his memorial, another famous Persian poet who lived in the 14th century and much loved by Iranian people. The mausoleum is surrounded by a beautiful garden with many citrus trees and houses also other tombs belonging to families important for the history of Shiraz.
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