Brilliant tiled dome of the Mausoleum of poet Hafez.
Our tour notes promised “the Pearl of Persia” and we were not disappointed.
Think of almost anything that epitomises cultural Persia and you’ll find it represented in Shiraz. Poets and philosophers; perfumed gardens; plush palaces; meticulous, vibrant hand-knotted carpets; bubbling fountains; exquisite, richly coloured glazed tiles; nightingales. Although sadly, the delicious output of the eponymous Shiraz grape, also known as Syrah, isn’t included having become victim to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Shiraz, the capital of Fars Province and the stepping-off point for fabled Persepolis, was the national capital during the Zand dynasty era from 1747-79. The city retains the elegance engendered by its long association with the creative arts and classical gardens. Significant sites incorporate a serene garden and streets are lined with abundant trees giving the city a cool and shady air. It’s the home of the renowned Persian poets Hafaz and Saadi, proudly still revered by their countrymen. Their tombs to this day are significant pilgrimage sites and surrounded by trees, water and blooms.
Courtyard garden fountain at Eram Garden, or Garden of Paradise.
Tombs of Saadi (above) and Hafez (below).
Sour orange jam in the making.
Mature cypress pines in Saadi Mausoleum garden.
A popular arboreal choice in Shiraz, as it is across Iran, is the cypress pine. Another is the sour orange which lines many a median strip throughout the city. During our visit the trees were laden with swelling green fruit awaiting their seasonal harvest for making into jam which, though unable to taste test, I imagine may be like marmalade jam. I have even uncovered some evidence that Shiraz may be where orange marmalade originated.
Dominating the centre of the city is the Zand period Argh-e Karim Khan citadel, with its very own leaning tower and classic courtyard garden, home of 18th century ruler Karim Khan.
Arg-e Karim Khan citadel: leaning tower (above); inner courtyard; cool and inviting courtyard garden.
Exquisite decorative Arg-e Karim Khan bathhouse: a leaking cistern caused the leaning tower.
Another splendid example of Persian artistic prowess is the Imamzadeh-ye Ali-ebn-e-hamze Shrine whose standout feature is its dazzling interior domed ceiling and walls of Venetian mirror work.
Imamzadeh-ye Ali-ebn-e-hamze Shrine’s dazzling mirror work and stained glass windows.
If I ever have the chance to revisit Shiraz it would be in early spring when the orange blossoms burst into bloom and drench the city in their perfume. As Saadi said; “Whatever makes an impression on the heart seems lovely in the eye”. And, in the case of orange blossoms, to the olfactory senses.