1. Shiraz

Shiraz (Šīrāz) is the 5th most-populous city of Iran and the capital of Fars Province.

At the 2016 census, the population of the city was 1 869 001 and its built-up area with "Shahr-e Jadid-e Sadra" (Sadra New Town) was home to 1 565 572 inhabitants

Shiraz is located in the south-west of Iran. It has a moderate climate and has been a regional trade centre for over a thousand years. Shiraz is 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 centre 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 Persia during the Zand dynasty from 1750 until 1800.

Two famous poets of Iran, Hāfez (1315-1390) and Saadi (1210-1291), are from Shiraz, whose tombs are on the north side of the current city boundaries.

Saadi Tomb

Shiraz is known as the city of poets, literature, wine (despite Iran being an Islamic republic since 1979), 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, for example Eram Garden.

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 also gelīm in Iran.

In Shiraz industries such as cement production, sugar, fertilizers, textile products, wood products, metalwork and rugs dominate.

Shiraz also has a major oil refinery and is also a major centre for Iran's electronic industries: 53% of Iran's electronic investment has been centred 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.

2. Etymology

Qur'an Gates

The earliest reference to the city is on Elamite clay tablets dated to 2000 BCE, found in June 1970, while digging to make a kiln for a brick factory in the south western corner of the city. The tablets written in ancient Elamite name a city called Tiraziš.

Phonetically, this is interpreted as /tiračis/ or /ćiračis/. This name became Old Persian /širājiš/; through regular sound change comes the modern Persian name Šīrāz.

The name Shiraz also appears on clay sealings found at a 2nd century CE Sassanid ruin, east of the city.

By some of the native writers, the name Shiraz has derived from a son of Tahmuras, the 3rd Shāh (King) of the World according to Firdausi’s Šāhnāme.

3. Pre-Islamic

Khāju e Kermani Tomb

Shiraz is most likely more than 4 000 years old. The name Shiraz is mentioned in cuneiform inscriptions from around 2000 BC found in south-western corner of the city.

In the Achaemenid era, Shiraz was on the way from Susa to Persepolis and Pasargadae.

In Firdausi’s Šāhnāme it has been said that Artabanus V (reigned c. 213-224), the Parthian Emperor of Iran, expanded his control over Shiraz.

During the Sassanid era, Shiraz was in the way which was connecting Bishapur and Gur to Istakhr. Shiraz was an important regional centre under the Sassanians.

4. Islamic period

Qur'an Gates

The city became a provincial capital in 693, after Arab invaders conquered Istakhr, the nearby Sasanian capital. As Istakhr fell into decline, Shiraz grew in importance under the Arabs and several local dynasties.

The Buyid Empire (945–1055) made it their capital, building mosques, palaces, a library and an extended city wall. It was also ruled by the Seljuks and the Khwārazmians before the Mongol conquest.

The city was spared destruction by the invading Mongols, when its local ruler offered tributes and submission to Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227).

Shiraz was again spared by Tamerlane (Timur, 1336-1405), when in 1382 the local monarch, Shāh Shujā (1785-1842) agreed to submit to the invader.

In the 13th century, Shiraz became a leading centre of the arts and letters, thanks to the encouragement of its ruler and the presence of many Persian scholars and artists. For this reason the city was named by classical geographers Dar al-Elm, the House of Knowledge.

Among the Iranian poets, mystics and philosophers born in Shiraz were the poets Saadi (1210-1291) and Hāfez (1315-1390) and the philosopher Mulla Sadra (c. 1571-1640). Thus Shiraz has been nicknamed "The Athens of Iran ".

As early as the 11th century, several hundred thousand people inhabited Shiraz.

Arg of Karīm Khān

In the 14th century Shiraz had 60 thousand inhabitants. During the 16th century it had a population of 200 000 people, which by the mid-18th century had decreased to only 55 000.

In 1504, Shiraz was captured by the forces of Ismail I (1487-1524), the founder of the Safavid dynasty.

Throughout the Safavid Empire (1501–1722) Shiraz remained a provincial capital and Imam-Quli Khan (died 1632), the governor of Fars under Shāh Abbās I (1571-1629), constructed many palaces and ornate buildings in the same style as those built during the same period in Isfahan, the capital of the Empire.

Shāh Cherāgh shrine

After the fall of the Safavids, Shiraz suffered a period of decline, worsened by the raids of the Afghans and the rebellion of its governor against Nader Shah (1688-1747);

Nader Shah sent troops to suppress the revolt. The city was besieged for many months and eventually sacked:

At the time of Nader Shah's murder in 1747, most of the historical buildings of the city were damaged or ruined, and its population fell to 50 000, one-quarter of that during the 16th century.

Shiraz soon returned to prosperity under the rule of Karīm Khān Zand (c. 1705- 1779; ruled 1751-1779), who made it his capital in 1762:

Employing more than 12 000 workers, he constructed a royal district with a fortress, many administrative buildings, a mosque and one of the finest covered Bāzārs in Iran.

He had a moat built around the city, constructed an irrigation and drainage system, and rebuilt the city walls.

However, Karīm Khān's heirs failed to secure his gains:

Shāh Cherāgh shrine

When Āghā Mohammad Khān (1742-1797), the founder of the Qajar dynasty, eventually came to power, he wreaked his revenge on Shiraz by destroying the city's fortifications and moving the national capital to Tehran.

Although lowered to the rank of a provincial capital, Shiraz maintained a level of prosperity as a result of the continuing importance of the trade route to the Persian Gulf.

Its governorship was a royal prerogative throughout the Qajar dynasty. Many of the famous gardens, buildings and residences built during this time contribute to the city's present skyline.

Shiraz is the birthplace of the co-founder of the Baha’i Faith, the Bāb (Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, 1819–1850). In this city, on the evening of 22 May 1844, he first declared his mission as the bearer of a new divine revelation.

For this reason Shiraz is a holy city for Baha’is, and the city, particularly the house of the Bāb, was identified as a place of pilgrimage.

Due to the hostile climate towards Baha'is in Iran, the house has been the target of repeated attacks; the house was destroyed in 1979, to be paved over 2 years later and made into a public square.

In 1910, a pogrom of the Jewish quarter started after false rumours that the Jews had ritually killed a Muslim girl. In the course of the violent riots, 12 Jews were killed and about 50 were injured, and 6 000 Jews of Shiraz were robbed of all their possessions.

During Pahlavi dynasty Shiraz has become centre of attention again:

Many important landmarks like Tombs of Poets' such as Saadi and Hāfez, has been constructed and presented to public. Also the site of well-known Persepolis was re-discovered by the order of the Shāh to be excavated and to be valued.

Lacking any great industrial, religious or strategic importance, Shiraz became an administrative centre, although its population has nevertheless grown considerably since the 1979 revolution.

5. Modern times

Hāfez Tomb

The city's municipality and other related institutions have initiated restoration and reconstruction projects.

Some of the most recent projects have been the complete restoration of the Arg of Karīm Khān Zand (castle of; c. 1705- 1779) and of the Vakīl Bath, as well as a comprehensive plan for the preservation of the old city quarters.

Other noteworthy initiatives include the total renovation of the Qur'an Gate and the mausoleum of the poet Khwāju Kermani (1280–1352), as well as the restoration and expansion of the mausoleum of the famous Shiraz -born poets Hāfez and Saadi.

Several different construction projects are currently underway that will modernize the city's infrastructure.

After the Iranian Revolution, Shiraz was re-established as the capital of Iranian Art and Culture among the people. Shiraz is known as the capital of Persian Art, Culture and Literature.

However, the current government has tried to re-brand the city as meaning "Third home of Saints" referring to the Shāh Cherāgh shrine (a funerary monument and mosque in Shiraz, Iran, housing the tomb of the brothers Ahmad and Muhammad, sons of Mūsa al-Kādhim and brothers of Alī al-Reza.) and some other holy places in the city.

6. Geography

Eram Garden

Shiraz is located in the south of Iran and the northwest of Kerman Province. It is built in a green plain at the foot of the Zagros Mountains 1 500 metres above sea level.

Shiraz is 800 kilometres south of Tehran.

A seasonal river, Dry River, flows through the northern part of the city and on into Maharloo Lake.

7. Gardens and Clean Shiraz

Imāmzādeh Ali Ebn-e Hamze

During the Zand dynasty when Shiraz was the capital of Iran, it was a small village limited around the Arg of Karīm Khān and naturally there were several villages near it.

The north part of old Shiraz was completely covered with gardens and green trees that still remain. A number of municipal laws prohibit construction in any of the garden areas.

In another view, these gardens are the city's lungs and help to clean the dust, and haze or carbon dioxide that cars produce, by photosynthesis.

On the other hand, we see Shiraz as being more likely to have clean air in Iran ; this is when it is compared to big cities such as Tehran or Isfahan, and the reason behind it may lie in Shiraz's many gardens.

8. Climate

Madrese Khan

Shiraz ’s climate has distinct seasons, and is overall classed as a hot semi-arid climate, though it is only a little short of a hot-summer Mediterranean climate.

Summers are hot, with a July average high of 38.8 °C.

Winters are cool, with average low temperatures below freezing in December and January.

Around 300 mm of rain falls each year, almost entirely in the winter months, though in some cases as much as this has fallen in a single month.

The wettest year has been 1955/1956 with as much as 857.2 millimetres, though since 1959 the highest has been around 590 millimetres in each of 1995/1996 and 2004/2005.

Shiraz contains a considerable number of gardens. Due to population growth in the city, many of these gardens may be lost to give way to new developments.

Although some measures have been taken by the Municipality to preserve these gardens, many illegal developments still endanger them.

The highest record temperature was 43.2 °C on 12 July 1998 and the lowest record temperature was −14 °C on 5 January 1973

9. Economy

Afif-Ābād Garden

Shiraz is the economic centre of southern Iran. The second half of the 19th century witnessed certain economic developments that greatly changed the economy of Shiraz :

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 allowed the extensive import into southern Iran of inexpensive European factory-made goods, either directly from Europe or via India.

Farmers in unprecedented numbers began planting cash crops such as opium poppy, tobacco, and cotton. Many of these export crops passed through Shiraz on their way to the Persian Gulf.

Iranian long-distance merchants from Fars developed marketing networks for these commodities, establishing trading houses in Bombay, Calcutta, Port Said, Istanbul and even Hong Kong.

Atigh Jame Mosque

Shiraz's economic base is in its provincial products, which include grapes, citrus fruits, cotton and rice. Industries such as cement production, sugar, fertilizers, textile products, wood products, metalwork and rugs dominate.

Shiraz also has a major oil refinery and is also a major centre for Iran's electronic industries. 53% of Iran's electronic investment has been centred in Shiraz.

Agriculture has always been a major part of the economy in and around Shiraz. This is partially due to a relative abundance of water compared to the surrounding deserts.

Shiraz is famous for its carpet production and flowers as well. Viticulture (grapes) has a long history in the region, and Shiraz i wine used to be produced here.

Shiraz is also an Iranian centre for IT, communication, electronic industry, and transportation.

Nāṣir al-Mulk mosque

The Shiraz Special Economic Zone or the SEEZ was established in 2000 with the purpose of boosting manufacturing in electronics and communications.

With more than 25 malls and 10 bāzārs, Shiraz is known as the best place for shopping in Iran and the Middle East.

The Persian Gulf Complex, located at the north end of the city, is the largest mall in the world in terms of the number of shops.

The Vakīl Bāzār, one of the oldest bāzārs in the world, is located in the old city centre of Shiraz :

Featuring beautiful courtyards, caravanserais, and bath houses, its shops are deemed among the best places in Shiraz to buy all kinds of Persian rugs, spices, copper handicrafts and antiques.

10. Demography

Narenjestan Qavam House

As of 2016, Shiraz has a population of 1 869 001 the majority of whom are Persian. Most of the population of Shiraz are Muslims.

Shiraz also was home to a 20 000 strong Jewish community, although most emigrated to the United States and Israel in the latter half of the 20th century.

Along with Tehran and Isfahan, Shiraz is one of the handful of Iranian cities with a sizable Jewish population, and more than one active synagogue.

Though officially Muslims, many Shiraz is privately practice Zoroastrianism or at least hold it in high regard.

Shiraz also has a significant Baha'i population, the largest in the country after Tehran.

There are currently 2 functioning churches in Shiraz, one Armenian, the other, Anglican.

11. Culture

Shapouri House

Shiraz is known as the city of poets, gardens, wine, nightingales and flowers.

The crafts of Shiraz consist of inlaid mosaic work of triangular design; silver-ware; carpet-weaving, and the making of the rugs called gelīm (Shiraz Kilim).

The garden is an important part of Iranian culture:

There are many old gardens in Shiraz such as the Eram garden and the Afif-Ābād garden. According to some people, Shiraz "disputes with Jerez in Spain the honour of being the birthplace of sherry."

Shiraz i wine originates from the city; however, under the current Islamic government, liquor cannot be consumed except by religious minorities.

Shiraz is proud of being mother land of Hāfez Shiraz i (1315-1390), Shiraz is a centre for Iranian culture and has produced a number of famous poets.

Saadi (1210-1291), a 13th century poet was born in Shiraz. He left his native town at a young age for Baghdad to study Arabic literature and Islamic sciences at Al-Nizamiyyah of Baghdad. When he reappeared in his native Shiraz he was an elderly man.

Shiraz, under Atabak Abubakr Sa'd ibn Zangy (1231–1260) was enjoying an era of relative tranquillity:

Saadi was not only welcomed to the city but he was highly respected by the ruler and enumerated among the greats of the province. He seems to have spent the rest of his life in Shiraz.

Hāfez (1315-1390), another famous poet and mystic was also born in Shiraz.

A number of scientists also originate from Shiraz :

Qutb al-Din al-Shiraz i (1236–1311), a 13th century astronomer, mathematician, physician, physicist and scientist was from Shiraz : In his The Limit of Accomplishment concerning Knowledge of the Heavens, he also discussed the possibility of helio-centrism.

12. Tourist attractions in Shiraz

The city is one of the key tourism sites in Iran, its cultural heritage is of global importance

=> The tombs of Hāfez, Saadi, and Khāju e Kermani (whose tomb is inside a mountain above the city's old Qur'an Gate).

Other lesser known tombs are that of Shāh Shojā (1333- 1384) (the Muzaffarid emir of Persia, and patron of Hāfez), and the Haft Tanān mausoleum, where 7 Sufi mystics are buried.

The Tomb of Baba Kuhi (948 - 1037 CE) sits atop a mountain overlooking the city, and the tomb of Karīm Khān Zand is at the Pars Museum of Shiraz.

=> The oldest mosque is Atigh Jame Mosque (9th century), which is one of the older mosques of Iran, followed by Vakīl Mosque (1751-1773) and Nāṣir al-Mulk mosque (1876-1888).

The Vakīl Mosque is situated west of the famous Vakīl Bāzār. It covers an area of 8 660 m2 and was built in 1751-1773 during the Zand Dynasty:

On the 2 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 Karīm Khān sits adjacent to the Vakīl Bāzār and Vakīl Bath at the city's central district. The most famous of houses are Zināt al-Mulk House and Qavam House, both in the old quarters of the city.

=> The Qur'an Gate is the entrance to Shiraz. It is located near the Allah Akbar Gorge and is flanked by the Baba Kuhi and Chehel Maqām mountains.

The gateway once contained 2 hand-written Qur’ans by Sultan Ibrahim ibn Shahrukh Gurekani (ruled 1415-1435) in an upper room, which have now been moved to the Pars Museum.

=> The Eram Garden (Bāgh-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 Ahmad Sanjar (1086-1157).

Other historical Persian gardens are Afif-Ābād Garden and The Museum of Weapons, Delgosha Garden and Jahān Nama Garden.

13. Tourist Attractions near Shiraz

Within a relatively short driving distance from Shiraz are the ruins of Persepolis, Bishapur, Pasargadae, and Fīrūzābād.

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.

=> Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BC).

Persepolis is situated 60 km northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars Province, Iran. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC.

It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture.
UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

=> Tomb of Cyrus is the monument of Cyrus the Great (c. 600–530 BC) approximately 1 kilometre south-west of the palaces of Pasargadae, According to Greek sources, it dates back to 559-29 B.C.

=> Naqsh-e Rustam is an ancient necropolis located about 12 kilometres north-west of Persepolis, in Fars Province, Iran, with a group of ancient Iranian rock reliefs cut into the cliff, from both the Achaemenid and Sassanid periods.

It lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab, with a further group of Sassanid reliefs.

Naqsh-e Rustam site contains funerary related works belonging to the Elamite (2nd millennium BCE), Achaemenid (550–330 BCE) and Sassanid (226–651 CE) eras.

Naqsh-e Rustam is a site believed by archaeologists to have been a cemetery for Persepolis, where Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid royalty were laid to rest.

=> Bishapur was an ancient city in Iran on the ancient road between Persis and Elam:

The road linked the Sassanid capitals Istakhr (very close to Persepolis) and Ctesiphon. It is located south of modern Faliyan in the Kāzerūn County of Pars Province, Iran.

Bishapur was built near a river crossing and at the same site there is also a fort with rock-cut reservoirs and a river valley with six Sassanid rock reliefs.

=> Margoon Waterfall is located in the Fars province of Iran near the city of Ārdakān. Its name means in Persian "snake like".

=> Shapur cave is located in the Zagros Mountains, in southern Iran, about 6 kilometres from the ancient city of Bishapur. This cave is near Kāzerūn city.

=> Palace of Ardashir, also known as the Atash-kadeh, is a castle located on the slopes of the mountain on which Dezh Dokhtar ("The Maiden's Castle") is situated.

Built in AD 224 by King Ardashir I (180–242 AD) of the Sasanian Empire, it is located 2 kilometres north of the ancient city of Gor (Fīrūzābād).

=> Pooladkaf is a ski resort in the south of Iran. It opened in 2002.

In spite of its low latitude, it receives adequate snow due to its high elevation (usually 2 metres of snow in February). The skiing season starts in December and lasts to the end of March, or in some years April.

=> The Sarvestan Palace is a Sassanid-era building in the Iranian city of Sarvestan, some 90 kilometres southeast from the city of Shiraz :

The palace was built in the 5th century AD, and was either a gubernatorial residence or a Zoroastrian fire temple.

=> Qal'eh Dokhtar (Dezh Dokhtar, "The Maiden's Castle"), is a castle made by King Ardashir I (180–242 AD), in present-day Fars, Iran, in 209 AD.

It is located on a mountain slope near the Fīrūzābād-Kavār road.