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A city in western Iran, located in a productive farming region. The capital of Hamadan Province, the city is known for the manufacture of rugs, leather trunks, ceramics, and copper ware. It is the center of the Iranian shellac and leather trade and is commercially important because of its position on the principal route between Baghdad and Tehran. The city of Hamadan has a number of bazaars and several mosques. Also in the city are two tombs of special interest, one claimed to be that of the Biblical Mordecai and Esther, and the other that of the Islamic philosopher-physician Avicenna. The city is believed to occupy the site of the city of Ecbatana, capital of the ancient Medes. During World War I (1914- 1918), Hamadan was the scene of fighting between Russian and Turk-German forces. The city was held at various times by the Russians, the Turks, and the British before being restored to Iranian government control in 1918. The town's places of interest are: Avicenna’s tomb and Museum, tomb of Baba Taher (Iranian mystic and wandering dervish who died in 1019 A.D., and Ganjnameh, Hamadan's oldest Achaemenian rock carvings consisting of two huge inscribed panels (twenty lines) carved on two rock faces of some two meters in height, located 5 kin. west of the city on the slopes of Mount Alvand.

The Ganjnameh (or Jangnami) Achaemenian inscriptions

The Achaemenian Ganjnameh (Treasure Inventory) is a lengthy inscription in cuneiform script, composed in three parts (in Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian) and carved on the face of two rocks of some two meters in height, on the mountain Alvand. These twenty-line inscriptions, belonging to Darius I and Xerxes, consist of a genealogical account of the Achaemenian monarchs and the adoration of Ahura Mazda. Here is the translation of the text concerning Xerxes: "The Great God Ahura Mazda, greatest of all the gods, who created this earth and the sky and the people who gave happiness to the people who made Xerxes king an outstanding king among many kings, an outstanding ruler among innumerable rulers; I (am) the great king Xerxes, king of kings, king of lands with numerous inhabitants, king of this vast kingdom with far-away territories, son of the Achaemenian monarch Darius."

The Parthian Stone Lion

This stone statue of a lion has been attributed by some scholars to the Median period, by others to the Achaemenian era, and still by another group, to the times of the Parthian rulers. The statue is about 21/2meters in length and I 1/2meters in width, and it now rests upon a stone base provided for it in 1949 A.D.

Isfahan, with a population of 1, 159,102 (1992 census), is and has been the capital of the province of Isfahan since 900 years. The elevation of the city is 1,570 meters above sea level. Giving purity to the air under the brilliant blue sky and often violet-hued mountains. It is connected to Tehran by air (regular daily flights), rail and road.

The most famous Persian description of the city of Isfahan is Isfahan nesf-e Jahan (Isfahan is half the world), which the Isfahanis coined in the 16th century to express the city's grandeur. Isfahan, chosen and designed capital under Shah Abbas 1, was reconstituted with so many new mosques, palaces, bridges, avenues and parks that even European travelers wrote rapturously of its beauties. Knight Jean Chardin, a dependable observer according to A. U. Pope, reports that in 1666 Isfahan had 162 mosques, 48 madrasahs (schools), 182 caravanserais and 173 baths.
Isfahan steelworks started production in 1971 and is planned to double its present output of 1,900,000 tons in the coming years and make Iran self-sufficient as regards steel production. The Zayandeh-rud river watering gardens and fields with its numerous tributaries along its 360km. course, flows from west to east through the city, and divides off Jolfa and some other suburbs from the main part of the city, but most of the main attractions are to the north of the river

Chehel Sotun Palace
Built as a reception hall by Shah Abbas 1 (1657 A.D.) behind the Ali Qapu Palace continues the old Talar, or columnar porch. At its simplest it is only a roof-high porch constituting the facade. When attached to a royal building, it provides a huge outdoor reception hall, and is susceptible to lavish embellishments, which have included mirror-plated columns, panels and stalactites, and polychrome mosaic ceilings.
The name means "The Forty Columns", although there are actually 20. A reflecting pool is provided to see the other 20. A more mundane explanation is that 40 was once used synonymously with many in Persian, and still is in some quarters. Walls of Chehel Sotun were covered with frescoes and paintings depicting specific historical scenes.

Imam Mosque
Also called Masjide Shah (Royal Mosque) before the victory of Islamic Revolution, begun in 1612, and, despite Shah Abbas' impatience, under construction until 1638, represents the culmination of a thousand years of mosque building in Iran. The half domed arch of outer portal on the square, understood as an aspect of the square rather than of the mosque, is the most thrilling example of human artifice that could be imagined. Its height amounts to 30 in., the flanking minarets are 40 m. tall with the sanctuary minarets higher still and the sanctuary double shell dome soaring not less than 54 in.

Ali Qapu Palace
The first skyscraper of Iran with a marvelous view over the public Maidan and city to the front and the Shah's pleasure gardens at the back, it is seven floors tall, accessible by a difficult staircase, square in plan, probably a northern type, with the Talar as the second story. All the little rooms have points of interest. A huge reception hall capable of holding two hundred or more courtiers, its interior was covered with delicate polychrome relief.
On the sixth floor, niches shaped like bowls or high stemmed flasks are dug into the wall. Their purpose is not only decorative but also acoustical, since here was a music room. Many of the beautiful murals and mosaics which once decorated the many small rooms, corridors and stairways have been destroyed, partly in the Qajar period and as a result of natural causes in recent years.

Talare Ashraf (Ashraf Hall)
In its present state, the Talare Ashraf consists of a large hall and two adjoining chambers. The building belongs to the reigns of the Safavid monarchs Shah Abbas 11 and Shah Solaiman, (1642-1694 A.D.).
The present complex of structures known as the Talar-e Ashraf consists of the remaining parts of the Safavid palace and its golden decorations, artistic ornaments frescoes and proportionate arcades are particularly attractive and highly valuable.

Madrasah Chahar Bagh
The construction of this Madrasah marked the end of a sustained and brilliant period in the history of architecture. After the death of Shah Abbas I in 1627 the dynasty's decline began, although architectural styles, developed so gradually, were a little slower in dissipating. The Madrasah was built on the initiative of Shah Soltan Hosain's mother between 1706 and 1714, and was the scene of the execution of this unhappy monarch and the extinction of the Safavid dynasty at the hands of Afghan invaders in 1722.

Friday Mosque
Also called Masjid Jom'eh, a brisk half-hour from the square, is the most ancient and in some ways the most interesting building in the city, and hence in Iran. It was built late in the 11th and early 12th century as a focus for the town. Changes and additions were made in subsequent periods.
Therefore, it is a landmark in the evolution of Iranian sacred architecture.
It is not as immediately attractive to the external eye as the complex of Maidan-e Imam except for the tile work of fifteenth century in the great courtyard and mihrab of 01jaitu, but the complex harmony of its components makes of it a palimpsest both meaningful in its details and aesthetically pleasing in their superimposition. Every architectural age of Iran (except the most decadent) can be observed and studies in this mosque. The western Iwan is usually the first element to attract the visitor's attention. The architecture of the apse is also different from that of the Safavid mosques: there are no pendentives or complicated stalactites to overload the vault that is made up of large alveoli of very pure design.

Vank Cathedral
This is a world-famous architectural monument of the Safavid period in New Jolfa. The belfry faces the main entrance. There is a small museum (originally built in 1930, and moved to the present day premises in 1971) where you might be able to find a guidebook on New Jolfa in English, or someone who speaks English, as most educated Armenians do. There are as many as 13 other churches in New Jolfa as well. The next two famous ones are the Holy Mother of God and the Bethlehem. Vank Cathedral's Press was founded in 1636 and was one of the first ones in the Middle East to print the Book of Psalms in 163 8. During its 3 5 0 years of operation the Cathedral's Press has printed about 500 books and thousands of pamphlets, etc.

Hasht Behesht Palace
This mid17th century Safavid palace was originally surrounded by a vast garden and hundreds of similar buildings, also named Hasht Behesht (eight paradise) of which nothing remains except this interesting and beautiful palace. The existing two story palace owes its fame, apart from its architectural and decorative merits, to the lavish use of marble slabs, stalactite vault decorations, excellent tile works dotted with scenes of animals (birds, beasts of prey, and reptiles) covering the building on the outside. Structurally, it consists of a Shah Neshin (Royal Parlor), a verandah, numerous rooms, and Iwans richly decorated with gilded frescoes.

Khwaju Bridge
The 132m. long Khwaju Bridge, some 1.5 km. downstream (cast) of Seeo Se Pol, is slightly smaller but even more attractive, with two levels of terraces overlooking the river. Built by the order of Shah Abbas 11 in 1650 A.D., it has been constructed with two purposes in mind: to be used both as a roadway and a dam (by means of sluices, the level of the river may be raised or lowered at will). The original purpose of this dam was to form an artificial lake for some distance upstream, in front of the numerous palace buildings and kiosks that stood on either side of the river. It is now used to raise the level of the river sufficiently to fill irrigation canals on either side. But its most fascinating features are the pavilions set into the 12meter width called Shah Neshin (Royal Parlors) and once decorated with faience and inscriptions.

SeeoSe Pol, (Allahverdi Khan Bridge)
This bridge, built on the Zayandeh-rud at the southern extremity of Chahar Bagh avenue has 33 spans and its construction, started in (1602 A.D. ) by order of Shah Abbas 1, was completed by Allahverdi Khan, one of the Shah's generals who had been appointed for the purpose, hence its second appellation. The bridge is 300 meters long and 14 meters wide.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
This small mosque on the eastern side of the square, is datable to the first years of the seventeenth century, and was built by Shah Abbas in honor of the great Lebanese Sheikh, who was a sort of Islamic Billy Graham of his time. The enormous dome is supported by walls 170 cm. thick, and its solidity is transmuted into lightness one would even say fragility by two features of the utmost tact and daring: a huge aperture and several high windows to trap the maximum amount of natural light, and steadily-decreasing concentric ellipses of midnight blue with delicate white arabesques vanishing to all or nothing in the center of the dome. The mihrab is decorated with mosaic tiles and stalactites, all of the highest artistic value, and the name of the architect, Mohammad Reza, is given in two tablets installed inside it. This is pure architecture, flawless and serene, and still as perfect as on the day of dedication more than three hundred years ago. No one in a receptive or contemplative mood can enter without a shock of the sense of being received into a Presence, for all its elegance, and finish it has no weakness the scale is too ample, the patterns too strong.

Kerman (central Iran)

The capital of Kerman Province, located in an altitude of 1,860 m, above sea level and 1,062 km. To the south of Tehran, Kerman is a wonderful place. Unless one travels to Kerman by air, it seems a very long way from any other center of importance, no matter whether one approaches it from the northwest, the southwest or the southeast. The town is situated close to the wastes of Dashte Lut, from which it is separated by a range of mountains. Kerman has had a long and turbulent history, and it has only for short spells enjoyed peace and prosperity at the same time. Late in the 18th century A.D. Aqa Mohammad Khan, Shah of Qajar dynasty, took a terrible vengeance on the people of Kerman because they had given help to his mortal enemy Lotfali Khan Zand. The town has a Zoroastrian minority, altogether much smaller than that in Yazd. The pistachio is grown principally in the Rafsanjan-Kerman area. Most of the ancient Kerman was destroyed in 1794 earthquake, and the modern Kerman radiates from two squares (Azadi and Shari'ati), and all the monuments of interest lie between these two, and include:

Ganj Ali Khan Bath and Ethnological Museum

The Ganj Ali Khan Bath (hammam) is one of the several ancient monuments and a group of utilitarian buildings in Vakil Bazaar dating from the Safavid period in the 17th century. It houses an interesting exhibition of good wax works of men in various poses and costumes set in a traditional but no longer operational bath-house. The Bath, named after a former governor of the province, is being kept as a real hammam, but its life-size wax figures bring back the memory of everyday scenes of the past. All garments and other objects exhibited belong to the same period: razors, sandals, phials for attar of roses, pipes with small bowls and long stems to be enjoyed after the bath.

Vakil Bazaar The extensive Regent's Bazaar
constructed of beautiful and preserved brick, much of it from the Safavid period, is largely of interest for its architecture rather than for the range of goods, although there are a few metalwork shops selling brass and copper trays and the like noisily hammered into shape on site.

Located in an altitude of 1,600 in. above sea level, Kashan is one of the main cities of Isfahan Province and a beautiful large oasis town on the Qom? Kerman road running along the western edge of the Great Desert, Kevir. It is 240 kin. to the south of Tehran and 220 kin. to the north of Isfahan, and can be reached via a first class highway, national road, or railway from Tehran and Isfahan. The town's population amounts to 400, 000, living on an area of 2, 100 hectares. In addition to its world famous carpets, Kashan is also well known for its silk and the glazed earthenware tile called kashi after its place of manufacture. It has long been noted for its silk textiles, ceramics, copper ware, and rose water (golab) from the well? known rose fields of Qamsar, as well.

One of the most important archaeological sites in central Iran, it has a historical background of over 7,000 years. Majority of historians and travelers to the town have called it a gate to the world civilization. Kashan flourished mainly during the Se1juq and Safavid periods of the post Islamic history of Iran. Samples of art works created by Kashani artisans can be seen in the famous museums of the world.
The town has many picturesque bad girs (wind-towers), essential in the town's hot and airless summers before the introduction of air conditioning. Modern industry plays a part in Kashan, in parallel with the ongoing social development. In bazaar, however, carpet weaving, embroidery work, the making of rose water, scent, pottery, and other crafts are carried on, in much the same and with the same skill as of old.

Fin Historic Gardens
Also known as the Bagh-e Tarikhi-e Fin or Bagh-e Amir Kabir at Fin 6 km. To the southwest, it serves as the finest surviving example (since 1.000 years) in Iran, and creates the contrast between the Kevir region and the greenery of the well-tended oasis below the adjoining Karkas mountain. A major part of Kashan's water was supplied by the perennial source of Solaimaniyeh spring in the garden. Designed for Shah Abbas 1, this classical Persian vision of paradise contains the remains of his two-story palace set around a pool. The garden has other Safavid royal buildings, although they were substantially rebuilt, and others were addend in the Qajar period. The building housing Kashan Museum was built in 1968.

Baghe Fin, Kaslun. a 19'h century royal garden
Fin was the scene of a tragedy in 1852, when Mirza Taqi Khan known as Amir Kabir, the Grand Vizier of Naser?od Din Shah, was murdered there. He is considered a national hero and vanguard of modem Iran.

Madrasah Soltani
Known as the Imam Khomeini School, this 19th century mosque is located next to the Jewelers' Bazaar. It attracts tourists because of its excellent plan and design, vast spaces, double-shell 27?m. high brick dome, and pleasant landscape. Altogether, there are 8 historic inscriptions inside the building. It is open to visitors every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Masjid-e Jame', Maidan Mosque, and Soltan Amir Ahmad Shrine, are worth to be visited before going to the nearby towns of Natanz and Qamsar and Abyaneh village.

Boroujerdiha Old House
The present premises of Kashan Cultural Heritage Department, the Boroujerdiha Old House was built nearly 130 years ago by a famous merchant and landowner named HajKASHAN
Seyyed Ja'far Borouierdi from Natanz, who imported goods from Boroujerd in Lorestan Province. Its completion required 18 years of work by tens of laborers, master painters, and architects. Reception, ceremonial, and residential halls and rooms are arranged on the four sides of the courtyard. Provision of well-proportioned spaces, nicely-designed bad-girs (wind?towers) to fit the building, particularly paintings by the famous Iranian painter Kamal-ol Molk Ghaffari, have served to convert it to an art masterpiece in itself
There are many other old houses in Kashan, such as the Abbassian and Tabatabaei.

Aqa Bozorg Theological School
Aqa Bozorg Mosque and Madrasah Complex in Fazel-e Naraqi street, from the second half of the last century (Qajar period), when the country's architects produced a number of unforgettable masterpieces. The Complex was constructed for congregational prayers as well as preaching and teaching sessions held by Mulla Mahdi Naraqhi 11, known as Aqa Bozorg. The vast sanctuary of the mosque is in two floors. The first floor,, houses 12 cells on three sides, and the mosque appears at the top floor. The building's past has been documented in 7 historic inscriptions.

The Mausoleum of Shahzadeh Ibrahim
The mausoleum of Shahzadeh Ibrahim, built in (1894 A.D.), belongs to the Qajar period. This structure is highly interesting and attractive for possessing a turquoise tile cupola, lofty minarets, a pleasant courtyard and an iwan decorated with mirror?works and paintings. The portico and the ceiling of the iwan depict ample paintings of a religious nature on a plaster background. The interior of the mausoleum possesses elaborate miffor?works and its frieze is decorated with colored glazed bricks.

Mashhad Center of Shiite pilgrimage, capital of Khorasan Province and also for a time of the whole of Iran, Mashhad is situated in an altitude of 970.

in the Kashaf-rud valley , a tributary of Harlrud , between the Binalud and Hezar Masjid mountains in a rich agricultural region. For centuries, it has been an important trade center and junction point on caravan routes and highways from India to Iran and from north to south between Turkistan towns and Sea of Oman. Although much of Khorasan is mountainous , there are many fertile valleys , and the province produces large quantities of fruit , nuts , sugar beet and cotton. Mashhad is connected to Tehran by two roads (875 km. , southern and 925 kin. northern) , railway and air. It occupies a position in the northeast of the country very similar to that of Tabriz in the northwest. Both cities, besides being relatively close to the frontiers , stand on what have often proved to be invasion routes. In consequence, Mashhad (with 1 ,820 ,631 inhabitants) , like Tabriz , has frequently been attacked and sometimes captured by hostile forces. Actually, the whole province of Khorasan has been the funnel

Through which armies have passed from time immemorial.

Once on the ground, the traveler is fascinated by the golden cupolas and minarets. It is interesting to know that the word Mashhad or more correctly Mashhad-e Moqaddas (the Holy Mashhad) literally means place of martyrdom (or place of burial of a martyr). However, the Shrine of Imam Reza and the surrounding buildings do together comprise one of the marvels of the Islamic world. Under certain constraints it is perfectly possible even for the non-Muslim to visit it; going to Iran and not doing so is a little like going to Italy and missing Vatican. The shrine itself is strictly closed to non-Muslims (save under exceptional circumstances with the special permission of the religious authorities , applied for through the Tourist Office) , but it is not generally a problem to visit the rest of the complex , so long as you don't try to enter any of the buildings. You will have to dress extremely conservatively and behave yourself impeccably, and you should avoid visiting during large religious gatherings or in the main pilgrimage season (late June to mid July).

Shrine of Imam Reza

Imam Reza , heir to the Abbasid Caliphate as well as eighth of the Shiite Imams , died in what was then the village of Sanabad in 817 A.D. after eating some grapes. The story spread that he had been poisoned on the orders of the Caliph Ma'mun after having in some way arousing his enmity. Whatever the truth , Ma'mun buried him in a tower in Sanabad next to the tomb of his own father , the famous Harun-al Al Rashid , and in time this burial place began to attract Shiite pilgrims Nader Shah is an enigmatic figure in Iranian history. Although he restored national independence and effectively protected Iran's territorial integrity at a dark moment of the country's history, his obsessive suspicions and jealousies plunged Iran into political turmoil, and after his assassination in 1747 the Afshar dynasty he established proved short-lived. A Sunni by upbringing , he was nevertheless a great benefactor of the Shrine of the Imam Reza in Mashhad , which he made his capital

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