Cities of Iran: (Shahr-e) Ray

Shahr-e Ray, the 5000-year-old city, is a residential area in the south Tehran. It is richer than many other ancient cities in the number of its historical monuments, among which one might refer to the 3000-year-old Gebri castle, the 5000-year-old Cheshmeh Ali hill, the 1000-year-old Bibi Shahr Banoo tomb and Shah Abbasi caravansary.

Ray is a great museum, which is covered with ancient monuments and sites, so that visiting Ray means stepping into the history. Its name dates back to the pre-Median era an used to be called “Rhagae“. Some historians attribute its building to ancient mythological monarchs, and some others believe that Ray was the seat of a dynasty of Zoroastrian leader.

In the past 4000 years Ray has gone through many ups and downs, floods and earthquakes. Ray proudly sourvived massive and destructive Arab and Mongolian invasions and plunderings, which left serious scars on its body.

Ray was erected in glory much earlier than the modern city of Tehran, which was later constructed on its north. Tehran, whose definite date of construction is unknown, has just overshadowed Ray due to the extension of modernism and today’s signs of civilization. in the course of history books and publications were pointing to Ray, but in the contemporary era the lack of references and information on this ancient historical and religious city is quite evident.

Cheshmeh Ali Hill
It is a hill with a spring. Once the ancient cavemen stopped living in caves, they settled at the banks of the hill. In 1933-6 Cheshmeh Ali hill was excavated by archaeologists from the Boston Fine Arts Museum and the Philadelphia University Cultural Foundation headed by Dr. Smith, which resulted in the discovery of 7,000-year-old artifacts. Some of the discovered objects are displayed at museums in Iran and abroad.

Cheshmeh Ali Hill

The hill, which is now entirely leveled out, was resided by Aryans about 6,000 years ago. Since Ray was used as a recreation center due to its beautiful attractions under the reign of the Qajar dynasty, Fath-Ali Shah often used to explore the city. In 1831 his portrait and that of some Qajar princes were engraved on a rock at Cheshmeh Ali hill and its surrounding was decorated with tablets covered by poetry.

Toghrol Tower
The architectural structure was constructed under the reign of Saljuks at the order of Toghrol in 1140, once he transferred the capital city from Neyshabour to Ray. The tower is 20 meters high and the surface of its exterior is divided into 24 sections, which besides manifesting beauty and durability, symbolizes the figures of constellation as well as a 24-hour time length (a day and a night).

Shah Abbasi Caravansary
It is one of the ancient residential and commercial complexes, which was used as a lodging by traders and located on the shrine Street, close to the Bazaar. It is comprised of four verandas and is surrounded by stones all around, which used to serve as a market place where goods and commercial products were presented and sold by traders.

Ray Bazaar
It is located to the north of Abdol-Azim’s shrine, which is comprised of two sections and a crossroad is formed at their intersection. Since old days, it has been a center for the sale of spices, traditional herbs and commercial goods which were imported by traders via the Silk Road. The structure of the bazaar is constructed from plaster, brick, raw mud brick and mud. It dates back to the Safavid era and is approximately 500 years old.

Anyanaj Tower
An octagonal tower known as Naqareh Khaneh stands on the slopes of Tabarak mountain. A cellar is linked to the tower from underneath though a vestibule erected outside. The tower, which is constructed by stone and plaster and decorated by brickwork and zigzag vaults, dates back to the Saljuk era.

Abdol Azim’s shrine

Gebri Crypt
The area has been resided by Zoroastrians, who used to leave the corpses of the dead in the open air. According to their traditions, once their flashes were decayed, the remaining bones were eventually buried. The ancient Zoroastrians disapproved of contaminating the body with water, earth and fire. Gebri crypt was built as a high circular structure, six meters high, which was constructed by stone and mortar. It dates back to the 1st millennium BCE, around 3,000 years ago and was earlier called by different names, such as Khamoushan tower, Ostvaran, Ostkhan-ran, Marg (Death) tower and Sokout (Silence) tower.

Bibi Shahr Banoo Tomb
The tomb, which is measuring 1.5 km, is located to the north of Amin-abad on the mountain rocks. It is attributed to the daughter of Yazd Gerd III, the last Sassanid monarch, and Imam Hussein’s (third Shia Imam) wife and the mother of the 4th Imam. It is comprised of two courtyards, the entrance veranda, a praying niche and a waterwell. It is bordered by a mountain to the north, a valley to the east and south and an asphalt road to the west. Its structure, which is constructed by stone and plaster, dates back to the Al-e Bouyeh era, around 1,100 years ago.

Paintings of Monarchs on Ashkan Mountain
At the order of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, a slide was erected on the Ashkan mountain as a sliding and recreation tool for the monarchic family. At the southern slopes of the mountain, a rough image of the Sassanid kings has been carved on a rock, which was leveled to this purpose. The image is left incomplete. Later at the order of Fath-Ali Shah the image was erased to be replaced by his won portrait, while he had a crown on head and a spear in hand targeted at a lion.

Mausoleum of Hazrat Abdol-Azim al-Hassani
Abdol-Azim a grandson of Imam Hassan (second Shia Imam), is believed to be a scientists and narrators, who has left behind a number of books. The most ancient structure of the mausoleum is its brick facade, which is marked by its brickwork decoration and marginal Kufi scripts, dating back to the Saljuk era, around 800 years ago. The mausoleum of Hazrat Abdol-Azim and its adjacent shrines (Imam-zadeh Taher and Imam-zadeh Hamzeh) is visited daily by enthusiastic pilgrims who arrive in Ray.

Beside the historical monuments in Shahr-e Ray, there are more than 25 tombs of religious leaders and prominent individuals such as Ali Akbar Dehkhoda, Jalal Al Ahmad, Gholam Reza Takhti, Qa’ani, Mirzadeh Eshqi, Sattar Khan, Ayatollah Kashani, Allameh Qazvini, Qa’em Maqam Farahani and Sheikh Saddouq, who are among the Iranian scientific, cultural,religious, national and political personalities, whom are mostly buried at Ibn-e Babveyh graveyard.

The number of ancient historical monuments at Ray far exceed that of other cities and most of those buildings belong to the pre-Islamic era. But unfortunately, they are on the brink of extinction due to lack of attention, found and proper restoration plans.

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