Shiraz is one of Iran’s most prominent cities, acting as the economic and administrative hub of southern Iran.

The city is well-known as a prominent location for Persian art and artifacts, especially Persian style carpets. Many historical religious sites further enrich the streets of Shiraz, whose streets are decorated with ornate Persian gardens.

In this article, we will explore the hidden beauty of this vibrant, ancient city. Stay with us for this suggestive journey!

Shiraz, Iran: Some Facts About the City

– Geography

Shiraz is the capital city of the Fārs ostān province, located in the southwest of Iran, in the region of the Zagros Mountains. The city takes up the central part of the province and is situated on an agricultural lowland, sitting on the “Rudkaneye Khoshk,” a seasonal river that flows through the northern section of the city into the Maharloo Lake.

The city sits at an elevation of 4,875 feet (1,486 meters) above sea level and is 500 miles south of Iran’s capital city, Tehran.

– Climate

The region has a cold semi-arid climate consisting of hot summers and wet, cool winters. Despite the city’s high temperatures, overcast extreme weather occurs periodically. In 2019, a flash flood created by heavy rain resulted in 19 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The 17th century was also marked by many devastating floods in the city.

– Population

As of 2016, Shiraz has a population of 1,869,001, making it the fifth most populated city in Iran. The city has a predominantly Muslim population, but significant Christian and Jewish communities are also present.

The city was once home to 20,000 Jews, but many of them migrated out of the country following the 1979 revolution. The city also has a sizable population of adherents of the Baha’i faith, considered the second largest Baha’i population behind that of the capital city of Tehran.

Shiraz has been a center for trade and commerce for over a thousand years and is one of the oldest Ancient Persian cities. The city has many historical and religious sites and has a reputation for being a hub of Iranian art and literature. Famous Persian poets Saʿdī and Ḥāfeẓ were born in the city, and their decorated graves are located in Shiraz’s northern outskirts.

History of Shiraz

The first written mention of the city dates back to 2000 BC on Elamite clay tablets, which refer to the city as Tirazis. These tablets were discovered in 1970 in an excavation during the construction of a brick factory in the southwest region of the city. The name of the city was also found on clay sealings that date back to the 2nd century AD.

Archaeological evidence points to settlement of the region as far back as the 6th century BC. Remains of the Sasanian Empire that ruled the area from the third to the 7th century AD have been found in the city.

– Establishment

The modern city was officially founded in the late 7th century by Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the brother of the viceroy of the eastern part of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Fars region was captured by the Muslim armies of the caliphate during the mid-7th century.

This area did not have any major cities, but was used as a campsite for the Muslim armies as they were attacking the Sasanian city of Istakhr. As Istakhr was a major site of Sasanian and Zoroastrian influences, the Umayyads hoped to make Shiraz a rival influential Muslim city.

The city did not become prominent in Fars and overtake Istakhr until the late 9th century, mostly due to the hesitance of the region’s Zoroastrians to populate the city. However, as more Zoroastrians converted to Islam, Shiraz gradually became the most prominent city in the Fars region.

– The Mongol and Turk Invasions

The city became a growing political center during the Saffarid dynasty of the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as the Buyid dynasty during the 11th century. Abud al-Dawla Fana Khusraw, of the Buyid dynasty, built a library, hospital, mosques, palaces, and gardens throughout the city. One of the mosques is still standing in Shiraz today. One of the palaces that was built in the city was nearly three miles long and had the tune of 360 rooms.

While the Buyids ruled over the city, Shiraz predominantly relied on the Fars region’s agricultural economy. The city became a hub for the region’s crafts and art during this period, as rugs and paintings became a central part of its economy. The city also became a center for scientific, medical, and theological scholars and research.

After Genghis Khan submitted the city in the 13th century, Mongols built the New Mosque and the Bāgh-e Takht fortress. The city increasingly became a center for art in the region throughout the 13th century, mostly due to the many Persian scholars and artists living there. Shiraz has been nicknamed “The Athens of Iran” since this period.

The city was occupied in 1387 and 1393 by the Turkic conqueror Timur. By this time, the city had become a major Muslim city that rivaled Baghdad, boasting its Congregational Mosque, the Shāh Cherāgh shrine, and the Great Library.

After the city was captured by Ismail I of the Safavid dynasty, many great palaces and decorative buildings were built throughout the city.

– The Dynasties of the 18th and 19th Century

Following the fall of the Safavid dynasty, the city fell into decline. The crisis was exacerbated by devastating raids in 1724 by invaders from Afghanistan. The city was sacked when its governor rebelled against Nader Shah Afshar, the Shah of Iran from 1736 to 1747. By the time of the Shah’s death, many of the city’s historical sites and buildings had been damaged or destroyed, and the population was 25 percent of its 16th century population.

The city rose back to prominence as the capital of the Zand dynasty (1750 – 1794). The founder of the dynasty, Karīm Khān Zand, added a royal district and many new buildings to the city, such as the mausoleum (now a museum,) the Ark (now a prison) and the Vakīl Bazaar and Mosque. He also built a moat around the city, created an expansive irrigation system, and reconstructed the city walls.

The city fell out of the hands of the Zand dynasty when it was captured by Agha Mohammad Khan of the Qajar dynasty. Much of the Zand dynasty’s renovations were destroyed, and Shiraz was replaced with Tehran as Iran’s capital. However, the city remained prominent as a provincial capital due to its prime trade location near the Persian Gulf. Many expansive gardens and buildings were built throughout the city during the Qajar dynasty.

Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad, the co-founder of the Baha’i Faith was born in Shiraz and had his divine revelation in the city in 1844. The city, and specifically his house, became a sacred pilgrimage site for adherents of the Baha’i Faith. However, the house was repeatedly attacked due to Muslim hostility towards the Baha’i and was eventually paved over in the early 1980s, following the country’s Islamic revolution.

– The Imperial State of Persia

In 1910, after a false rumor spread across the city about Jews killing a Muslim girl, a massive riot ensued, which resulted in the deaths of 12 Jews. Many other Jews were injured and thousands of the city’s Jews were robbed of their possessions.

During the time of the Imperial State of Persia, (1925 – 1935) many important sites and landmarks were added to the city, including the decorated gravesites of the Persian poets Sa’di and Hafiz.

The city increasingly became a major administrative center for Iran’s political system, and its population has grown greatly since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Following the revolution, the city increasingly became known by Iranians as the capital of Persian art and culture.

Economy of Shiraz

Shiraz is a central center of trade and travel in the Zagros Mountains, acting as the prominent economic center of Southern Iran. The city is well known throughout the region as a city of literature, poets, and flowers.

Shiraz’s economy grew especially during the 19th century, beginning with the construction of the Suez Canal, which allowed many European imports to enter southern Iran. Southern Iranian farmers began planting cash crops during this period, including opium, tobacco, and cotton.

Shiraz served as a stopping point for many merchants and farmers on their way to the Persian Gulf. The city is connected to the coastal city of Bushire, which acts as its port on the Gulf.

Shiraz is also known for its decorative gardens and fruit trees that can be found throughout the city, as well as for its crafts, specifically mosaics, decorative silverware, and Persian woven carpets.

– Industry

The city’s industry includes the production of cement, sugar, fertilizer, textile, wood, metal work, and carpets. Agriculture plays a major part in the city’s economy, largely due to the relatively high abundance of water in the region.

Shiraz also has a large oil refinery. and is a major part of the country’s electronic industry. Over 53 percent of electronic investment is located in the city! Furthermore, Iran’s first solar power plant is located in Shiraz and a wind turbine is located near the city, above Babakuhi Mountain. As you can see, this beautiful city is also quite green!

– Tourism

Shiraz attracts many visitors because of its 25 malls and 10 bazaars, which makes it one of the largest shopping destinations in the Middle East. The 4,800,000 square foot Persian Gulf Complex is considered the second largest mall in the world in terms of the number of shops, behind the Iran Mall located in Tehran.

The Vakil Bazaar located in the city’s historical district is one of the largest markets of Persian rugs, spices, and antiques. The bazaar is full of decorated bathhouses, shops, and courtyards that make it a premier tourist destination in the city.

Transportation in Shiraz

The Shiraz International Airport is considered the prominent airport of Southern Iran. Since the renovations that took place in 2005, it has been revered as Iran’s second most modern airport, behind Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Iran has an extensive metro system that is used by its large population, and also has 71 public bus lines. The Shiraz railway station is considered the country’s largest railway station on a surface area and is well-connected with the rest of the country’s railway network.

What Is Shiraz Famous For?

Now that you know everything about the history and economy of Shiraz, let’s see what are some of its cultural and artistic attractions. Their magnificent beauty makes this city a veritable jewel, hidden in the mountains of Iran.

– Eram Garden

One of Shiraz’s most famous gardens is the Eram Garden, dating back to the 11th century, at the times of ancient Persia. The garden was first built in a simplified version during the 11th century by the Seljuk dynasty, who called it the “The Emperor’s Garden.”

The modern layout of the garden and the building that accompanies it is the result of the vision of the chief of the Qashqai tribe of Pars, who commissioned it in the mid-13th century. The garden was explicitly described during the 18th century in the writings of Cornelius de Bruyn, a prominent Dutch traveler and artist.

The building that dominates the garden has gone through many modifications throughout its existence. The designer was Haji Mohammad Hasan, a local Shiraz architect. At one time, the building was two stories and had 32 rooms, decorated by tiling and poems from the poet Hafez.

The garden and building were used as the College of Law of Pahlavi University during the Pahlavi dynasty, and also served as the Asia Institute.

The garden today is a part of Shiraz University’s Botanical Garden and is open to the public. The garden is considered a World Heritage Site and is under the protection of Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization.

– Arg of Karim Khan

The Arg of Karim Khan was built during the Zand Dynasty to serve as the living quarters for Karim Khan, though it would periodically be used as a prison as well.

The citadel is a large rectangular fortress that is today a Museum, preserved by the country’s Cultural Heritage Organization. It is built of four high walls, connected by four large brick towers.

The citadel was built in the 1760s by Iran’s most prestigious architects and artists. When Mohammad Kan captured the city, many of Karim Khan’s buildings were destroyed, but the citadel was spared to be used as an emirate court.

The citadel was turned into a prison after the reign of the Qajar Dynasty, and in 1971 it was handed over to the country’s Cultural Heritage Organization.

– Qur’an Gate

The gate was built during the rule of Adud ad- Dawla, belonging to the Buyid dynasty. During the Zand dynasty, the gate had to be renovated, as it was severely damaged. A small room was added to the top of the gate, where copies of the Qur’an handwritten by Ibrahim Sultan were held. It was believed that travelers leaving Iran were blessed by the Qur’an when passing under the gate.

The gate was heavily damaged again by earthquakes during the Qajar dynasty, and was eventually repaired by Mohammad Zaki Khan Nouri. The two handwritten Qur’ans were removed from the gate and brought to the Pars Museum in the city.

The gate serves a prominent location for socializing and picnicking in Shiraz today.

– Shirazi Wine

Shiraz was Iran’s wine capital by the 9th century, with Shirazi wine being known as one of the world’s finest wines for centuries. Shiraz wine was exported heavily to Europe throughout the 17th century.

European merchants noted that the wine produced within the city tended to be more diluted due to irrigation, while the wine produced in the plains outside of Shiraz near the village of Khollar was the best wine in the region. The wines produced were white, and were either dry or sweet.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, wine has been forbidden in Iran. Leading up to 1979, though, there were nearly 300 wineries spread across the country.

A common misconception is that modern “Shiraz” red wine is from the Iranian city. It is actually made from the Syrah grape, a variety indigenous to Spain and France that is only related in name to Shirazi Iranian wine.

Conclusion

We were glad to accompany you through this journey to the Iranian city of Shiraz. Let’s go over the main points:

  • Shiraz is considered the central economic power in southern Iran.
  • The city is full of many historical and religious buildings and monuments built by various rulers and kingdoms.
  • The city is ornately decorated by luscious gardens and Persian architecture.
  • Shiraz is well-known as one of the premier cities for Persian art and literature.

Shiraz has a rich history, and its many historical and religious sites that are still standing today show its important place in Persian history. The city attracts millions of visitors every year due to its reputation as one of the premier destinations for art, history, and literature in the Middle East.

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