Iran, once home to one of the most impressive and world-shaping empires in history, is today among the most culturally rich countries in the modern Middle East. The ancient ruins, spectacular architecture, cosmopolitan cities and stunning mosques dotted across Iran today are like a canvas of this country’s unique and rich history. Here are a few of our favourite cultural sites:
Shah Mosque, Isfahan
Isfahan’s Shah Mosque (known formally as the Imam Mosque since the Islamic Revolution in 1979) is a world-famous masterpiece of Persian architecture. Built in the 17th century during the rule of the Safavid Dynasty, the mosque today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is particularly well-known for its beautiful mosaic tiles and stunning calligraphy, and is frequented by tourists from around the world. The mosque also appears on the back of the Iranian 20,000 rial bank note.
Golestan Palace, Tehran
Also recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beautiful Golestan Palace is one of the most ancient historical monuments in the city of Tehran. It was also built during the Safavid Era, but later became the official residence of the Qajjar dynasty and used for formal receptions by the Pahlavi ruling family.
The palace consists of 17 separate structures, including museums, palaces and halls. It is a must-see spot for tourists in Tehran because of its stunning beauty and importance in Iranian history.
Located in Fars Province around 60km north-east of the city of Shiraz are the ancient ruins of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca.530 – 330bc.). The ruins were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
The name ‘Persepolis’ is derived from ancient Greek, although the ancient Persians used the name ‘Parsa’ (Persia). Persepolis consists of a 125,000 square meter terrace, partially cut out of the side of a mountain, along with ceremonial buildings and stone columns.
Tabriz Bazaar, East Azerbaijan Province
The historical market in the city of Tabriz was once among the most important trading centres on the ancient Silk Roads. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and functions as the economic heart of both the city and the wider north-western region of Iran. Tabriz Bazaar is the largest covered market in the world and one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East.
The city of Tabriz was once the capital city of the Safavid Kingdom – ruled by a dynasty of Kurdish Sufi origin in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although no longer the capital city, Tabriz remains politically important and played a key role in the Islamic Revolution.
Yazd Historical City
Nicknamed the “City of Windcatchers”, the historical city of Yazd is famous for its Zoroastrian fire temples, cisterns and underground channels, along with its tradition of handicrafts and textiles, particularly silk-weaving. Given its remote desert location in central Iran, Yazd has remained fairly immune to the conflict and destruction that has afflicted other parts of Persia over the course of various empires.
Have you visited Iran?
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