Shiraz | The city of gardens, poems and roses
Shiraz (Persian: شیراز) is a city in southwestern Iran, located in the center of Fars province, in a plain at an altitude of 1,486 m and at the foot of the Zagros Mountains. Together with Isfahan and Teheran, Shiraz is today one of the three cultural and artistic capitals of Iran.
Number of inhabitants
The city of Shiraz has about 1,287,400 inhabitants (estimate 2012). It is the fifth most populated city in Iran.
Climate and geography
Shiraz has a semi-arid continental climate with an annual average of 17.6 ° C and annual rainfall of only 305 mm. The winter is quite rainy, the wettest month is January with 79.8 mm of rain.
The city of Shiraz is crossed by a dry river, sometimes fed with water in winter. This river flows into Lake Maharloo, a salt lake. Shiraz has an area of 340 km2 and is, by the surface, the third largest city in Iran after Tehran and Mashhad. The city is 919 km away from Tehran.
The economic base of the city lies in its provincial products: grapes, citrus fruits, cotton and rice. In Shiraz itself, industries such as cement, sugar, fertilizer, textile products, wood products, metal and carpets dominate. Shiraz is also a major center of Iran for the electronics industries and has an oil refinery. Agriculture has always been a major component of the economy in and around Shiraz. This is due to an abundance of relative water compared to surrounding deserts. The gardens of Shiraz are famous throughout Iran. The moderate climate and the beauty of the city have made it a major tourist attraction in Iran and the Middle East. By the end of the 1970s, Shiraz was a holiday resort popular with wealthy neighboring Arabs.
The Elamite name of the city was written Tiraziš, as evidenced by the Elamite clay tablets found at Persepolis. Phonetically, this can be interpreted by / tiracis / or / ciracis /. This name became / širajiš / in Old Persian, through the changes that took place in time, the name became شیراز, Šīrāz, in modern Persian. The name Shiraz also appears on clay seals found at Qasr-i Abu Nasr, a Sassanian ruin in the east of the city.
The province of Fars hosts three capitals of Persian history. The ruins of Persepolis, about 2500 years old, are located 60 km northeast of Shiraz and testify to the past greatness of the Achaemenid Empire. Persepolis, Firouzabad and Pasargadae are close ancient testimonies of this ancient civilization.
Shiraz obtained the status of provincial capital in 693, after the capture of Istakhr, the Sassanid capital, by the Arabs. Its importance grows proportionally with the decline of Istakhr. The city is also the home town of adventurous traders who founded or took over many counters and towns on the East African coast.
Between 945 and 1055, the city became the capital of the Bouyides dynasty. It is enriched by a library, mosques, a palace and a wall.
It is in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries that the city knows its heyday, especially as artistic and literary center. The literati arrive from all parts, attracted by the good reception of the governors. It is on this occasion that it is nicknamed “Dar al-Elm”, the House of knowledge.
In 1504, the city fell to Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty. Shiraz, still, continued to gain importance between 1504 and 1722, following the construction of buildings like palaces. It has nearly 200,000 inhabitants in the sixteenth century.
In 1744, its decline began because of successive earthquakes, numerous attacks by Afghans and acts of rebellion of the local. At the death of Nâdir Châh in 1747, many historic buildings were destroyed or abandoned. Only 50,000 people still live in the city.
The city was the capital of Iran for 32 years under the Zend Dynasty (1747-1779). Mohammad Karim Khan, founder of the Zand Dynasty, made Shiraz its new capital in 1765. It thrives the city by building a royal district, a mosque, a covered bazaar, an irrigation system and a wall.
It is in 1762 that Agha Mohammad Shah, the future founder of the Qajar Dynasty, is taken hostage. He had remained captive for 16 years in this city.
In the 1930s, Shiraz was strategically placed on the trade route to Bushehr. Its importance diminishes, however, when the Trans-Iran Railway was built.
During the Pahlavi period, the King spent large sums of money on Shiraz in order to revive the greatness of Achaemenid Persia. The 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire and the strong investments in Pahlavi University were among the projects set up for this purpose, making Shiraz a pre-eminent status among Iranian cities in the late 1970s.
Art and culture
Iran is a country of art and literature that has housed many poets. One of its most famous cities in art and literature is Shiraz. The capital of the province of Fars is also home to a rich architectural and historical heritage.
Poetry is a pillar of Persian culture and Shiraz played a major role in this regard. Two of the most visited sites in Shiraz are the tombs of Hafez and Saadi, both poets of the post-Islamic era who have captivated the spirit of the Iranians for centuries. Shiraz was chosen to be the city hosting the Iranian Arts Festival during the 1960s.
Nomadic tribes like Qashqai tribe continue today to live in a traditional way, performing a ritual migration twice a year. They spend the winter months at the foot of the Zagros Mountains closer to the Persian Gulf and move their villages to the mountains or highlands during the summer months.
Shiraz is the repository of an inestimable cultural and religious heritage, widely recognized by UNESCO. Many sites are to be discovered in the former capital of Persia:
The Karim Khan Citadel, Hafez, Saadi and Khaju Kermani Tombs (the great Persians poets), the Quran Gate (gateway to the city) and the Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque (including the stained glass windows). Vakil Mosque and Bazaar and Aramgah-e Shah-e Cheragh (whose site houses a funerary monument and a mosque).
Its gardens are embalmed by the smell of orange trees and roses. The Afif-Abad Gardens (Persian Garden) with the Museum of Armaments and a Royal House, the Pars Museum, Haft Tanan Stone Museum are also very interesting. You cannot leave the city without visiting the Shiraz Botanical Garden (Iranian Cultural Heritage) with Qavam House, Eram Garden and the Delgosha Gardens (Persian Garden).
The ancient city of Persepolis registered by UNESCO (one of the most beautiful jewels of the Persian Empire); The ancient Sassanian city of Bishapour; The ancient city of Pasargadae classified at UNESCO; The remains of Firuzabad including the Palace of Ardashir; The necropolis of Naqsh-e Rustam.
Purchasing souvenirs and handicrafts
There are several shopping centers in Shiraz including the Persian Gulf Complex. Bazaars like the Vakil Bazaar are ideal places for enjoying your stay in Shiraz to buy Persian rugs, gold or silver jewelry, Qorans written in Persian calligraphy or precious stones. Dried fruits, saffron, scarves, miniature paintings, carved objects made of metal or wood and enamelware made of copper (cups, plates, vases …) are also very popular.
Other Shirazi souvenirs include lime juice, lime, sour grape juice, orange blossoms, rose water of Meymand, dried noodles of Shirazi faloodeh, Geevehs , decorative tiles, embroidery and especially the kind made Abadeh, tiles of seven colors, Jajim, Shirazi rug, miniature work, enamels, glass pottery, etching and etc.
Like in many other Iranian cities, the foods in Shiraz are really diverse. The people of Shiraz often eat the special herbal soup of their city for breakfast. Yogurt and dates are always on the table as well. If you pay attention to their recipes, you’ll notice that rice is the main component of their foods and they use meatballs (used in Koofteh-rizeh), instead of pieces of meat (used in Ghormehor Gheymeh). Often times in autumn, they eat their food with fresh Shirazi limes, and when the sun goes down, they enjoy snacks like lettuce and pickled vegetables in their gatherings.
The most delicious and popular foods and dessert in Shiraz: Shirazi Kalam-polo, Shirazi Yakhni, Shirazi “Shekar-polo”, Yogurt Aash, Vegie Aash, Shirazi Faloodeh, Shirazi salad Masghati etc.
Drinks: tea (including saffron), dough (fermented milk drink), sharbat (fruit concentrate drink diluted in water with ice cubes).
We will talk more about this oasis of greenery and culture in some separated articles. Visit with us this treasure of the Old Persia. Are you ready?