1- AN ANCIENT LAND
To many Westerns, the word Persia at once
evocate the image of a land of far away and from long ago, of ancient monuments
and beautiful works of art – carpets, tiles, fine ceramics, miniatures and
metal work. On the other hand, it evokes a present reality in the heart of
Asia, a land of joining both geographically and spiritually the Mediterranean
world with the Indian subcontinent. And Persia is indeed such a reality, a
world ancient and contemporary, linking the heartland of Asia and the cradle of
Western civilization, a bridge between East and west. Moreover, through the
heart of its traditional culture, it has always been a bridge between heaven
and earth, reflecting the color of its luminous skies and of its most famous
stone, the turquoise, the stone for which Persia has always been known
throughout the world.
The country is bound on the north and south by two bodies of water, the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. It is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the west by Turkey and Iraq and on the northeast and northwest by the five newly independent republics of Central Asia.
Persia is marked by remarkable natural contrasts. The traveler will experience within distances of a few miles, major changes of season – snow on one side of a mountain range and sweltering heat on the other. There is also a great difference in vegetation and landscape between the fertile littoral provinces along the Caspian Sea and the dry lands of the Central Desert.
Persia is richly blessed in natural resources – the land is agriculturally rich although water is spares except in few provinces. The stretches of sand and stone of the Persian desert have also hidden in their depths some of the richest mineral resources of the world.
The people and races that have populated the Persian plateau and provided the human substance for its culture have been a lot and diversified and yet unified in a most remarkable manner. The plateau, originally peopled by races whose origin stretches into the unknown millennia of prehistory, became the home of the Aryan tribes who settled in it after several waves of invasion from about two thousand B.C. Having absorbed the earlier peoples, they made the plateau thoroughly Aryan in language and culture; hence the name Iran by which the people have called themselves since the dawn of recorded history.
The waves of invaders throughout its long history- the Greeks accompanying Alexander, the Arab armies during its Islamization, the Turkish tribes which forced their way westward from central Asia, and finally the Mongols, all left their mark upon the people of Persia but they, in turn, were assimilated into its cultural world.
see their history as a series of distinct periods separated by major events and
a long continuous process. They see before them a vast prehistoric past whose
epochs have been extended even further in time through archaeological
excavations, a past which led finally to the foundation of the Persian Empire
by Cyrus the Great at the dawn of recorded history. Then there is second period
comprised of several phases identified
with the rule of Achaemenians, Seleucids, Parthians and Sassanids, the era of the great Persian Empire, terminating with the rise of Islam, its spread into Persia and the transformation it brought about. The last fourteen centuries of Persian Islamic history is marked by such colossal events as the rise of Turkish dynasties, including the Seljuqs and Ghaznavids, the Monogl and Timurid invasions, the re-Establishment of order by the Safavids, Western domination during the Qajar period and finally the foundation of modern Persia, culminating in the social upheaval that led to the Islamic Revolution which turned Iran into Republic.
This vision of Persian history separated by distinct periods yet unified within a whole is most directly reflected in religion, the backbone of Persian culture in every phase of its existence.
The vast majority of Persians are Muslims, today mostly of the shi’ite sect, which became the state religion of Iran during the Safavid period. Yet, before the Islamization of Persia they were for some fifteen hundred years Zoroastrians or Manichaeans or followers of some other Iranian religion. Persians are aware of these phases of history and different spiritual world, but while thoroughly embracing their Islamic culture they have not rejected their ancient past. This wedding of Islamic spirituality and the Persian mind released vast intellectual powers which soon made Persia the philosophic, literary and scientific center of the medieval world.
Today, in the midst of major transformation on the material plane, they are ever seeking ways to retain those qualities and traditions of perennial value which have preserved their identity and made of Persia a crossroads, a bridge between East and west, a haven reflecting the azure color of its luminous skies.
2- Early History in Archaeological Finds:
Early history in archaeological finds because Iran literally means “the Land of Aryans”, most historians begin their description of Iranian history with the Aryan`s migration to the Iranian plateau. Such an attitude, however, is unjust. Archaeological, geological, and natural evidences allow the suggestion that long before the influx of the Aryans in to Iran and the establishment of their power there, the Iranian plateau was inhabited by various peoples, whose highly developed civilizations unquestionably influenced the invading Aryans.
The first traces of man on the Iranian plateau belong to 100,000 B.C although the earliest periods (Paleolithic and Mesolithic ages) have not yet received extensive study. well- documented evidence of human habitation is, however found in deposits from several excavated caves and rock – shelter sites, located mainly in the Zagros Mountains and in the southern Caspian region, and dating from Middle Paleolithic or Mousterian times (ca.100,000 B.C.). Paleolithic implements, produced by Neanderthal man or possibly some other Middle Paleolithic from man, have been found around Bistun in Kermanshah, Khurnic on the Zabol – Mashhad road, and near salt-lake of Bakhtegan which may had been a freshwater lake in middle Paleolithic times.
The first bones of a modern, non – Neanderthal type of man, considered to be about 9,000 years old, were found in Hotu and Belt caves in the Alborz Mountains.
In Dusheh cave in Lorestan, remarkable rock paintings from about 8,000 B.C. show men riding horses and holding the animal`s reins. Then by approximately 6,000 B.C. the patterns of farming villages had been spread over much of the Iranian plateau and in to low land Khuzestan. From about the beginning of the 5th millennium B.C. to the end of the 3rd millennium, the communities of people on the Iranian plateau lived isolated lives and generally maintained the economic and cultural patterns established in the Neolithic.
Iranian history represents a rich blend of legend, mythology,
recorded fact and living tradition. Several civilizations have risen in various
parts of the country at different times, each leaving its own impression on the
subsequent development of Iranian
The oldest known civilization in Iran is that of Elam in the 10th century B.C. and the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. Other major Iranian civilizations are Media, Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanians. Unfortunately, most of the landmarks of these civilizations were demolished during the Arab and subsequent Mongol and Tatar invasions. The 16th century Safavids civilization that has the most lasting number of monuments has inherited from both Persian civilization and its invaders. Many other dynasties and monarchies succeeded the country until the Pahlavi that was once again demolished by the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, in a way similar to its predecessors.
Iran has a long history of almost 7,000 years since the Aryans immigrated to the Iran Heights. Aryans gave their name to this land and called it “land of Aryans” or Iran. Achaemenids appeared in 550 B.C. They were the first unified dynasty and until it was conquered by Alexander of Macedonia (Eskandar e Maghdooni) in 330 B.C., Iran prospered as “The Great Persian Empire” for more than two centuries. Contributions of the Achaemenians to the world’s culture are numerous. Cyrus (Xerxes) The Great (550 B.C.) was the first emperor who conquered Elam and gave Jews freedom. He was also the first one who declared and practiced human rights. In the Great Persia Empire from East China to Libya, many nations were coexisting and all were declared free to practice their own religion and follow their own traditions and customs. Daryush the Great (500 B.C.) was the first emperor who committed to digging the ancient Suez Channel, joining the Red and Mediterranean Sea. There are many landmarks left from the Achaemenian period mostly in Persepolis and Naghsh-e-Rostam near the present Shiraz.
- ~750 BC the Medes era: Deioces (728 to 675 BC) was the founder of the Median kingdom. The Median capital Ecbatana or Hegmataneh (Hamedan) was founded in this era.
- ~600 BC The Achaemenids era: The capital of Achaemenids was located in Fars in southwestern Iran. Many present day landmarks, such as Takhte-jamshid (Persepolis) are from this era.
- 329 BC Defeat of the Achaemenids by Alexander. Aryo-barzan, a brave Persian commander fought to death with all his army members and couldn’t stop Alexander to invade and destroy the capital.
- 250 BC the Parthians era began by defeating the Greeks.
- 226 AD the Sassanid era. The Sassanians overthrow the Parthians and established a vast and wealthy empire that included the Central Asia, Middle East, Turkey and North Africa.
- 570-632 AD
- The birth and death of Muhammad (peace be upon him) the prophet.
- 642 AD
- The Arab invasion. The Sassanid emperor Yazdgerd III was defeated by the Arabs at the Battle of Nahravan. Bisotun, the capital of the Sassanians was destroyed. The palace and library hosting more than 20,000 old books and scripts were set on fire too.
- ~800 AD
Uprising of the Shi’ite movement in Khorasan (Northeastern Iran) by Abu Moslem Khosasany who fought the Arabs and established the first independent Persian state in Khorasan.
- 867 AD
The birth of the Saffarids dynasty by Yaqub Saffar who was the first leader to unite Persians under the Shi’ite flag.
The rise of the Samanid dynasty in Northeastern Persia. Eventually, Samanid overthrow the Saffarids in 900 AD.
- 962 AD
Ghaznavid dynasty established in eastern Iran. The capital was Ghazneh located in present day Afghanistan. The Ghaznavids could defeat the Samanid in the early 11th century and established a vast kingdom from India to Syria.
The Seljuqians era began by defeating the Ghaznavids at the Battle of Dandanqan, near Marv. Seljuqians’ reign ended with the death of Sanjar, the last king of this dynasty around 1160 AD.
- ~1160 AD
The rise of Kharazmshahian in Northeastern Iran.
- 1220 AD
The Mongol invasion. The Mongols captured nearly all Persia except the Fars. In Bukhara and Samarkand, they ruined and killed more than one million residents. Later the Il-Khanid dynasty was established in central Persia.
The Tatar invasions under the command of Timur and the reign of the Timurid rulers started.
- 1502 AD
Safavid dynasty was established by Shah Ismail.
Nader Shah established the Afsharian dynasty by driving the Afghans out of Persia. He also captured Dehli and North India.
Qajar dynasty: “Nehzat Mashrooteh” or the Constitutional Movement happened in this era and the first constitutional government was established.
Finally Pahlavi dynasty, a constitutional monarchy… Concentrating on modernization, education and establishing close diplomatic relations with the Western countries were among the main objective of the King Reza and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The gap between the government and people’s will, mostly due to corruption, ultra-speed modernization of the society and what was called unfair diplomatic relations, led to the Islamic movement in 1979, that established a kind of republic called Islamic Republic.
- 1979- Today
The Islamic Republic of Iran
Iran is a huge country of 1,648,000 square Kilometers with varying ecosystems. From the tropical Caspian shore with its rice and tea plantations, to the oilfields and sugar cane fields of Khuzestan; from the orchards and wheat fields of the province of Azerbaijan, to the deserts of Kavir and Lut with their oasis towns; from the central arid plateau, to the snowcapped Zagros and Alburz mountains – Iran is a land of extraordinary contrasts. The mountains are cold in the winter, the deserts hot in the summer, yet in spring and autumn there is no more beautiful of a place on earth. Carpets of wild flowers are everywhere; This truly is God’s own land.
The beauty and variety of scenery to be found throughout Iran
is simply second to none. In addition to the natural splendors, you are very
likely to see nomadic tribes in many parts of the country. Iran has the world’s
largest population of nomads, the majority of whom still live and dress in
their traditional ways.
The wealth of Islamic architecture found all over Iran makes the entire country a world heritage site. Minarets and domes glitter in the distance and almost all the sites can be visited and enjoyed at leisure. Spiritual serenity and architectural perfection abound in this country of poets, artists and philosophers.
Iran has a hot, dry climate characterized by long, hot, dry
summers and short, cool winters. Iran
influenced by Iran’s location between the subtropical aridity of the Arabian
Desert areas and the subtropical humidity of the eastern Mediterranean area.
January is the coldest month, with temperatures from 5°C to 10°C, and August is
the hottest month at 20°C to 30°C or more.
In most of the areas, summers are warm to hot with virtually continuous sunshine, but high humidity on the southern coastal areas of the Persian Gulf. Daily Temperatures can be very hot; on some days temperatures can reach easily 40°C or more, especially along the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea which causes a danger of heat exhaustion.
About 70 percent of the average rainfall in the country falls between November and March; June through August are often rainless. Rainfall varies from season to season and from year to year. Precipitation is sometimes concentrated in local, but violent storms, causing erosion and local flooding, especially in the winter months. A small area along the Caspian coast has a very different climate; here rainfall is heaviest from late summer to mid-winter but falls in general throughout the year.
6- Required clothing:
Lightweight Cotton clothes are advised in summer, with a sweater for cooler evenings, especially in the inland areas. Waterproof medium wear is recommended for the winter, and warmer clothing for the mountainous areas of northern Iran.
Climate of Iran can be divided in at least four different climate zones. TheClimate of the Western andsouthwestern areas can be classified as BWh Climate; a hot, dry desert climate with annual average temperatures above 18°C. A small zone between the Persian Gulf the Turkish Border in the mid of Iran can be classified as BSh climate, a hot, dry Climate with the annual average Temperature above 18°C. The eastern and northern areas of Iran have a Csa Climate; a mild, semi-humid climate with dry summers, mild winters and the warmest month above 22°C. Finally, the mountainous regions of northern Iran can be classified as Dsa Climate, a cold snow Climate with dry summers and wet winters with the warmest month over 22°C and the coldest month below -3°C.
From The moment, about 3000 years ago, when an ingenious
artist shaped and painted the magnificent bridge-spouted vessels at Tepe Sialk
to the time when master craftsmen carved the famous Achaemenian relief’s at
Persepolis and on into the Islamic era when sophisticated glassware and
ceramics were made in the kilns of Ray, Gorgan and Nishapur art has become an
inseparable part of Iranian life.
One just has to stand before the intricately designed Ardabil carpet, woven for the shrine of Sheikh Saffieddin, to appreciate that. This artistic tradition, resulting in the creation of numerous objects of extraordinary beauty, has meant that most of today’s Iranian cities boast at least one museum. However, the capital, Tehran, is particularly rich in this respect, allowing the traveler to Iran to begin or end his visit with a tour of very fine collections.
The Archaeological Museum, along with the magnificent collection of the Islamic Museum, forms Iran’s National Museum. The Abgineh offers a wonderful exhibition of delicate glass and ceramics housed in an elegant early 20th century building. The Carpet Museum justifies the worldwide fame of Persian carpet weaving with its display of beautiful new and old carpets created in the workshops of Kerman, Qom, Tabriz, Isfahan and Kashan, etc. Persian miniatures and calligraphy – two more artistic traditions in which the Iranians excel – can be seen at the Reza Abbasi Museum. These are just a selection from the fabulous collections to be visited in Tehran–’the City of Museums’.
8- Persian Painting
Pre – Islamic Persian painting is virtually unknown to us, though we do know that it existed. It seems likely that in spite of the Arab conquest and the subsequent centuries of alien rule, native traditions persisted. Some of the figures on Nishapur pottery of the 10th to 11th centuries, for example, have a markedly Sasanian character. Such examples of Persian book – painting as there may have been at this time, however, were swept away in the Mongol cataclysm of the early 13th century which culminated in the sack of Baghdad in 1258.
For Persian painting proper we have to wait until the end of the 13th century, when the Mongol conquerors had settled down, become good Muslims, and adopted the civilization of the land they had overrun. The earliest examples we know were produced in the north –west, at Maragheh and Tabriz, and the style is a strange mixture of native tradition with ideas and techniques borrowed from Byzantium and China. The vast Mongol conquests had greatly facilitated communications. The Yuan Emperors of china were themselves Mongols; Byzantine ideas had already influenced the international “Abbasid School of Baghdad”; the Mongols even established contracts with Western Europe and mediaeval Italian drawings were certainly known to them.
From a melting-pot emerged the style known to us from the early 14th century manuscripts of the World History of Rashid Al –Din preserved at Edinburgh University and the Royal Asiatic Society. These miniatures are strong – one might almost say stark – and colour is very restrained. Western influences seen in the rendering of figures and drapery, but the vegetation and landscape elements derive directly from China; compositions are simple. The miniatures are usually of narrow oblong shape with the figures disposed in a row in a single plane.
We may believe Dust Muhammad, a court painter of the 16th century and virtually our only literary source for this period, it was in the next generation during the reign of Abu Sa’id that the true style of Persian painting was born from the genius of the artist Ahmad Musa. Some miniatures attributed to him in the Istanbul albums bear out Dust Muhammad’s statement which was no doubt the oral tradition current among court artists of his time. Though it has been usual to discredit these admittedly later attributions, the tradition may well be worthy of more credit than it has sometimes received; the attributions, in fact, appear to date from about the period when Dust Muhammad wrote his valuable account. He goes on to tell us that Ahmad Musa`s pupil Shams al –Din was the chief illustrator of a great ” Shahnameh ” manuscript executed for the Jalayirid Sultan Uvais (1356 – 75), and it seems reasonable here to follow Mr. Eric Schroeder in equating this later manuscript with the celebrated “Demotte Shahnameh” of which many miniatures survive in the great collections of England, France, and the United states.
From all of this, it seems clear that what Ahmad Musa did was to blend the heterogeneous and ill-digested foreign elements of early 14th century painting to develop a rich colour–scheme, and to expand the compositions. Even in the Demotte Shahnameh, however, we find a number of miniatures which are still fairly close to the Rashid al–Din illustrations of 1306 -14, presumably the work of an elderly artist trained in the school of Rashidiyya.
In the middle years of the 15th century, the large number of Shiraz manuscript seems to indicate that the city was assuming the role of purveyor of illustrated manuscripts on a commercial scale to patrons of less than royal or noble rank. That these manuscripts were often exported is also suggested by the fact that when miniatures executed in Turkey or India is most Persian in appearance, it is always the Shiraz style of the time that they most closely resemble.
The Turcomans took Shiraz in 1456, and the Shiraz–Timurid style rapidly disappeared, being replaced by the Turcoman style, a simplified and in some ways primitive “utility” type of painting, admirably adapted to the commercial role that Shiraz had apparently assumed in the field of book–production. Manuscripts illustrated in the Turcoman style are particularly numerous between about 1475 and 1500, and the Safavid style of Shiraz grew imperceptibly out of it during the first two decades of the following century.
Muhammadi of Herat, who may has been a son of the great Sultan Muhammad, became foremost exponent of this style, and we may be justified in placing one or two of the more progressive paintings in the Feer Jami among his early work. His fame rests mainly, however, on a number of separate albums–leaves bearing sometimes fully painted miniatures, like the charming “lovers” in the museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and sometimes lightly tinted drawings, such as the “young Darvish with a Spear” in the India office Library. With the decline of royal patronage in Tahmasp’s later years, such single sheets were becoming an increasingly popular as an outlet for patrons of more modest means who could not afford a fully illustrated manuscript, but nevertheless wished to indulge a taste for fine drawing and painting.
From the style of Muhammadi developed a quite distinctive local school of painting found in Kurasan (his native province) during the latter half of the 16 century. The figure drawing is smooth, competent and uncomplicated, very much in Muhammadi`s style; background details of vegetation and architecture are as simple as possible, and the color–scheme is often dominated by pale blue, mauve, or light olive green, which are the favorite colors for the ground.
9- Persian Architecture:
It has been frequently, and soundly, remarked that the history of Iranian culture exhibits a remarkable persistency and continuity of themes and methods of expression. This is notably the case throughout Iranian art and architecture. Over many centuries the emphasis was on decorative and, usually, non- representational forms: from that were most often based on geometric or floral patterns. In architecture these forms became colorful and elaborated, but were always put forward as recognizable units which accentuated the major surfaces of the structures. The decoration enhanced the basic features of the buildings, rather than competed with them.
The builders of Iran, like those of the western world, experimented with materials and methods of construction so that there was steady stylistic development. This development moved forward more slowly in Iran and other Moslem countries than in the west, as for example in mediaeval times in development from Romanesque to Gothic styles. Experimentation with architectural forms merely for the sake of the novel and the new was not favored. When an adequate solution to an architectural problem had been found such as how to set a round dome on a square chamber, there was no real urge to seek additional solutions. Instead, there was a much stronger interest in exploring all the inherent decorative possibilities of several materials of stone, brick, plaster, and of faience. Decoration was also stressed because there were only a few types of structures in use and these had rather standardized plans. Climate also played a role in bringing in use of very brilliant colors in architectural decoration: such a strong sun shone for most of the year that its rays would have bleached away – to the eyes of the observer – less bold colors. Most Iranian architecture was essentially interior architecture. A building was not intended to be admired from a distance or to be walked around, although a mosque, for example, might offer one towering entrance façade the rest of its exterior walls were surrounded by other buildings. The façade existed primarily as a passage to the interior court or courts. Such a thing was the case at Persepolis and hundreds of years later, at the shrine of the Imam Reza at Mashhad.
Iranian architecture or Persian architecture is
the architecture of Greater Iran that has a continuous history from at least
5000 BC to the present, with characteristic examples distributed over a vast
area from Syria to North India and the borders of China, from the Caucasus to
Zanzibar. Persian buildings vary from peasant huts to tea houses, and garden
pavilions to “some of the most majestic structures the world has ever
Iranian architecture displays great variety, both structural and aesthetic, developing gradually and coherently out of prior traditions and experience. Without sudden innovations, and despite the repeated trauma of invasions and cultural shocks, it has achieved individuality distinct from that of other Muslim countries”. Its paramount virtues are several: “a marked feeling for form and scale; structural inventiveness, especially in vault and dome construction; a genius for decoration with a freedom and success not rivaled in any other architecture”.
Naqshe Jahan square in Isfahan is the epitome of 16th century Iranian architecture.
Traditionally, the guiding, formative, motif of Iranian architecture has been its cosmic symbolism “by which man is brought into communication and participation with the powers of heaven”. This theme, shared by virtually all Asia and persisting even into modern times, not only has given unity and continuity to the Persian architecture, but has been a primary source of its emotional characters as well.
The pre-Islamic architecture draws on 3-4 thousand years of architectural development from various civilizations of the Iranian plateau. The post-Islamic architecture of Iran in turn, draws ideas from its pre-Islamic predecessor, and has geometrical and repetitive forms, as well as surfaces that are richly decorated with glazed tiles, carved stucco, patterned brickwork, floral motifs, and calligraphy.
As such, Iran ranks seventh in the world in terms of possessing historical monuments, museums, and other cultural attractions and is recognized by UNESCO as being one of the cradles of civilization.
Each of the periods of Elamites, Achaemenids,
Parthians, and Sassanids were creators of great architecture that over the ages
has spread wide and far to other cultures being adopted. Although Iran has
suffered its share of destruction, including Alexander the Great’s decision to
burn Persepolis, there are sufficient remains to form a picture of its
The Achaemenids built on a grand scale. The artists and materials they used were brought in from practically all territories of what was then the largest state in the world. Pasargadae set the standard: its city was laid out in an extensive park with bridges, gardens, colonnaded palaces and open column pavilions. Pasargadae along with Susa and Persepolis expressed the authority of The King of Kings, the staircases of the latter recording in relief sculpture the vast extent of the imperial frontier.
With the emergence of the Parthians and Sassanids there was an appearance of new forms. Parthian innovations fully flowered during the Sassanid period with massive barrel-vaulted chambers, solid masonry domes, and tall columns. This influence was to remain for years to come.
The roundness of the city of Baghdad in the Abbasid era for example, points to its Persian precedents such as Firozabad in Fars. The two designers who were hired by al-Mansur to plan the city’s design were Naubakht, a former Persian Zoroastrian who also determined that the date of the foundation of the city would be astrologically auspicious, and Mashallah, a former Jew from Khorasan.
The ruins of Persepolis, Ctesiphon, Jiroft, Sialk, Pasargadae, Firouzabad, and Arg-é Bam may give us merely a distant glimpse of what contribution Persians made to the art of building.
The fall of the Persian Empire to invading Islamic forces led
to the creation of remarkable religious buildings in Iran. Arts such as
calligraphy, stucco work, mirror work, and mosaic work, became closely tied
in Iran in the
Archaeological excavations have provided sufficient documents in support of the impacts of Sasanian architecture on the architecture of the Islamic world.
Many experts believe the period of Persian architecture from the 15th through 17th Centuries to be the most brilliant of the post-Islamic era. Various structures such as mosques, mausoleums, bazaars, bridges, and different palaces have mainly survived from this period.
In the Old Persian
architecture, semi-circular and oval-shaped vaults were of
great interest, leading Safavi architects to display their extraordinary skills
in making massive domes. Domes can be seen frequently in the structure of
bazaars and mosques, particularly during the Safavi period in Isfahan. Iranian
domes are distinguished for their height, proportion of elements, beauty of
form, and roundness of the dome stem. The outer surfaces of the domes are
mostly mosaic faced, and create a magical view. In the words of D. Huff, a
German archaeologist, the dome is the dominant element in Persian architecture.
Another aspect of Persian architecture was the harmony it presented and manifested with the people, their environment, and their beliefs. At the same time no strict rules were applied to govern this form of Islamic architecture.
The great mosques of Khorasan, Isfahan, and Tabriz each used local geometry, local materials, and local building methods to express in their own ways the order, harmony, and unity of Islamic architecture. And thus when the major monuments of Islamic Persian architecture are examined, they reveal complex geometrical relationships, a studied hierarchy of form and ornament, and great depths of symbolic meaning.
In the words of Arthur U. Pope, who carried out extensive studies in ancient Persian and Islamic buildings:
“The meaningful Impact of Persian architecture is versatile. Not overwhelming but dignified, magnificent and impressive.
10- Handicraft of Iran:
Weaving cloth is a beautiful and delicate art, the pinnacle being brocaded silk. In the course of history, one of the most valued and precious gifts presented to foreign rulers by their Iranian counterparts has been the brocaded silk. The colors and designs of Iranian carpets are so lively and cheerful they make you think you have brought outdoors indoors.
Engraving is the art of drawing on metals, which could be embossed or grooved. The result would be breath – taking artifacts in various shapes.
A survey of the vast field of art shows that its history is as old as that of mankind. In his move toward evolution, man has picked the artistic arena as a place to debate with himself and manifests his ego. He chose it at the time he lived in caves to display his primitive thoughts in the form of beautiful drawings on the stone walls of the caves. It was during his contact with nature that he gradually learned to weave artifacts like carpets, Gelims, and brocaded silk or produce handiwork such as: tiles, ceramics, engravings on metal or wood, and enamel work to show his inextricable intertwinement with the nature. And Iranians were among the first people who created precious artifacts in various field to fill the displays of world museums.
Weaving cloth to be used as clothes has come a long way from coarse material to fine cloth and its peak, brocaded silk. Iranians, according to historical evidence were the main contributors to the process.
Carpets and Gelims:
Carpet, too, has played a great role in the perfection of weaving. It is also one of the ancient crafts which is said to date back to 500 B.C. Iranians were the pioneers of this unique craft. And the Iranian craft men were unrivalled masters in weaving this delicate product during its several – thousand – year history.
The wide variety and beauty of the Iranian carpets have prompted those outside Iran to identify them by the names of the regions making the carpets: i.e. Shiraz, Isfahan, Mashhad, and Tabriz. In other words, Iranian carpets mirror the characters, customs, geographical traits and artistic talent of those craftsmen in various regions who have produced them. The vivacity of the Iranian carpet design and color, mesh nature with indoor life.
Gelim which is made of cotton or wool is a kind of carpet. Its production is a different story in itself. Kordestan is one of the regions famous for its Gelims.
The radiance of the colors and simplicity of the designs have astonishing effects on people.
Engraving has yet been another forte for Iranian craftsmen who were able to produce masterpieces of which some are the delights of museums. To future illustrate the magnitude, it is said that in the Safavid era, Steel was not like what it was in the hands of Iranian craftsmen. Ordinarily, these craftsmen use their own imagination and do not copy the designs. They engrave designs of plants and animals on artifacts made of gold, silver, brass, or less expensive alloys in grooved or embossed forms. The result would be beautiful cups, trophies, and trays which will attract you.
Wood is another field for the Iranian craftsmen’s activity, including fretwork, and inlaid work; some of which would be the result of years of hardship and putting together thousands of small wooden pieces. Elaboration of each one of these arts would need a whole book and if we add miniature, enamel work, and turquoise work, perhaps a series of books will be needed.
Brocaded Cloth or Zar–Baft:
History indicates that Iranian were the First people 3500 years ago to weave different kinds of delicate textile including brocaded silk. Zar in Farsi means Gold, and Zar–Baft means: a kind of cloth woven with gold thread. the lovely designs of people, animals, and sometimes folk stories from the patterns on the cloth. It goes without saying that weaving this kind of cloth is a very difficult task which needs a lot of skill. Although the production of brocaded silk is limited, due to its being handmade, you can still find it in the markets of Iran.
Inlaid Works of Iran:
Being one of the most delicate and original arts in Iran for the past centuries, inlaid work has throughout its history preserved its authenticity. To inlay means to apply wood, bones and metals in geometric shapes to decorate the surface of various objects. on the average. 250 pieces of metal, bone and wood are laid next to one another in every cubic centimeter of inlaid work.
The majority of prominent inlayers have emerged from the city of Shiraz where the art of inlaid work has flourished.
Enjoying a totally oriental nature, the Iranian inlaid work is unique and unrivalled in the world. Ancient manuscripts do not make any reference to inlaid work, therefore, the back ground of this. Only Arthur Ephan in his book study of the Iranian Art has spoken of this art while dealing with the arts in the Timurid era.
Persian is the official language in Iran, and about 60% of Iran`s population speaks it as their native language. Of the rest 10% speak related Iranian languages and 30 % speak Azerbaijani, Arabic, new Aramaic, Armenian and other languages.
Most international foods are found in the deluxe hotels, but
the local food, lightly seasoned, is excellent and should be sampled as often
as possible. Try some regional specialties: nougat in Isfahan, pistachios in
Rafsanjan, dates in Bam and bergamot jam in Shiraz and northern Iran.
Rice is a national staple and is cooked superbly. Local dishes include tasty shrimp, lamb and chicken dishes (most meat is grilled), fruit, vegetables, yogurt and desserts. Sample of delicious Iranian foods are: shirin polo (chicken and rice), fesenjan (made with chicken or duck) and ab-gusht (meat stew). If you get a chance, try the caviar (Iranian caviar, considered some of the world’s best, is mostly exported). There are four more popular kinds of breads: taftoon (fresh, flat lunch bread), barbary (chewy breakfast bread), lavash (crispy and thin) and sangak (baked on hot pebbles). Iranian ice cream is also excellent.
Polo, often called pilaf in the west, is the name applied to rice with which other ingredients are mixed in the cooking process. There is an amazing variety of polo, the most popular of which are: Baghali–polo, rice cooked with lima beans and dill, and served with large pieces of mutton or chicken.
Kebab is skewered meat or chicken grilled over charcoal. It has three main varieties (From top to bottom): Kubideh (ground meat), Jujeh–Kebab (chicken), and barg (chopped mutton). All three are often served with barbequed tomatoes.
Khoresh is a sort of stew with meat, vegetables, and other ingredients; both Kebab and served with chelo, plain rice.
Khoresh Qeimeh a delicious stew with meat, split–peas and dried limes. often served with fried potatoes, aubergine, and tomatoes.
Khoresh Fesenjan, a sweet –sour stew made with chicken or meatballs, walnuts and sweet pomegranate paste.
Qormeh – sabzi, a stew made with various herbs, meat and red beans.
is the most traditional Iranian dish. It contains meat, potatoes, peas, beans, onions and dried limes, and is spiced with turmeric. Abgusht is both the first and the main course. Eating Abgusht requires some skill. First, its liquid is poured in to a bowl and eaten with bread. Then the meat and vegetables are mashed and eaten with fresh herbs and pickles.
Ski and Mountain
The topography of Iran consists of rugged mountainous rims surrounding high interior basins. The two major ranges of Zagros and Alborz, as well as other minor ranges and isolated mountains, contain over 3,000 peaks exceeding the altitude of 4,000 meters. Mount Damavand, standing at 5,671meters above sea level, is the highest summit.
Such abundance of high mountain peaks conveniently provides suitable grounds for variety of climbing or skiing activities.
Technically experienced climbers can try their skills on the glaciers of Mount Damavand and the big wall of Alam-Kouh, 4,850 meters, while there are alternative routes suitable for hikers of all level and strength.
In winter the slopes of Zarad-Kouh, 4,221 meters, offers excellent powder to the back country skier and through April to May its meadows covered with wild flower beds are pasture to the nomad herds and a very popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Zurkhaneh is unique to Iran, the Zurkhaneh literally means house of strength and is a mix of sport theatre and religion that dates back thousands of years. As it was refined through the ages, the Zurkhaneh picked up different components of moral, ethical, philosophical and mystical values of Iranian civillisation. the Zurkhaneh itself is a small , traditional gymnasium often decorated like a shrine , and what goes on inside incorporates the spiritual richness of Sufism , traditional rituals of Mithraism and the heroism of Iranian nationalism .Typically a group of men stand around a circular pit and perform a series of ritualized feats of strength , all to the accompaniment of a leader pounding out a frenetic drumbeat .The leader sings verses from epics such as the Shahnameh and recites poetry by Hafez . Most Zurkhaneh are open to the public and it is usually free to watch.
14-World Heritage Sites
Iran has been a member of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO since 1978, with 12 sites has been already registered and 57 sites are tentative candidates.
Site Name Entered:
- Chogha Zanbil 1979
- Meydan Imam, Isfahan 1979
- Persepolis 1979
- Takht-e Soleiman 2003
- Bam and its Cultural Landscape 2004
- Pasargadae 2004
- Soltaniyeh 2005
- Bisotun 2006
- The Armenian Monastic Ensembles in Iran 2008
- Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic System 2009
- Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex 2010
- Sheikh Safi al-Din Khanaqah and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil 2010
& Cultural Axis: The Complex of Handmade Settlements in Iran (Maymand Village) 2015