The beautiful Masjed-e Vakil (Vakil Mosque) was begun by Karim Khan and is the only major mosque surviving from the late Zand period. Beside the entrance to the bazaar, it has two vast iwans to the north and south, a magnificent inner courtyard surrounded by beautifully tiled alcoves and porches, and a pleasingly proportioned 75m-by-36m vaulted prayer hall supported by 48 carved columns. Inside the prayer hall are an impressive mihrab and 14-step marble minbar, carved from a monolith carried all the way from Azerbaijan.
While not as popular as hafezs tomb, the aramgah-e sa di and its generous surrounding gardens are appropriate for a man who wrote so extensively about gardens & roses. It’s a tranquil place, with the tombstone . housed in an open –sided stone colonnade, inscribed with various verses from sa di and supporting a tiled dome.
Iranians have a saying that every home must have two things: first the quran, then hafez. And many would reserve that order. Hafez the poet is an Iranian folk-hero-loved, revered and as popular as many modern pop star. Set in a charming garden with its two pools, the whole scene is restful despite the ever-present traffic noise. The marble tomb-stone, engraved with a long verse from the poet, was placed here, inside a small shrin, by karim khan in 1773.
Magnificent Persepolis embodies the greatest successes of the ancient Achaemenid Empire…and its final demise. The monumental staircases, exquisite reliefs and imposing gateways leave you in no doubt how grand this city was and how totally dominant the empire that built it. Equally, the broken and fallen columns attest that the end of empire was emphatic. Persepolis is a result of the vast body of skill and knowledge gathered from throughout the Achaemenids’ empire.
Begun under Cyrus the great is about 546 BC, the city of Pasargadae was quickly superseded by Darius I s magnificent palace at Persepolis. Pasargadae is about 50km north of Persepolis and some travellers have questioned whether it s worth the effort of getting there. The austere and awesomely simple tomb of Cyrus stands proudly on the Morghab plain. It consists of six stone tiers with a modest rectangular burial chamber above, and it s unique architecture combines elements of all the major civilizations Cyrus had conquered.
Down the road from the Madraseh-ye Khan, Masjed-e Nasir-ol-Molk is one of the most elegant and photographed mosques in southern Iran. Built at the end of the 19th century, its coloured tiling (an unusually deep shade of blue) is exquisite. There is some particularly fine stalactite moulding in the smallish outer portal and in the northern iwan, but it is the stunning stained glass, exquisitely carved pillars and polychrome faience of the winter prayer hall that are most eye-catching.
Bagh-e Naranjestan is Shiraz’s smallest garden and is famous as the setting for the opulently decorated Naranjestan-e Ghavam pavilion, built between 1879 and 1886, as part of a complex owned by one of Shiraz’s wealthiest Qajar-era families. The pavilion’s mirrored entrance hall opens onto rooms covered in a breathtaking combination of intricate tiles, inlaid wooden panels and stained-glass windows. Ceilings in the upstairs rooms are particularly interesting, with the beams painted with European-style motifs, including Alpine churches and busty German frauleins.
Definitely worth visiting as part of a trip to Persepolis are these sites The rock tombs of Naqsh-e Rostam are magnificent. Hewn out of a cliff high above the ground, the four tombs are believed to be those of Darius II, Artaxerxes I, Darius I and Xerxes I. the tombs of the later Artaxerxes above Persepolis were modelled on these. The openings lead to chambers, where bones were stored after the vultures had picked them clean.
In 1615, Imam Gholi Khan, governor of Fars, founded the serene Madraseh-ye Khan theological college for about 100 students. The original building has been extensively damaged by earthquakes and only the impressive portal at its entrance has survived; watch for the unusual type of stalactite moulding inside the outer arch and some intricate mosaic tiling with much use of red, in contrast to the tiles used in Yazd and Esfahan.
Shiraz’s ancient trading district is comprised of several bazaars dating from different periods. The finest and most famous is the Bazar-e Vakil. a cruciform structure commissioned by Karim Khan as part of his plan to make Shiraz into a great trading centre. The wide vaulted brick avenues are masterpieces of Zand architecture, with the design ensuring the interior remains cool in summer and warm in winter. Today, it’s home to almost 200 stores selling carpets, handicrafts, spices and clothes and is one of the most atmospheric bazaars in Iran, especially in the early evening when it is fantastically photogenic.