8 must-see local places in Iran
There are many places to be visited in Iran. As you know, Iran is a historical country. Considering the number of historical sites, Iran is one of the bests. But the question is where to visit in Iran or which sites are eye-catching to tourists. In this article we are going to introduce the sites or places that have played the main role both in history of Iran and Iranians' culture. Visiting these 8 places is like to pass the gate of untouched world and see the history from a different view. Are you interested in discovery of a different world? This article shows you the path to do it.
Squares in Iran:
Naghshe Jahan Square
It is said that squares used to be the oldest place of people's gathering. People used to gather there to be announced of the latest news, like ruler's policy, by town criers. Bazaars have been constructed around the squares, where many people bustle about. They were also a place for the criminals and trespassers to be punished in public. The punishment of Hasanak the favorite Minister of Gaznavi dynasty in the main square of Neyshaboor city is one of these kinds. But these are not the only reasons why squares were important. They also used to be a significant place for people to talk about their religions, opinions, believes and manners. Iranian used to talk about their religious beilieves and even proselytize freely. Ritual ceremonies were held at the square, too.
About 500 years ago, Abbas the great king of Safavi dynasty rebuilt the famous Naghshe Jahan Square, in Esfahan, and provided a polo field. The competitions were open to the public. The king too, watched them from the top of Alighapoo edifice.
The function of the squares is not like before anymore. But among beautiful squares in Iran we can name: Naghshe Jahan, a world heritage, Karimkhan in Shiraz, and Toopkhane in Tehran.
Zurkhane, Iranian traditional gymnasium
Old pictures of bastanikars
Zurkhane is a place where Iranian ancient sport was done. People who did it are called BastaniKar, which means a person who plays this sport. In fact Bastani sport is wrestling dating back to old ancient Iranian era. It has some special ceremonies. The ceremonies are so unique that you cannot see the like in anywhere. Not only Zurkhne was a place to exercise and become healthy, but also it used to represent the world around from a different point of view. Beyond being a sportsman with a strong body, chivalry and gentility are the principles of a Bastanikar. He should be a great symbol of morality and humanity.
After Arabs’ attack to Iran, many sportsmen did their best to rescue poor people, like what Robin Hood did, from Arabs’ violation. In Iran these great sportsmen are called Ayaran. Their revolution was so strong and resisting that created Safari dynasty and fought for many years against Arabs to free their countrymen forever.
But what is Zurkhane like?
It is a pit-like place with seats around for audiences. Sportsmen go there and start exercising. The shape of Zurkhane is like a hole that represents modesty. Every sportsman kisses the ground before he enters to it to show his respect to what he is going to do. That’s why many athletes in Iran, especially wrestlers, do the same, before they start their battles.
The tools used in Zurkhane are inspired by Ancient weapons like: quarterstaff, arrow and shield. The interesting part of this sport is that a musical instrument, called Zarb which is almost like a drum but beaten with hands and fingers, is played and Morshed sings a heroic verse when sportsmen are exercising.
But who is Morshed? Morshed is a man in Zurkhane who plays Zarb and sings.
Zurkhane has been being a center of Iranians’ union since they have been built. While traveling to iran make sure to have enough time to visit them.
Iranian Painting - Ghahve-kaneh Style
The first teahouses were built in Ghazvin almost 500 years ago. When Shah Abbas moved to Esfahan, many teahouses were built in main cities and changed to a place where people could exchange their opinions and believes. People there were served with light meals, hookah and their favorite drink, tea. We can say teahouses are traditional Iranian coffee shops. But the difference is that there is no coffee to be served. Instead, delicious food like Dizy is available. Teahouses are really interesting as well as important in representing Iranian culture. They have had a great influence on performing arts like: narrative, puppetry, eulogizing and reading of Shahname, the masterpiece of Iranian art.
There used to be special places in teahouses where popular arts were mixed to amuse and entertain customers. Shahname-readers explained the bravery of heroes and boomed the teahouses and narratives' jobs. After a while narratives started to make Shahname's stories more visual and tangible by referring to some pictures that showed the scene, theme and characters of the story. This creativity caused the stories more interesting and created a literary style called Teahouse style. Then iconoclasts did something extraordinary. They showed prophets and holy leaders with bright halos around their head in the pictures. They kept Iranian Miniature anyway to show the original Iranian art as well. Mohammad Modaber and Ghollar Aghasi were the last narratives in Iran who passed away a few years ago. This art had a great influence on Iranians' artistic taste. Sagha Khane, a holy place where people make a wish and light candles to make their wishes true, is a combination of modern art and teahouse style dating back to 50s decade.
In teahouses a man called Morshed made people laugh by speaking to some jumping jacks. One of the most famous one is called Mobarak who is black and funny. Gradually puppetry stepped forward to wedding parties, too.
Nowadays, the only usage of teahouses is to smoke and eat while music is heard from a speaker while in past it was a great place for sharing and exchanging people's idea and believes.
Madar-I Shah Caravanserai
No doubt that Iranians were one of the first nations who realized the importance of roads and routes. Almost 2500 years age in Akamanid era, Iranians connected all important parts of their territory by a stone-pavement road. They called this road Abrisham, also known as Silk Road. This road was made for the army as well as Chapars, letter carriers. Letter carriers, who are known as the oldest post boys in the world, handed the news from far-off countries to the headquarters of Iran at the shortest time possible.
On their ways to their destinations, there were some resorts where they could take a rest, eat and substitute their tired horses for fresh ones. Gradually the road became safer even for merchants to travel through. Caravan, in Persian a house for Caravan, was built when the merchants and caravans felt the need for a place to stay and rest in. that’s why caravanserai were built on roads.
Caravan which is a Persian word borrowed by English, means a group of passengers traveling together.
They reached to the top most numbers after Islamic era. After Arabs’ attack they lost their importance because of bad economic situation. But the rulers did their best to build many of them again. During the reign of Shah Abbas, countless of them were built and named after him, Shah Abbas caravanserai.
Caravanserais were built with bricks that show Islamic architecture with many compartments for people to rest and their goods. They were safe for people who came from risky and unsafe roads from different countries. They used to be a place to exchange ideas and belief, but now they have less importance.
Their main function is a historical site for tourists. The most famous ones are Zeinodin Caravansarai in Kerman and Abbasi Moorchekhort near Esfahan.
Vakil Bazaar, Shiraz
Mostly women are interested in shopping, while men try to find an excuse to weasel out of it. But in Iranian Bazaars, both men and women find Bazaars so lovely and nice that they lose track of time. This is not only because of goods there, but it is mostly for the beauty and originality of Iranian Bazaar.
The fact that Iranians were the first people who made special building for trading goods can seem a little weird because you may say there were many places in all around the word for selling and buying. But the point here is that Iranian actually specialized trading by keeping all goods, customers and deals in a certain place called Bazaar. Bazaar is a place with many nested corridors and chambers. In each corridor goods of certain material are sold. For example if you need a carpet you should refer to the corridor of carpet. The reason for that is that customers can find what they need easily and fast as well as they can see different kind of what they need. This is what we can see in hyper markets and grand shopping centers.
The first thing that any ruler used to do, of course after expanding the territory, was to build Caravanserais and Bazaars. Actually bazaars were the main vessel of the town's body and they kept the city alive. History of Iranian literature is full of stories about bazaars and the like. Many proverbs have come to Iranians' life from bazaars and many of them are understandable for the people working in bazaars. All Iranians are really proud of themselves for being the oldest business men in the world that is not out of mind.
Top 10 bazaars to Visit in Iran:
- Vakil bazaar in shiraz
- Saraye Moshir in Shiraz
- Timche Aminodole in Kashan
- Gheitarie in Esfahan
- Grand Bazaar in Tabriz
- Grand Bazaar in Tehran
- Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran
- Grand Bazaar in Keman
- Grand Bazaar in Ghazvin
- Traditional Bazaar in Yazd
Vakil Mosque, Shiraz
Fahraj Mosque is the oldest masque in Iran which was made in early years of Arabs’ influx to Iran. Unlike all Iranian mosques, this mosque is really simple but beautiful. After 1400 years, it is still firm and fixed. Looking at this great monument, you feel as if you are at the beginning point of history. But Iranians who were great at tiling change the style of building and decorating in other mosques. Some mosques in Esfahan, like Shah Mosque and Sheikh Lotfolah Mosque are good example of eye-catching domes decorating with colorful tiles as a beauty element. Decorating and ornament have been being one of architects’ concerns for many years. For example, in Emam Reza shrine, you can see a masterpiece of decorating with mirror everywhere. This shrine has many halls, but the interesting point is that decoration is completely different from one hall to another, just like Shahecheragh in Shirz and Masume Shrine in Ghom. Elegant molding is one of the features of mosques especially in Shiraz and Esfahan, old sanctuary of Jame Mosque. In holy places we can see a nice balance between the interior and exterior view. In visiting mosques in iran, Pink Mosque is irresistible. The reason for naming this mosque like that is because of decorating with colorful glass as well as pink and amazing tiles. Pink Mosque, known as Nasirolmolk Mosque, too, is one of beautiful sites you should visit in Shiraz. Maybe you cannot see such a place in anywhere else, but Shiraz as the city of literature and culture of Iran has kept this site for tourists to visit.
Vakil Bathhouse, Shiraz
The number of bathhouses in Iran is greatly reducing nowadays. But there are some hotels in Iran that supply bathhouses with traditional massaging part. Living in a dry country covered with dust causes people to think of building a place where they can take a shower and get clean. Even in villages there are some bathhouses with a little remain. Bathhouses even influenced on Persian literature and cinema as well. For example one of the most famous scenes of a great Persian film happens in a bathhouse and the hero is killed by others, just like what happened to the great minister of Iran, Amir Kabir, in Fin Bathhouse.
But bathhouses are not dangerous places at all, for example Vakil Bathhouse in Shiraz in one of the best attractions for tourists, or Ganjali Khan Bathhouse in Kerman.
As soon as you enter a bathhouse, you are handed a piece of red cloth called Long that is a substitution for towel. In recent years some clothes designers have used Long in fashion, this way they actually revive Long. Bathhouses were not just for taking a shower or getting clean, they used to be a place to smoke hookah and drinking tea, too. Some staff, called Hamami, even worked as hair dressers there. In Ganjali Khan Bathhouse you can see the artificial sights showing people being massaged, taking bath, smoking and drinking tea in Marquette.
Jahan Nama Garden
According to historians, the first gardens were built in Iran. These gardens were watered by aqueducts in dry deserts and looked like heaven gardens. The word ‘Paradise’, a Persian word meaning ‘Heaven’ both in Persian and English, comes from these beautiful gardens in Iran.
Gutters are the most important characteristic of gardens that run all around the main building.
This scene is greatly similar to the description of Paradise in holy books. Mansions are placed at the center of gardens Delgosha Garden in Shiraz and Dolat Abad in Yazd.
In Kashan, you can visit one of the oldest gardens in Iran, Fin Garden, still steady and alive. This garden, which is in the desert, is still watered by an old gutter. Besides, it is good to name another beautiful garden in Shiraz, Eram Garden, with natural flowers and plants in different color and specious. Make sure to visit this botanical garden before you leave Iran. Jahan Nama Garden and some more gardens in Esfahan are annually visited by many tourists. Gardens used to belong to famous and rich people, but now they are open to everyone to visit and enjoy the beauty. In visiting gardens, don’t forget that they are the first pattern of gardens around the world.
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