Iran has heritages for all humanity. Iran is a vaﬆ land with a long hiﬆory of civilization and signiﬁcant contributions to the entirety of human civilization. In several thousand years, many wondrous monuments have been created in Iran; monuments that would make us ﬆand in awe and wonder, watching for hours and hours. In 1979, Iran joined the UNESCO World Heritage Convention —three years after its adoption in 1972. Three monuments in Iran were registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List in the same year. As of 2014, thirteen Iranian monuments are officially registered as world heritage properties and several other monuments are nominated for registration soon. Two Iranian manuscripts are also nominated for registration in UNESCO Memory of the World List. National New Year festival of Nowruz and the Radif of Persian Music was also registered on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2009.
It was one of the first Iranian world heritage sites to be registered in the Unesco World Heritage List. The Persepolis compound, known to Iranians as Takht-e Jamshid, is a very remarkable example of ancient monuments of Iran. The structure is built in the ancient city of Parseh which was built by the order of Darius I the great of the Achaemenid dynasty. Xerxes, his son, and successor built the Gate of All Nations and added a few other places to the city of Parseh and it was then that Persepolis reached its legendary glory. The legend has it that on a night of drinking Alexander set the Persepolis on fire. Today you can see the remains of the glorious gate of All Nations on which the images of the representatives of different nations are carved into the stone. As you walk up the stairs, stone carvings of humans, plants, and animals still communicate the ancient Persians’ ideals of Life, Peace, and Beauty to you.
The Tchogha Zanbil site holds the remains of the world’s largest ziggurat built in the ancient Elamite city of Dur Untash. The site is located near Susa (Shush) in southwestern Iran. constructed in about 1250 Bc, the ziggurat temple was dedicated to Elamite deity Ishushinak. The site was added to Unesco World Heritage List in 1979, in the same year Persepolis was registered. The receding stairs of the ziggurat lead to a temple of the second millennium BC, wherein the flashing of an eye one can get immersed in a world of ancient mysteries.
This world heritage site is known also as Naghsh-e Jahan, the square is a masterpiece of urban construction situated at the heart of the legendary city of Isfahan. Built-in the 17th century by Shah Abbas of the Safavid dynasty at the time of flourishing of Isfahan, the compound consists of bazaars, mosques, and government headquarters. Its name, Naqsh-e Jahan means “image of the world” in Persian. The compound has been described as a Persian equivalent to Saint Mark’s in Venice. Two beautiful mosques of Masjed-e Imam and Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfullah situated at the sides of the square would charm your eyes with their intricate but simple design and decoration. The Aliqapu compound situated on the other side of the square is a six-story Safavid structure with exquisite design and decoration. The Naqsh-e Jahan square was registered in the Unesco World Heritage list in 1979, together with Chogha Zanbil and Persepolis.
Near the town of Takab in West Azarbaijan lies a unique memorial to Persian history, philosophy, and art. The Takht-e Soleyman complex comprises monuments from the Sassanid (224-420 CE) to Il-khan eras (13th-century CE). There are remains of Sassanid royal architecture and a holy place where tow sacred elements of Zoroastrian philosophy, fire, and water, are brought together. This is the Azargoshasp Fire Temple, one of the three largest fire temples of ancient Iran which were built for warriors. In Takht-e Soleyman you’ll be an eyewitness to an enchanting, mysterious place whose name was mentioned in several old documents and diaries.
Here is the Holy Land of Pasargadae and one of the most important world heritage sites in Iran. The burial place of Cyrus The great: the founder of the Persian empire, a man who denounced slavery and forced labor and believed in religious freedom, a monotheist of the ancient world who labored to promote goodness and justice as attested by the cuneiforms he ordered to be written on the Cyrus cylinder in ancient Babylonia. The site contains monuments from 5000 years ago as well as the ruins of several royal palaces, the trace of a royal garden, and several towers. Pasargadae is located a few kilometers away from the Persepolis (Takht-e Jamshid). The Pasargadae complex was registered in the Unesco World Heritage List in 2004.
Bam and its cultural landscape
The horrible 2003 earthquake drew the attention of the world to Bam, the city holding the world’s largest brick structure. The Arg-e Bam is spread on a land area of about 20 hectares and its Cultural Landscape encompasses an area of about 492 hectares where you can find many palm groves, subterranean water canals – the traditionally made aqueducts or Qanat in Persian— and several other natural attractions. in Arg-e Bam, several monuments from prehistoric times to the Islamic era have been discovered. As you pass the gate of Bam, you step to a silent city. with the help of your imagination, however, you can still hear the sounds of life—the sounds of people in the streets, houses, and commercial buildings—for the echo is forever preserved in Bam’s clay buildings. Bam and its Cultural Landscape were registered in the Unesco World Heritage List following the devastating 2003 earthquake that destroyed over 90 percent of the clay structure.
Another amazing world heritage site in Iran and forty kilometers to the city of Zanjan lies Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh, the mausoleum of IlKhan ruler Oljeitu. The brick structure was created in the mind-fourteenth century in IlKhan capital city of Soltaniyeh. This is the world’s highest brick dome. The dome is 50 meters high and its octagonal base is 25 meters wide. An interesting feature of the compound is ten thousand square meters of plaster-work and painting. A wide array of ornamental works such as plaster-work, tile-work, painting on plaster and mosaic would meet the eye. Soltaniyeh is one of the world’s highest domes, along with Santa Maria Dei Frari church in Venice and Hagia Sophia cathedral in Istanbul.
Thirty kilometers east of Kermanshah lies Bisotun Mountain. in Bistun and nearby mountains you can see traces of human endeavor to record the history of a nation. The site contains about 200 culturally significant monuments from prehistoric times to the Il-Khan period. examples include a Median temple, a Median city, a Sassanid city and a Safavid caravanserai, etc. The most important monument of the site, however, is an Achaemenid bas-relief depicting Darius the Great and a group of rebels. under the bas-relief, there is a large inscription dating back to 520 BC. The inscription, which is one of the world’s most famous and reliable historical documents, is a narration of historical events during the reign of Darius i as well as the names of Iran’s neighboring countries and geographical regions of the time in three ancient languages. The rectangular cuneiform inscription is 21 meters long and 8 meters wide. This was the first cuneiform inscription to be translated into modern languages. Bisotun was registered in Unesco World Heritage List in 2006.
Armenian Monastic Ensembles
This world heritage site situated in the north-west of the country, the property consists of three monastic ensembles of the Armenian Christian faith: St Thaddeus and St Stepanos and the chapel of Dzordzor (also known as Qara kelīsā). These edifices – the oldest of which, St Thaddeus, dates back to the 7th century – are examples of the outstanding universal value of the Armenian architectural and decorative traditions. They bear testimony to very important interchanges with the other regional cultures, in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox, and Persian. situated on the south-eastern fringe of the main zone of the Armenian cultural space, the monasteries constituted a major center for the dissemination of that culture in the region. They are the last regional remains of this culture that are still in a satisfactory state of integrity and authenticity. Furthermore, as places of pilgrimage, the monastic ensembles are living witnesses of Armenian religious traditions through the centuries.
Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
Tabriz has been a place of cultural exchange since antiquity and its historic bazaar complex is one of the most important commercial centers on the Silk Road. Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex consists of a series of interconnected, covered, brick structures, buildings, and enclosed spaces for different functions. Tabriz and its Bazaar were already prosperous and famous in the 13th century, when the town, in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan, became the capital city of the Safavid kingdom. The city lost its status as capital in the 16th century but remained important as a commercial hub until the end of the 18th century, with the expansion of Ottoman power. It is one of the most complete examples of the traditional commercial and cultural system of Iran. Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex, located along with one of the most frequented east-west trade routes, consists of a series of interconnected, covered brick structures, buildings, and enclosed spaces for a variety of functions – commercial and trade-related activities, social gatherings, and educational and religious practices. Closely interwoven with the architectural fabric is the social and professional organization of the Bazaar, which has allowed it to function over the centuries and has made it into a single integrated entity. Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex has been one of the most important international places for commercial and cultural interchange, thanks to the centuries-old east-west trading connections and routes and wise policy of endowments and tax exemptions. Tabriz Historic Bazaar bears witness to one of the most complete socio-cultural and commercial complexes among bazaars. It has developed over the centuries into an exceptional physical, economic, social, political, and religious complex, in which specialized architectural structures, functions, professions, and people from different cultures are integrated with a unique living environment. The lasting role of the Tabriz Bazaar is reflected in the layout of its fabric and in the highly diversified and reciprocally integrated architectural buildings and spaces, which have been a prototype for Persian urban planning.
Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic System
Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic system inscribed as a masterpiece of creative genius, can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century BC. It involved the creation of two main diversion canals on the river Kârun one of which, Gargar canal, is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. It forms a spectacular cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin. It then enters the plain situated south of the city where it has enabled the planting of orchards and farming over an area of 40,000 ha. known as Mianâb (Paradise). The property has an ensemble of remarkable sites including the Salâsel Castel, the operation center of the entire hydraulic system, the tower where the water level is measured, damns, bridges, basins, and mills. It bears witness to the know-how of the Elamites and Mesopotamians as well as more recent Nabatean expertise and Roman building influence.
Sheikh Safi Al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil
This astonishing world heritage site built between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century, this place of spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition uses Iranian traditional architectural forms to maximize the use of available space to accommodate a variety of functions (including a library, a mosque, a school, Mausolea, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery, and some offices). It incorporates a route to reach the shrine of the Sheikh divided into seven segments, which mirror the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates, which represent the eight attitudes of Sufism. The ensemble includes well preserved and richly ornamented facades and interiors, with a remarkable collection of antique artifacts. It constitutes a rare ensemble of elements of medieval Islamic architecture. Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble were built as a small microcosmic city with bazaars, public baths, squares, religious buildings, houses, and offices. It was the largest and most complete Khānegāh and the most prominent Sufi shrine since it also hosts the tomb of the founder of the Safavid Dynasty. For these reasons, it has evolved into a display of sacred works of art and architecture from the 14th to the 18th century and a center of Sufi religious pilgrimage. The Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil is of Outstanding Universal Value as an artistic and architectural masterpiece and an outstanding representation of the fundamental principles of Sufism. Ilkhanid and Timurid architectural languages, influenced by Sufi philosophy, have created new spatial forms and decorative patterns. The layout of the ensemble became a prototype for innovative architectural expressions and a reference for other Khānegāhs. As the shrine of a prominent Sufi master, who also was the founder of the Safavid Dynasty, the property has remained sacred in Iran up to the present day.
Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan
Another Iranian world heritage site located in the historic center of Isfahan, the Masjed-e Jāmé (‘Friday mosque’) can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries, starting in ad 841. It is the oldest preserved edifice of its type in Iran and a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia. The complex, covering more than 20,000 m2, is also the first Islamic building that adapted the four courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture. Its double-shelled ribbed domes represent an architectural innovation that inspired builders throughout the region. The site also features remarkable decorative details representative of stylistic developments over more than a thousand years of Islamic art. Masjed-e Jāme’ is the oldest Friday (congregational) mosque in Iran, located in the historical center of Isfahan. The monument illustrates a sequence of architectural construction and decorative styles of different periods in Iranian Islamic architecture, covering 12 centuries, most predominantly the Abbasid, Buyid, Seljuq, Ilkhanid, Muzzafarid, Timurid and Safavid eras. Following its Seljuq expansion and the characteristic introduction of the four iwans (Chahar Ayvān) around the courtyard as well as two extraordinary domes, the mosque became the prototype of a distinctive Islamic architectural style. The prototype character is well illustrated in the earliest double-shell ribbed Nezam al-Molk dome, the first use of the four Iwans (Chahar Ayvān) typology in Islamic architecture, as well as the textbook character of the Masjed-e Jāme’ as a compilation of Islamic architectural styles. The Masjed-e Jāme’ of Isfahan is an outstanding example of innovation in architectural adaptation and technology applied during the restoration and expansion of an earlier mosque complex during the Seljuq era, which has been further enlarged during later Islamic periods by addition of high-quality extensions and decoration.
This Iranian world heritage site has the 53 M high tomb built-in ad 1006 for Qābus Ibn Voshmgir, Ziyarid ruler, and literati, near the ruins of the ancient city of Jorjan in north-east Iran, bears testimony to the cultural exchange between Central Asian nomads and the ancient civilization of Iran. The tower is the only remaining evidence of Jorjan, a former center of arts and science that was destroyed during the Mongols’ invasion in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is an outstanding and technologically innovative example of Islamic architecture that influenced sacral buildings in Iran, Anatolia, and Central Asia. Built of unglazed fired bricks, the monument’s intricate geometric forms constitute a tapering cylinder with a diameter of 17–15.5 m, topped by a conical brick roof. It illustrates the development of mathematics and science in the Muslim world at the turn of the first millennium AD.
The Persian Garden
The property includes nine gardens in as many provinces. They exemplify the diversity of Persian garden designs that evolved and adapted to different climate conditions while retaining principles that have their roots in the times of Cyrus the Great, 6th century BC. Always divided into four sectors, with water playing an important role for both irrigation and ornamentation, the Persian garden was conceived to symbolize Eden and the four Zoroastrian elements of sky, earth, water, and plants. These gardens, dating back to different periods since the 6th century BC, also feature buildings, pavilions, and walls, as well as sophisticated irrigation systems. They have influenced the art of garden design as far as India and Spain. The Persian Garden consists of a collection of nine gardens, selected from various regions of Iran, which tangibly represent the diverse forms that this type of designed garden has assumed over the centuries and in different climatic conditions. They reflect the flexibility of the Chahar Bagh, or originating principle, of the Persian Garden, which has persisted unchanged over more than two millennia since its first mature expression was found in the garden of Cyrus the Great’s Palatial complex, in Pasargadae. Natural elements combine with manmade components in the Persian Garden to create a unique artistic achievement that reflects the ideals of art, philosophical, symbolic, and religious concepts. The Persian Garden materializes the concept of Eden or Paradise on Earth. The perfect design of the Persian Garden, along with its ability to respond to extreme climatic conditions, is the original result of an inspired and intelligent application of different fields of knowledge, i.e. technology, water management and engineering, architecture, botany, and agriculture. The notion of the Persian Garden permeates Iranian life and its artistic expressions: references to the garden may be found in literature, poetry, music, calligraphy, and carpet design. These, in turn, have inspired also the arrangement of the gardens. The attributes that carry Outstanding Universal Value are the layout of the garden expressed by the specific adaptation of the Chahar Bagh within each component and articulated in the charts or plant/flower beds; the water supply, management and circulation systems from the source to the garden, including all technological and decorative elements that permit the use of water for functional and aesthetic exigencies; the arrangement of trees and plants within the garden that contributes to its characterization and specific micro-climate; the architectural components, including the buildings but not limited to these, that integrate the use of the terrain and vegetation to create unique manmade environments; the association with other forms of art that, in a mutual interchange, have been influenced by the Persian Garden and have, in turn, contributed to certain visual features and sound effects in the gardens.
The lavish Golestan Palace is a masterpiece of the Qajar era, embodying the successful integration of earlier Persian crafts and architecture with Western influences. The walled Palace, one of the oldest groups of buildings in Teheran, became the seat of government of the Qajar family, which came into power in 1779 and made Teheran the capital of the country. Built around a garden featuring pools as well as planted areas, the Palace’s most characteristic features and rich ornaments date from the 19th century. It became a center of Qajari arts and architecture of which it is an outstanding example and has remained a source of inspiration for Iranian artists and architects to this day. It represents a new style incorporating traditional Persian arts and crafts and elements of 18th-century architecture and technology. Golestan Palace is located in the heart and historic core of Tehran. The palace complex is one of the oldest in Tehran, originally built during the Safavid dynasty in the historic walled city. Following extensions and additions, it received its most characteristic features in the 19th century, when the palace complex was selected as the royal residence and seat of power by the Qajar ruling family. At present, the Golestan Palace complex consists of eight key palace structures mostly used as museums and the eponymous gardens, a green shared center of the complex, surrounded by an outer wall with gates. The complex exemplifies architectural and artistic achievements of the Qajar era including the introduction of European motifs and styles into Persian arts. It was not only used as the governing base of the Qajar Kings but also functioned as a recreational and residential compound and a center of artistic production in the 19th century. Through the latter activity, it became the source and center of Qajari arts and architecture. Golestan Palace represents a unique and rich testimony of the architectural language and decorative art during the Qajar era represented mostly in the legacy of Naser ed-Din Shah. It reflects artistic inspirations of European origin as the earliest representations of synthesized European and Persian style, which became so characteristic of Iranian art and architecture in the late 19th and 20th centuries. As such, parts of the palace complex can be seen as the origins of the modern Iranian artistic movement.
Shahr-i Sokhta, meaning ‘Burnt City’ is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. The remains of the mud-brick city represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Founded around 3200 BC, it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city. These include a monumental area, residential areas, industrial zones, and a graveyard. Changes in watercourses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and the large number of significant artifacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC.