Built-in 1006 AD, the Gonbad-e Qabus tower is an all-brick structure located at the centre of the city Gonbad-e Qabus in Iran. More than 1000 years old, this iconic monument is the only surviving evidence of the ancient Jorjan city. Two Kufic inscriptions on the structure commemorate the Zyriad ruler and literati, Qābus Ibn Voshmgir as its founder. Built of baked-bricks, the tower is one of the finest illustrations of Islamic architecture. The innovative design displays exquisite geometric forms throughout the structure. The decagon shape of the building with a diameter of 17 – 15.5 m, is accompanied by a conical roof. This 53 m high monumental structure is considered as the tallest brick-tower in the world and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. The sublime technology of the structure emphasizes the development of science and mathematics in the Muslim world during that period.
The Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, in the north-west of the country, consists of three monastic ensembles of the Armenian Christian faith: St Thaddeus and St Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor. These edifices - the oldest of which, St Thaddeus, dates back to the 7th century – are examples of the outstanding universal value of the Armenian architectural and decorative traditions. They bear testimony to very important interchanges with the other regional cultures, in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox and Persian. Situated on the south-eastern fringe of the main zone of the Armenian cultural space, the monasteries constituted a major centre for the dissemination of that culture in the region. They are the last regional remains of this culture that are still in a satisfactory state of integrity and authenticity. Furthermore, as places of pilgrimage, the monastic ensembles are living witnesses of Armenian religious traditions through the centuries.
Tabriz has been a place of cultural exchange since antiquity and its historic bazaar complex is one of the most important commercial centres on the Silk Road. Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex consists of a series of interconnected, covered, brick structures, buildings, and enclosed spaces for different functions. Tabriz and its Bazaar were already prosperous and famous in the 13th century, when the town, in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan, became the capital city of the Safavid kingdom. The city lost its status as capital in the 16th century but remained important as a commercial hub until the end of the 18th century, with the expansion of Ottoman power. It is one of the most complete examples of the traditional commercial and cultural system of Iran.
Takht-e Soleyman is an Iranian archaeological site, located 45 km northeast of Takab County in West Azerbaijan province, northwest of Iran. It covers an area of about 124000 sq. m and the name is Persian equivalent for Solomon’s Throne. In different historical periods, Medians, Parthians, Sassanids, and Mongols had settled in this area. This historical-cultural complex includes traces of human settlement from the first millennium BC. According to some historians, it has been the birthplace of Zoroaster. This site has been approved as an Iranian tangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2003. The fortified site, which is located on a hill created by the outflow of a calcium-rich spring pond, was recognized as a World Heritage Site in July 2003. The citadel includes the remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple built during the Sassanid period and partially rebuilt (as a mosque) during the Ilkhanid period. This temple housed one of the three "Great Fires" or "Royal Fires" that Sassanid rulers humbled themselves before in order to ascend the throne.
Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil Built between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century, this place of spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition uses Iranian traditional architectural forms to maximize use of available space to accommodate a variety of functions (including a library, a mosque, a school, mausolea, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery, and some offices). It incorporates a route to reach the shrine of the Sheikh divided into seven segments, which mirror the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates, which represent the eight attitudes of Sufism. The ensemble includes well-preserved and richly ornamented facades and interiors, with a remarkable collection of antique artifacts. It constitutes a rare ensemble of elements of medieval Islamic architecturāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil.
The mausoleum of Oljaytu was constructed in 1302–12 in the city of Soltaniyeh, the capital of the Ilkhanid dynasty, which was founded by the Mongols. Situated in the province of Zanjan, Soltaniyeh is one of the outstanding examples of the achievements of Persian architecture and a key monument in the development of its Islamic architecture. The octagonal building is crowned with a 50 m tall dome covered in turquoise-blue faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets. It is the earliest existing example of the double-shelled dome in Iran. The mausoleum’s interior decoration is also outstanding and scholars such as A.U. Pope has described the building as ‘anticipating the Taj Mahal.
Bisotun is located along the ancient trade route linking the Iranian high plateau with Mesopotamia and features remains from the prehistoric times to the Median, Achaemenid, Sassanian, and Ilkhanid periods. The principal monument of this archaeological site is the bas-relief and cuneiform inscription ordered by Darius I, The Great, when he rose to the throne of the Persian Empire, 521 BC. The bas-relief portrays Darius holding a bow, as a sign of sovereignty, and treading on the chest of a figure who lies on his back before him. According to legend, the figure represents Gaumata, the Median Magus and pretender to the throne whose assassination led to Darius’s rise to power. Below and around the bas-reliefs, there are ca. 1,200 lines of inscriptions telling the story of the battles Darius waged in 521-520 BC against the governors who attempted to take apart the Empire founded by Cyrus. The inscription is written in three languages. The oldest is an Elamite text referring to legends describing the king and the rebellions. This is followed by a Babylonian version of similar legends. The last phase of the inscription is particularly important, as it is here that Darius introduced for the first time the Old Persian version of his res gestae (things done). This is the only known monumental text of the Achaemenids to document the re-establishment of the Empire by Darius I. It also bears witness to the interchange of influences in the development of monumental art and writing in the region of the Persian Empire. There are also remains from the Median period (8th to 7th centuries B.C.) as well as from the Achaemenid (6th to 4th centuries B.C.) and post-Achaemenid periods.
Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic System, inscribed as a masterpiece of creative genius, can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C. It involved the creation of two main diversion canals on the river Kârun one of which, Gargar canal, is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. It forms a spectacular cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin. It then enters the plain situated south of the city where it has enabled the planting of orchards and farming over an area of 40,000 ha. known as Mianâb (Paradise). The property has an ensemble of remarkable sites including the Salâsel Castel, the operation centre of the entire hydraulic system, the tower where the water level is measured, damns, bridges, basins, and mills. It bears witness to the know-how of the Elamites and Mesopotamians as well as more recent Nabatean expertise and Roman building influence.
Located in ancient Elam (today Khuzestan province in southwest Iran), Tchogha Zanbil (Dur-Untash, or City of Untash, in Elamite) was founded by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (1275-1240 BCE) as the religious center of Elam. The principal element of this complex is an enormous ziggurat dedicated to the Elamite divinities Inshushinak and Napirisha. It is the largest ziggurat outside of Mesopotamia and the best preserved of this type of stepped pyramidal monument. The archaeological site of Tchogha Zanbil is an exceptional expression of the culture, beliefs, and ritual traditions of one of the oldest indigenous peoples of Iran. Our knowledge of the architectural development of the Middle Elamite period (1400-1100 BCE) comes from the ruins of Tchogha Zanbil and of the capital city of Susa 38 km to the north-west of the temple).
Susa is one of the oldest cities in the world. Excavations have uncovered evidence of continual habitation dating back to 4200 BCE. Susa was a principal city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires (capital of the Elamites) and was originally known to the Elamites as 'Susan’ or 'Susun’. The Greek name for the city was Sousa and the Hebrew, Shushan. The modern city of Shush, Iran, presently occupies the ancient site. The old city is situated between the modern rivers Karkheh and Dez, which bring mud down from the Zagros Mountains making the area one of the most fertile in the region. It was the political center of Elam early in the fourth millennium and there is a fortress, still extant, which dates back to this period. The archaeological site consists of four mounds. One held the citadel, the second mound to the east was the location of the palace of Darius I, and the third mound to the south contained the royal Elamite city, while the fourth mound consisted of the poorer houses.
Maymand is a self-contained, semi-arid area in the Central District of Shahr-e Babak County, Kerman Province, Iran. The villagers are semi-nomadic agro-pastoralists. They raise their animals on mountain pastures, living in temporary settlements in spring and autumn. During the winter months, they live lower down the valley in cave dwellings carved out of the soft rock (kamar), an unusual form of housing in a dry, desert environment. This cultural landscape is an example of a system that appears to have been more widespread in the past and involves the movement of people rather than animals. Meymand is believed to be a primary human residence in the Iranian Plateau, dating back to 12,000 years ago. Many of the residents live in the 350 hand-dug houses amid the rocks, some of which have been inhabited for as long as 3,000 years.
Throughout the arid regions of Iran, agricultural and permanent settlements are supported by the ancient qanat system of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many kilometres. Each qanat comprises an almost horizontal tunnel collecting water from an underground water source, usually an alluvial fan, into which a mother well is sunk to the appropriate level of the aquifer. Well shafts are sunk at regular intervals along the route of the tunnel to enable removal of spoil and allow ventilation. These appear as craters from above, following the line of the qanat from water source to agricultural settlement. The water is transported along underground tunnels, so-called koshkan, by means of gravity due to the gentle slope of the tunnel to the exit (mazhar), from where it is distributed by channels to the agricultural land of the shareholders.
Shahr-i Sokhta, meaning ‘Burnt City’, is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. The remains of the mudbrick city represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Founded around 3200 BC, it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city: those where monuments were built, and separate quarters for housing, burial and manufacture. Diversions in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and a large number of Significant artifacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC.
The Fin Garden (known also in Persian as ‘Bagh-e Fin’) is a traditional Persian garden located in Kashan, in the central Iranian province of Isfahan. Today, the Fin Garden is one of the nine gardens that form the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the ‘Persian Garden’. This garden is believed to have been created during the early part of the Safavid Dynasty, around the first half of the 16th century. According to this design, a Persian garden, which is quadrilateral in shape, would be divided into four parts by waterways. These channels are supplied with water from a source, a fountain, for instance, located in the middle of the garden. The garden contains Kashan’s Fin Bath, though famous for being the site of the murder of Amir Kabir, one of the most popular Iranian political figures, it is decorated to relax the hearts of Iran’s lovers. The bath house consists of two bathhouses and contains lots of antics and ancient things and is decorated with beautiful limestone works of art.