Shiraz was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (1747-79), when many of its most beautiful buildings were built or restored. Through its many artists and scholars, Shiraz has been synonymous with learning, nightingales, poetry, roses and, at one time, wine.
Shiraz About this sound pronunciation (help·info) (Persian: شیراز Shīrāz, Persian pronunciation, is the fifth most populous city of Iran and the capital of Fars Province. In 2009 the population of the city was 1,455,073. Shiraz is located in the southwest of Iran on the Roodkhaneye Khoshk (Dry river) seasonal river. It has a moderate climate and has been a regional trade center for over a thousand years. It is regarded as one of the oldest cities of ancient Persia.
The earliest reference to the city, as Tiraziš, is on Elamite clay tablets dated to 2000 BC. In the 13th century, Shiraz became a leading center of the arts and letters, due to the encouragement of its ruler and the presence of many Persian scholars and artists. It was the capital of the Persia during the Zand dynasty from 1750 until 1781, as well as briefly during the Saffarid period. Two famous poets of Iran, Hafez and Saadi, are from Shiraz.
Shiraz is known as the city of poets, literature, wine and flowers. It is also considered by many Iranians to be the city of gardens, due to the many gardens and fruit trees that can be seen in the city. Shiraz has had major Jewish and Christian communities. The crafts of Shiraz consist of inlaid mosaic work of triangular design; silver-ware; pile carpet-weaving and weaving of kilim, called gilim and jajim in the villages and among the tribes. In Shiraz industries such as cement production, sugar, fertilizers, textile products, wood products, metalwork and rugs dominate. Shirāz also has a major oil refinery and is also a major center for Iran’s electronic industries: 53% of Iran’s electronic investment has been centered in Shiraz. Shiraz is home to Iran’s first solar power plant. Recently the city’s first wind turbine has been installed above Babakoohi mountain near the city.
A panoramic view of Shiraz in autumn 2009
The tombs of Hafiz, Saadi, and Khaju e Kermani (whose tomb is inside a mountain above the city’s old Qur’an Gate). Other lesser known tombs are that of Shah Shoja‘ (the Mozafarid emir of Persia, and patron of Hafiz), and the Haft Tanan mausoleum, where 7 Sufi mystics are buried. The Tomb of Baba Kuhi sits atop a mountain overlooking the city, and the tomb of Karim Khan Zand is at the Pars Museum of Shiraz.
The oldest mosque is Atigh Jame‘ Mosque, which is one of the older mosques of Iran, followed by Vakil Mosque and Nasir al-Mulk mosque.
The Vakil Mosque is situated west of the famous Vakil Bazaar. It covers an area of 8,660 square meters and was built in 1187 (AH) during Zand Dynasty. On the two sides of the entrance gate there are magnificent tile-works and arches. The left and right corridors of the entrance gate are connected to the main room.
The citadel of Arg of Karim Khan sits adjacent to the Vakil Bazaar and Vakil Bath at the city’s central district. The most famous of houses are Zinat-ol-Molook House and Gahavam’s House, both in the old quarters of the city.
The Qur’an Gate is the entrance to Shiraz. It is located near the gorge of Allah-o-Akbar and is flanked by the Baba Kuhi and Chehel Maqam mountains. The gateway is where two copies of the Qurans known.
The Eram Garden (Bagh-e Eram) in Shiraz is a striking location for visitors with a variety of plants as well as a historic mansion. Although the exact date of the construction of the garden is not clear, historical evidence suggests it was constructed during the Seljuk Dynasty on the orders of the celebrated Seljuk monarch Sanjar. Other historical Persian gardens are Afifabad Garden and The Museum of Weapons, Delgosha Garden and Jahan namaGarden.
Within a relatively short driving distance from Shiraz are the ruins of Persepolis, Bishapur, Pasargadae, and Firouzabad. At Naqsh-e Rustam can be found the tombs of the Achaemenid kings as well as the Ka’ba-ye Zartosht, which has been thought to be either a Zoroastrian fire temple or possibly even the true tomb of Cyrus the Great. Maharloo Lake is a popular breeding ground for various bird species.
Naqsh-e Rostam site contains funerary related works belonging to the Elamite (second millennium BCE), Achaemenid (550–330 BCE) and Sassanid (226–651 CE) eras. Naqsh-e Rostam is a site believed by archaeologists to have been a cemetery for Persepolis, where Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid royalty were laid to rest.
Today Shiraz is a relaxed, cultivated city, with wide tree-lined avenues and enough monuments, gardens and mosques to keep most visitors happy for several days. The university here is one of Iran’s finest, and you’ll come across lots of students eager to speak English. Highlights include the restful tomb and garden of Hafez, a celebrated poet; the Shah-Cheragh mausoleum, an important Shi’ite place of pilgrimage which attracts hordes of supplicants; the Pars Museum, which contains Zand dynasty relics; and the delightful Eram garden, where the 19th century Ghajar palace lies alongside a pretty pool.
There are plenty of hotels to suit all budgets in Shiraz, most of them clustered near Zand, the main boulevard. This is also the area to nose out a good feed, from inexpensive kebabs and burgers to more swanky sitdown affairs. Shiraz is nearly 900km (560mi) south of Tehran. It’s a great place to start or finish your trip to Iran and is well serviced by international and domestic flights. The airport lies 8km (5mi) south-east of the city centre. Buses run from Shiraz to Tehran and other major towns; shared taxis run occasionally to Esfahan.