Poets, Roses, and the Heritage of Empire

Shiraz (Alt .1540 m) (900 km from Tehran), The cradle of royal civilisation of the world and of Persian History, it holds splendour and the magnificent ruins of Persepolis and Passargade (550-330 B.C). The illustrious 1000-year-old city of Shiraz is a cultural centre and home to the famous mystic poets Saadi and Hafez. Shiraz offers you exquisite mosques, sacred shrines, tombs, lush rose gardens and, a short drive away, Takht-e Jamshid (which the Greeks called ‘Persepolis’) – the world famous archaeological site founded by Darius I and Xerxes in the 5th and 6th Centuries B.C. and razed by Alexander the Great over two hundred years later.Shiraz is one of the most pleasant cities in Iran, with its relaxed, cultivated and generous inhabitants, wide tree lined avenues, and a multitude of monuments, gardens and mosques.

The sites you will visit include:

Persepolis herself capital of the mighty Persian Empire stands on the celebrated site of an Achaemenian palace built 2,500 years ago by Darius the Great, with wonderfully preserved rock reliefs and columns on a spectacular terrace.Persepolis is the most impressive of all archaeological sites in Iran, because of its size and the nature of the ruins which display some of the finest examples of carving to be seen from ancient world. At its height the Persian Empire stretched from Greece and Libya in the west to the Indus River in present-day Pakistan in the east. The Persian kings used Persepolis primarily as a residence and for ceremonies such as the New Year’s celebration (Nowrooz). Each year, at Nowrooz (the national festival of the vernal equinox) representatives from all nations of the Persian Empire brought tribute to the king. Persepolis consists of the remains of several monumental buildings on a vast artificial stone terrace:
The Apadana palace, the earliest and grandest of all palaces of Persepolis. It was the great audience hall where the king received delegations from the vassal nations. The magnificent Eastern Staircase of the Apadana has a carving 23 delegations from subject nations of the Persian Empire in almost pictographic detail, bearing tribute to the Persian king.
The palace of Darius: The Tachara, or winter palace, was used by the king during the celebrations. It had red floor and doorways decorated by imaginary creatures in battle with king or scenes of him being tended by attendants holding a fly whisk and a parasol.
The gate of all nations : The gate was made of the time of Xerxes to allow delegates to rest and wait their turn for audience with the king. The gateways are decorated with guardians bulls, above which trilingual inscription by Xerxes also appears on each side.
The Palace of Xerxes : The Hadish or the palace of Xerxes is three times size of that Darius’s with a similar setting. It overlooks the palace of Artaxerxes and the Harem.
The hall of hundred columns .: Also called the Throne hall was the biggest covered area in Persepolis. It is fronted by a portico on the Northern side from which side the palace was approached. Carvings of one thundered immortal guards in combat gear on each side of the gateway provide decoration with the king enthroned at the top and the master of ceremony reporting.
Persepolis was destroyed two centuries after it was begun by Alexander of Macedonia. Seized and burned by Alexander army, eroded by centuries long exposure to elements and earthquakes, Still Persepolis the greatest palatial complex of Persia, remains as one of the most striking wonder of ancient world.

Pasargade: Impressive excavations of an early Achaemenian capital and the site of Cyrus’s tomb are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid, today an archaeological site and UNESCO World Heritage site. The ruins represent the earliest known example of Achaemenian architecture. The most important monument is the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the founder of Persian Empire who ruled from his capital Pasargadea and rapidly established a vast empire. The tomb chamber has a unique architecture with simple structure build of white limestone set on a stepped platform locally known as the tomb of Solomons mother. The largest of the building known as Cyrus royal residence with a bas-reliefs bears a cuneiform inscription in old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian. Near by stand the Gatehouse , the most complete early Achaemenian bas- reliefs in existence (207 meters high) in the shape of the unique four-winged figure on the door jambs. Further on, there is a square tower known as Solomons’s prison , which might have been a fire temple or a royal tomb.

Spectacular cliff-face reliefs embellish the tombs of the Achaemenid kings, with Sassanid bas-reliefs and Zoroastrian monuments. One of the most important Achaemenian and Sasanian sites in Iran. Four tombs belonging Achaemenid are carved out of the rock face including Darius I and three of his successors, probably those of Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. The outer façade, in the shape of a cross had an opening in the centre which leads to the funerary chamber. They are all at a considerable height above the ground. Seven oversized rock reliefs at Naqsh-e Rustam depict monarchs of the period. One is the relief of the investiture of Ardashir I the founder of the Sassanid Empire is seen being handed the ring of kingship by the god Ahura Mazada both are on horseback. The other is the triumph of Shahpur I, this is the most famous of the Sassanid rock reliefs, and depicts Shahpur’s victory over two Roman emperors, Valerian and Philip the Arab.

Naghsh-e-Rajab, a magnificent archaeological site near the ruins of ancient Achamenid city of Istakhr,, rather unnoticeable cleft in the rocks. It is named after a local tea shop owner who first noticed and reported the site. Together with Naqsh e Rustam is part of the Marvdasht cultural complex and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Naqsh-e Rajab is the site of four limestone rockface inscriptions and bas-reliefs that date to the early Sassanid era. One of the bas-relief depicting investitures of Shapur I on horse back and the other one is his father Ardshir I standing. The investiture scene is one of the most frequently represented subjects in Sasanian bas-reliefs, usually the king receiving a diadem (symbol of super power) from the hands of god, Ahura Mazad , although the details vary from one example to another. What is unique about this relief is the rare portrayals of a woman, which could be either Ardshir’s queen or his mother, with a female attendant stand with their backs to the investiture scene. A figure of Kartir, high priest, is shown, raising two figures in respect.

Bishapour- the large archaeological site at features the remains of the palace of the Sassanid King Shahpour in a superb mountain setting. The city of Bishapur, built by Shapur I in 266 AD was estimated to have 50,000-80,000 inhabitants and by the 10th century it fell into ruin. What is left from the Royal city includes: the remains of Shapur castle with the cruciform-shaped hall, a large court, when discovered, was still paved with stone and bordered with colourful mosaics combined with Roman and Iranian motifs depicting nobles and ladies, dancers and musicians. Some of these fascinating mosaic panels are in Tehran, some in the Louvre in Paris. There was also a second palace with traditional features of Persepolise architecture; some believe this palace may be built for the defeated Valerian. Near by are the remains of a fire temple dedicated to Anahita, godess of water and fertility. The six Sassanian bas-reliefs are carved on the rock face in a splendid location surrounded by trees and overlooking the river of Shapur.

Firouzabad is an anceint city with the remains of a domed palace of the 3rd century BC in an area surrounded by striking scenery.The attractions of the city are; The palace complex known as Galeh-I dokhtar, built by Ardshir. A Sassanid fortress on the cliff-top-The remain of a Sansanian bridge which believed once connected a small fort on the other bank with the palace path-Two bas-reliefs, one of the investiture of Ardshir I and his son Shapur, the second relief present Ardhshir’s victory over the Parthian king, Artabanus V.-The remain of the Sasanid city called Gur. The city was circular and surrounded by walls and a moat. In the centre are the remains of a large spiral fire temple tower presumely precedent of the great spiral of the Mosque Samarra in Iraq.

Shah Cheragh: the magnificent domed shrine and a major place of pilgrimage. In Persian ‘ The king of light’ is an important pilgrimage site, originally built in the 14th century in the honour of Ahmed inb Mosa., brother of Imam Reza, who died in Shiraz. The excising shrine is the modified of the original one which was destroyed by earthquake. It has a superb golden-roofed minaret; inside decorated with the countless minute mirror tiles; outside has a vast courtyard with Persian style garden. The visitors enjoy the beauty of the Shrine and can relax around its garden.

Hafez and Saadi Mausoleums: tombs of the medieval mystic poets and for the Iranian the most popular attractions of Shiraz.

Hafez: is most celebrated and beloved poet in Iran. The collection of his poems is called Divan and almost all Iranian home hold a copy. His poetry is about God, divine love, wine, human desires and dilemmas of life. His Divan mystical poems became a source of consolation to predict the future. Hafez spent most of his life in Shiraz. His mausoleum is in a graceful pavilion, inside is a marble tombstone with several of the poet’s verses, set in a beautiful Persian garden with a tea room. Hafez tomb is a pleasant place for socialising and leisure, especially in the evening with its mystic atmosphere.

Sa’adi: is one of the most famous Iranian poets. He was born in Shiraz and travelled extensively, later on he settled in his native town and created his most famous poetry works; the Bustan and the Golestan with tales examining of the foundations of good and bad written either in verse or in a mixture of prose and verse. The main topic of his poet is love present in a graceful simple manner but deep meaning. His Mausoleum set in a pleasant garden is an important site for the Iranian.

Narenjestan:a fine example of 19th century architecture of a traditional Iranian mansion house and garden. The small museum on the site is exhibiting collections of photographs and slides by Professor Arthur Upham Pope, who spent most of his life in this beautiful house and wrote his marvelous survey of Persian Art.

The Citadel of Karim Khan-The impressive citadel of Karim Khan Zand dominates the centre of Shiraz. This well-preserved fortress was part of the former royal courtyard. The four corners of the citadel are marked with circular towers, which inter joining walls being decorated with raised brick in diamond and zigzag patterns. Over the main entrance is a huge tiled panel, depicting a fight between Rostam the famous Persian mythical hero with a white div (demon). Inside is a large courtyard with citrus trees and a pool. One of citadel’s pavilions is now a museum relating to the life of the Zand period.

Masjed-e Vakil-(Regent’s Mosque) can be found at the entrance to the Regent’s bazaar. It is named after Karim Khan the founder of Zand Dynasty so called Vakil (Regent). This mosque dates back to 1773 and restored in the 19th century during the Qajar Dynasty. With no doubt it is one of the outstanding work of art and architecture. The highlights are; its magnificent tile-works and arches, its remarkable Shabestan (night prayer hall) with its 48 stumpy stone columns, each carved in a barley-sugar spiral, its unique 14 stepped minbar cut from a solid piece of green marble, its beautiful ceiling and its cheerful exterior floral decorative tiles.

Masjed-e Atigh-(Old Friday Mosque) was first built in 894. Only a few features left from its original structure and most of the building renovated in the 17th century onwards. The attraction of this mosque is its House of God (Khaneh Kabeh), a square building in the centre of the courtyard the same shape of Ka’ba in Mecca. Build in the 14th century, and it is said once to have stored some of the most valuable copies of the Koran.

Madresseh-e-Khan(theological college), built in 1615 by Emam Qoli Khan, the Safavid governor. It has often been damaged by earthquakes and rebuilt. Only the octagonal hall and its impressive entrance are original. The stone- walled courtyard and garden is the place for retreat.

Eram Garden(Garden of Paradise) – the most celebrated Persian garden in Shiraz is famous for its cypress trees. In the middle of the garden stands the magnificent 19th Century Qajar palace with its own reflecting pool. The palace decorated with colourful tiles depicting figurative scenes and animals. The hall decorated with mirrored facets, and a fine stone edged tank.

View Larger Map

Check Also


Located about 150 miles east of the Tigris River in Khuzestan province of Iran. As well as being an archaeological site...