Shiraz has historically had a reputation for being a large provincial city to unwind and enjoy a midday nap in one of its numerous gardens (bagh in Persian). At a glance it is the nonchalant capital of Iran where some of the country’s greatest poets had dwelled and been laid to rest. Shiraz is of course the city of Hafez and Saadi and has a strong Sufi presence, but it is also the largest city of southern Iran. Although surrounded by mountains, it is the palm trees lining the main Karim Khan Zand Boulevard, that give it this unquestionable southern feel. At a glance and simply looking at a city map, Shiraz has one of the most unusual topographies. It stretches sideways making it a challenger to orientate oneself. Ask any tourist, and they will nod in agreement. Other than that, the capital of the short-lived Zand Dynasty (1751-1794), the main feature of Shiraz is of course its leafy gardens, but there is also so much more to see here; after a dish of sweet saffron rice shirin polo and midday nap, of course.
Shiraz at a glance
- Start your first day of sightseeing with an early morning (before 10.00) visit to the Masjed-e Nasir al-Molk, also known as the ‘pink mosque’ due to the spectacularly colourful game of light through the mosque’s stained-glass windows. Truly an outstanding example of Persian stained-glass craftsmanship, this is both a private place for a prayer and one of the major tourist attractions in Iran.
- Let the scents and aromas of flowers and bitter orange blossom (baharnarenj in Persian) tickle your senses in the 19th-century Narenjestan (Orangery) garden and historic mansion originally built as a public reception space. The fine artwork of the house itself will not leave you disappointed.
- Take a stroll under the magnificent vaults of the historic Vakil Bazaar. One of the best places in Iran to make a carpet purchase, it also has a wonderful selection of nomadic Qashqai items and carpets to bring back home for your guests to marvel at.
- Make every effort, alas leaving cameras and any personal belongings behind or in the depository, to visit the Mausoleum of Shah Cheragh. One of the holiest Shia sites in Iran, the vast mausoleum houses the tombs of Amir Ahmad and Mir Mohammad, the sons of the 7th Imam, Musa al-Kazim, and the brothers of the 8th, Imam Reza.
- Later in the day, in the intimacy of the dusk hours, visit the Tomb of Hafez (Hafeziyeh) to witness locals recite some of the most beautiful verses of this master of Persian poetry.