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.


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:

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.

Karim Khan citadel Karim Khan
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.
Karim Khan castle Fortress of Karim Khan
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.
Glass in Persian architecture Persian windows
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.
Karim Khan baths Traditional baths in Iran
The traditional baths (Hammam) in Karim Khan fortress, with their beautiful decorations and marble floors.
Vakil Mosque Mosque of Vakil
Vakil Mosque with pink decorations
Mosque prayer room
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.
Worker signature on the stone
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.
Hammam-e-Vakil Vakil baths
Shiraz traditional baths

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.

Garden in Shiraz Shiraz
Qajari shapes

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.

Traditional house in Shiraz Shiraz traditional houses
Iran traditional house Historic houses in Iran
The Qavam 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.
Mirrored portico Traditional palace in Iran
Shiraz traditional palaces Mirror palace
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.
Naranjestan House

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.

Naranjestan Palace Qavam House
Mirror house Mirror room

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.

Mirrors in Shiraz
Playing with mirrors in Shiraz traditional houses...
Other rooms of Naranjestan (or Qavam) House, with elegant painted ceilings.
Qavam family
Shiraz architecture

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.
Nasir ol Molk Mosque
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.
Pink Mosque Nasir ol Molk
Mosque in Shiraz Mosques of Shiraz
Pink tiles in Iran
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.
Mosque with colored glasses Winter prayer room
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.
Zinat al-Molk
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

Zinat al-Molk House dates back to the beginning of the last century and its finely decorated portico provides access to numerous rooms.

Mirrors rooms Mirrors in Persian architecture
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.
Traditional Persian architecture Decorations by mirrors
Zinat al-Molk Palace Rooms furnished with mirrors
Using mirrors to decorate Traditional Persian furnishing
Palace of the mirrors
House of the mirrors
The amazing mirror room in Zinat al-Molk traditional house.
Saadi tomb

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.

Mausoleum of Saadi
Mausoleum of Hafez

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.

Hafez tomb

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