History of Iran: Qajar Dynasty

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The Qajars were a Turkmen tribe that held ancestral lands in present-day Azerbaijan, which then was part of Iran. In 1779, following the death of Mohammad Karim Khan Zand, the Zand Dynasty ruler of southern Iran, Agha Mohammad Khan, a leader of the Qajar tribe, set out to reunify Iran. Agha Mohammad Khan defeated numerous rivals and brought all of Iran under his rule, establishing the Qajar dynasty. By 1794 he had eliminated all his rivals, including Lotf ‘Ali Khan, the last of the Zand dynasty, and had reasserted Iranian sovereignty over the former Iranian territories in Georgia and the Caucasus. Agha Mohammad established his capital at Tehran, a village near the ruins of the ancient city of Ray (now Shahr-e Rey). In 1796 he was formally crowned as shah. Agha Mohammad was assassinated in 1797 and was succeeded by his nephew, Fath Ali Shah.

Fath Ali Shah, 1797 – 1834
Under Fath Ali Shah, Iran went to war against Russia, which was expanding from the north into the Caucasus Mountains, an area of historic Iranian interest and influence. Iran suffered major military defeats during the war. Under the terms of the Treaty of Golestan in 1813, Iran recognized Russia’s annexation of Georgia and ceded to Russia most of the north Caucasus region. A second war with Russia in the 1820s ended even more disastrously for Iran, which in 1828 was forced to sign the Treaty of Turkmanchai acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the entire area north of the Aras River (territory comprising present-day Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan).

Fath Ali’s reign saw increased diplomatic contacts with the West and the beginning of intense European diplomatic rivalries over Iran. His grandson Mohammad Shah, who fell under the influence of Russia and made two unsuccessful attempts to capture Herat, succeeded him in 1834. When Mohammad Shah died in 1848 the succession passed to his son Naser-e-Din, who proved to be the ablest and most successful of the Qajar sovereigns.

Naser o-Din Shah

Naser o-Din Shah, 1848 – 1896
During Naser o-Din Shah’s reign Western science, technology, and educational methods were introduced into Iran and the country’s modernization was begun. Naser o-Din Shah tried to exploit the mutual distrust between Great Britain and Russia to preserve Iran’s independence, but foreign interference and territorial encroachment increased under his rule. He contracted huge foreign loans to finance expensive personal trips to Europe. He was not able to prevent Britain and Russia from encroaching into regions of traditional Iranian influence. In 1856 Britain prevented Iran from reasserting control over Herat, which had been part of Iran in Safavid times but had been under non-Iranian rule since the mid-18th century. Britain supported the city’s incorporation into Afghanistan; a country Britain helped create in order to extend eastward the buffer between its Indian territories and Russia’s expanding empire. Britain also extended its control to other areas of the Persian Gulf during the 19th century. Meanwhile, by 1881 Russia had completed its conquest of present-day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, bringing Russia’s frontier to Iran’s northeastern borders and severing historic Iranian ties to the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand. Several trade concessions by the Iranian government put economic affairs largely under British control. By the late 19th century, many Iranians believed that their rulers were beholden to foreign interests.

Mirza Taghi Khan Amir Kabir, was the young prince Nasser o-Din’s advisor and constable. With the death of Mohammad Shah in 1848, Mirza Taqi was largely responsible for ensuring the crown prince’s succession to the throne. When Nasser o-Din succeeded to the throne, Amir Nezam was awarded the position of prime minister and the title of Amir Kabir, the Great Ruler.

Iran was virtually bankrupt, its central government was weak, and its provinces were almost autonomous. During the next two and a half years Amir Kabir initiated important reforms in virtually all sectors of society. Government expenditure was slashed, and a distinction was made between the privy and public purses. The instruments of central administration were overhauled, and the Amir Kabir assumed responsibility for all areas of the bureaucracy. Foreign interference in Iran’s domestic affairs was curtailed, and foreign trade was encouraged. Public works such as the bazaar in Tehran were undertaken. Amir Kabir issued an edict banning ornate and excessively formal writing in government documents; the beginning of a modern Persian prose style dates from this time.

One of the greatest achievments of Amir Kabir was the building of Dar-ol-Fonoon, the first modern university in Iran. Dar-ol-Fonoon was established for training a new cadre of administrators and acquainting them with Western techniques. Amir Kabir ordered the school to be built on the edge of the city so it can be expanded as needed. He hired French and Russian instructors as well as Iranians to teach subjects as different as Language, Medicine, Law, Georgraphy, History, Economics, and Engeneering. Unfortunatelly, Amir Kabir did not live long enough to see his greatest monument completed, but it still stands in Tehran as a sign of a great man’s ideas for the future of his country.

These reforms antagonized various notables who had been excluded from the government. They regarded the Amir Kabir as a social upstart and a threat to their interests, and they formed a coalition against him, in which the queen mother was active. She convinced the young shah that Amir Kabir wanted to usurp the throne. In October 1851 the shah dismissed him and exiled him to Kashan, where he was murdered on the shah’s orders.

Mozaffar o-Din Shah

The Constitutional Revolution
When Naser o-Din Shah was assassinated by Mirza Reza Kermani in 1896, the crown passed to his son Mozaffar o-Din. Mozaffar o-Din Shah was a weak and ineffectual ruler. Royal extravagance and the absence of incoming revenues exacerbated financial problems. The shah quickly spent two large loans from Russia, partly on trips to Europe. Public anger fed on the shah’s propensity for granting concessions to Europeans in return for generous payments to him and his officials. People began to demand a curb on royal authority and the establishment of the rule of law as their concern over foreign, and especially Russian, influence grew.

The shah’s failure to respond to protests by the religious establishment, the merchants, and other classes led the merchants and clerical leaders in January 1906 to take sanctuary from probable arrest in mosques in Tehran and outside the capital. When the shah reneged on a promise to permit the establishment of a “house of justice”, or consultative assembly, 10,000 people, led by the merchants, took sanctuary in June in the compound of the British legation in Tehran. In August the shah was forced to issue a decree promising a constitution. In October an elected assembly convened and drew up a constitution that provided for strict limitations on royal power, an elected parliament, or Majles, with wide powers to represent the people, and a government with a cabinet subject to confirmation by the Majles. The shah signed the constitution on December 30, 1906. He died five days later. The Supplementary Fundamental Laws approved in 1907 provided, within limits, for freedom of press, speech, and association, and for security of life and property. The Constitutional Revolution marked the end of the medieval period in Iran. The hopes for constitutional rule were not realized, however.

Mozaffar o-Din’s son Mohammad Ali Shah (reigned 1907-09), with the aid of Russia, attempted to rescind the constitution and abolish parliamentary government. After several disputes with the members of the Majlis, in June 1908 he used his Russian-officered Persian Cossacks Brigade to bomb the Majlis building, arrest many of the deputies, and close down the assembly. Resistance to the shah, however, coalesced in Tabriz, Esfahan, Rasht, and elsewhere. In July 1909, constitutional forces marched from Rasht and Esfahan to Tehran, deposed the shah, and re-established the constitution. The ex-shah went into exile in Russia.

Ahmad Shah

Although the constitutional forces had triumphed, they faced serious difficulties. The upheavals of the Constitutional Revolution and civil war had undermined stability and trade. In addition, the ex-shah, with Russian support, attempted to regain his throne, landing troops in July 1910. Most serious of all, the hope that the Constitutional Revolution would inaugurate a new era of independence from the great powers ended when, under the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907, Britain and Russia agreed to divide Iran into spheres of influence. The Russians were to enjoy exclusive right to pursue their interests in the northern sphere, the British in the south and east; both powers would be free to compete for economic and political advantage in a neutral sphere in the center. Matters came to a head when Morgan Shuster, a United States administrator hired as treasurer general by the Persian government to reform its finances, sought to collect taxes from powerful officials who were Russian protégés and to send members of the treasury gendarmerie, a tax department police force, into the Russian zone. When in December 1911 the Majles unanimously refused a Russian ultimatum demanding Shuster’s dismissal, Russian troops, already in the country, moved to occupy the capital. To prevent this, on December 20 Bakhtiari chiefs and their troops surrounded the Majles building, forced acceptance of the Russian ultimatum, and shut down the assembly, once again suspending the constitution. There followed a period of government by Bakhtiari chiefs and other powerful notables.

Ahmad Shah, was born 21 January 1898 in Tabriz, who succeeded to the throne at age 11, proved to be pleasure loving, effete, and incompetent and was unable to preserve the integrity of Iran or the fate of his dynasty. The occupation of Iran during World War I (1914-18) by Russian, British, and Ottoman troops was a blow from which Ahmad Shah never effectively recovered. With a coup d’état in February 1921, Reza Khan (ruled as Reza Shah Pahlavi, 1925-41) became the preeminent political personality in Iran; Ahmad Shah was formally deposed by the Majles (national consultative assembly) in October 1925 while he was absent in Europe, and that assembly declared the rule of the Qajar dynasty to be terminated. Ahamd Shah died later on 21 February 1930 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

Qajar Kings:
Agha Mohammad Khan
Fath’Ali Shah
Mohammad Shah
Naser o-Din Shah
Mozaffar o-Din Shah
Mohammed Ali Shah
Ahmed Shah
1794 – 1797
1797 – 1834
1834 – 1848
1848 – 1896
1896 – 1907
1907 – 1909
1909 – 1925

Province of Khuzestan

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The province of Khuzestan is 63,213 km2 (24,407 sq mi) in the south-west of Iran, bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Ahvaz is the capital of this province and its cities are Abadan, Behbahan, Dezful, Khorramshahr, Bander Imam, Shoush (Susa), Masjed Soleiman, Andimeshk, Mah Shahr, Ramhormoz, Omidiyeh, Shushtar, Izeh, Hoveizeh, Aqa Djari, Shadegan and Soosangerd.

Basically, the province of Khuzestan can be divided into two regions, the plains and mountainous regions. The agricultural lands are fertile and mainly in the west of the province, which are irrigated by the Karun, Karkheh and Jarahi rivers. These three large and permanent rivers flow over the entire territory contributing to the fertility of the land. Karun, Iran’s largest river, 850 kilometers long, flows into the Persian Gulf through this province.

The name Khuzestan, which means “The Land of the Khuzi,” refers to the original inhabitants of this province, the Khuzi people. Khuzestan is situated on the southern part of the Zagros mountain ranges, which covers the north and east of the province. The climate of Khuzestan is generally hot and humid, particularly in the south, while winters are much more pleasant and dry.

The ziggurat of Choqa Zanbil in Khuzestan was a magnificent structure of the Iranian Elamite Empire.

Khuzestan is inhabited by a number of ethnic groups and peoples. Indigenous Persians in major cities, Iranian Arab tribes, the Bakhtiari, Behbahani and Luri of the north, the Qashqai and Afshari tribes, Armenians, the peoples of Dezful, Shushtar and the inhabitants of the coastal regions of the Persian Gulf all make up the population of the province of Khuzestan.

The Persian groups of western Khuzestan all speak distinct dialects unique to their areas. Many Khuzestanis are bilingual, speaking both Persian and Arabic. It is also not uncommon to find people able to speak a variety of indigenous dialects in addition to their own.

Khuzestani folk music is colorful and festive, and each native group has their own rich traditions and legacy in this area.

The people of Khuzestan are predominantly Shi’a, with small Sunni, Jewish and Christian minorities. Khuzestanis are also very well regarded for their hospitality and generosity.

Seafood is the most important part of Khuzestani cuisine, some few to mention are “qaliye-mahi” (fish stew), “qaliye-meygu” (shrimp stew), “ashe-mohshala” (a Khorramshahri breakfast soup) and “soboor” which is prepared with heavy spices, onions and cilantro.

Shushtar, mostly lies on a rocky plateau where the Karun River makes a sharp bend. Shushtar is famous for its ancient hydraulic engineering works of
dams, canals and bridges.

The province of Khuzestan is one of the centers of ancient civilization, based around Susa. French archeologists such as Jaques De Morgan date the civilization here as far back as 8000 BCE when excavating areas such as Tal-e Ali Kosh. The first large scale empire based here was that of the powerful 4th millennium BCE Elamites, a non-Semitic kingdom independent of Mesopotamia. Archeological ruins verify the entire province of Khuzestan to be home to the Elamite civilization.

In previous ages, Iranians referred to Khuzestan as Elam; and historically historians refer to this province as ancient Elam, whose capital was in Susa. Khuzestan is the most ancient Iranian province and is often referred to in Iran as the “birthplace of the nation”, as this is the area where Aryan tribes first settled, assimilating the native Elamite population, and thus laying the foundation for the future Persian Empires of Median, Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid.

In 640 BCE, the Elamites were defeated by Ashurbanipal coming under the rule of the Assyrians who wrought destruction upon Susa and Chogha Zanbil. But in 538 BCE Cyrus the Great was able to re-conquer the Elamite lands. The city of Susa was then proclaimed as one of the Achaemenian capitals. Darius the Great then erected a grand palace known as Hadish there in 521 BCE. But this astonishing period of glory and splendor of the Achaemenian dynasty came to an end by the invasion of Alexander of Macedon. And after Alexander, the Seleucid dynasty ruled the area.

As the Seleucid dynasty weakened, Mehrdad I the Parthian (171-137 BCE), gained victory over the region. During the Sassanid dynasty this area thrived tremendously and flourished, and this dynasty was responsible for the many constructions that were erected in Ahvaz, Shushtar and Andimeshk.

The intellectual center or city of Sassanid Empire was Jondishapour (or Gundishapur), founded in 271 CE, by Shapur I, one the most powerful rulers of the Sassanid dynasty, in Khuzestan near Ahvaz and not far from the Karun River. Gundishapur was home to the world’s oldest known teaching hospital, and also comprised a library and a university. According to “The Cambridge History of Iran (vol 4, p396.)”, it was the most important medical center of the ancient world (defined as Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East) during the 6th and 7th centuries. Jondishapour medical center was the Mecca of its time, and used to attract the distinguished medical scientists from Greece, Egypt, India, and Rome, shows the importance and prosperity of this region during ancient times.

Bakhtiari people of Izeh, Khuzestan, Iran

Jondishapour (or Gundishapur) Academy offered training not only in medicine but also in philosophy, theology and science. The faculties were versed not only in the Zoroastrian and Persian traditions, but in Greek and Indian learning as well

In 639 CE, Arabs Muslims, under the command of Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari from Basra, invaded Khuzestan and drove the Persian Hormozan out of Ahvaz. Susa fell in two days, so Hormozan fled to Shushtar where his forces were besieged by Arab invaders for 18 months. Shushtar finally fell in 642 CE, they, Arab invaders purged the entire Nestorian population of the city along with the Bishop of Hormizd. There after followed the conquests of Jondishapour and of many other districts of Kuzestan. The battle of Nehavand finally secured Khuzestan for the Muslim invaders.

The Arab settlements, by military garrisons in southern Iran, were soon followed by other types of colonization. Some Arab families, for example, took the opportunity to gain control of private estates. Like the rest of Iran, the Arab invasion thus brought Khuzestan under occupation of the Arabs Muslims of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, until Ya’qub bin Laith as-Saffar, from Sistan on the eastern part of Iran, raised the flag of independence once more, and ultimately regained control over Khuzestan, among other parts of Iran, founding the short-lived Saffarid dynasty. From that point on, Iranian dynasties would continue to rule the region in succession as an important part of Iran.

In 1440 CE an Arab extremist Shi’a sect, Mshashaiya, initiated a wave of attacks on Khuzestan, leading to a gradual increase in the Arab population of Khuzestan. From the middle of the 15th century to the 19th century, they came to dominate much of western Khuzestan and were in continual conflict with the Safavid rulers during the reign of that dynasty, as well as with Iranian Arab tribes. In the latter part of the 16th century, the Bani Kaab, from Kuwait, settled in Khuzestan. And during the succeeding centuries, many more Arab tribes moved from southern Iraq to Khuzestan, and as a result, Khuzestan became “extensively Arabized” (Encyclopedia Iranica, p216).

City of Abadan, lies on the bank of Arvand Roud (or Shat-ol Arab).
Abadan during Iran-Iraq war was heavily damaged; and its oil refinery was totally ruined.

In the mid 1800s Britain initiated a war with Iran in a failed attempt to conquer Khuzestan. Having lost, the British continued in their attempts to wrest control of the province by supporting a number of foreign Arab tribes that had invaded Iran. Sheikh Khaz’al, of Kuwaiti origin, was the ruler of the last remnants of these tribes, who was the first person to launch secessionist unrests in Khuzestan.

Sheikh Khaz’al rose to power in 1897 and had originally been supported by the British colonialists. He was finally defeated and arrested in 1925 by Reza Shah of Pahlavi and the area of Khuzestan he had dominated returned to the province. Reza Shah Pahlavi, however, restored the original name of the province from Arabistan to Khuzestan.

Domination of Khuzestan was also Saddam Hussein’s primary strategic objective that launched the Iran-Iraq war. Being on the border with Iraq, Khuzestan suffered the heaviest damage of all Iranian provinces during the 8 years of imposed war, which forced thousands of Iranians to flee the province.

What used to be Iran’s largest refinery at Abadan was totally destroyed by Iraqi shells. Many of the famous Nakhlestans (Date palm tree grove) were annihilated, cities were destroyed, historical sites were demolished, and half the province went under the boots of Saddam’s invading army.

However, by 1982, Iranian forces managed to push Saddam’s forces back into Iraq. The battle of “the Liberation of Khorramshahr” (one of Khuzestan’s largest cities and the most important Iranian port prior to the war) was a turning point in the war and of course one the most heroic battles ever taken place in defending the country, and is officially celebrated every year in Iran. The city of Khorramshahr was completely decimated as a result of Saddam’s barbaric invasion.

The Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980 in London was a terrorist siege and initiated by Arab separatists, backed by Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. Arab separatists supported Saddam’s invading army and attacking the both Persian and Iranian-Arab townships, soldiers and civilians. During eight years of war the majority of the Khuzestani Arab population was loyal to Iran and fought alongside fellow countrymen against Saddam. This was one of biggest miscalculations of Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, as they expected that all Khuzestani Arabs will welcome and support the invading Iraqi army. But at later months of war when they didn’t receive support as it was expected, they went on rampage and started to rape, torture and kill the Iranian-Arab children, women and men; and burn their villages and towns to ashes. Those Iranian-Arabs did one thing to suffer like that in the hands of Iraqi army and their separatist supporters, and that was “not supporting the separatist movement”. After the withdrawal of Iraqi forces towards the end of the war, the remainder of these Arab separatists fled to Iraq, though Saddam continued to entertain the notion of a potential future invasion of Khuzestan for many years afterwards.

The massive Karun-3 dam, was in 2004 inaugurated as part of a drive to boost Iran’s growing energy demands.

In the last century, except during the Iran-Iraq war, the province of Khuzestan thrived and prospered and today counts for one of the regions in Iran that holds an economic and defensive strategic position.

Khuzestan is the major oil-producing region of Iran, and as such is the wealthiest province in Iran. Karun River is the only river in Iran capable of sailing. The British, up until recent decades, after the oil discovery in Khuzestan by Sir Henry Layard, transported their merchandise via Karun’s waterways, passing through Ahvaz all the way up to Masjed Soleiman to the site of their first oil wells in the Naftoon oil field. Karun is capable of the sailing of fairly large ships as far up as Shushtar.

Karkheh, Jarrahi, Arvand, Handian, Shavoor, Bahmanshir (Bahman-Ardeshir), Maroon-Alaa’, Dez, and many other rivers and water sources in the form of Khurs, lagoons, ponds, and marshes demonstrate the vastness of water resources in this region, and are the main reason for the variety of agricultural products such as wheat, barley, oily seeds, rice, eucalyptus, medical herbs; the existence of many palm and citrus farms. The abundance of water supplies, rivers, and dams, also has an influence on the fishery industries

The Karun 3 / 4 and Karkheh Dam, as well as the petroleum reserves provide Iran with national sources of revenue and energy. The petrochemical and steel industries, pipe making, and the power stations that feed the national electricity demand, the chemical plants, and the large refineries are some of Iran’s major industrial facilities. Khuzestan is also home to Yadavaran Field, a major oil field.

History of Iran: Ctesiphon (Parthian: Tyspwn)

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Ctesiphon (Parthian: Tyspwn), ancient city on the Tigris, founded by the Parthians. The city was the capital of the Parthian and the Sassanid empires.

Ctesiphon was built on the site of an older town, Opis, not far from the confluence of Tigris and Diyala. This city was situated on the so-called Royal Road, which connected Elam’s capital Susa with the Assyrian heartland and -later- the Lydian capital Sardes.

At the end of the fourth century, king Seleucus, the successor of Alexander the Great and founder of the Seleucids empire, built Seleucia on the opposite bank of Opis. From now on, Opis was a mere suburb. The Roman historian Tacitus informs us that in the first century, Greek and native inhabitants were still recognizable and had institutions of their own. The Parthians, who took over the country in the second century BCE, had hardly any cultural influence.

Tagh-e Kasra in ancient city of Ctesiphon

However, the Parthians needed a western capital, and therefore, they moved the goverment center from Seleucia to the eastern bank, and renamed ancient Opis Tyspwn or Ctesiphon. The city served as winter residence of the kings after 129 BCE. It is not clear when Ctesiphon became the most important city in the Parthian empire, but what is reasonably clear is that the spoils of a large campaign against the Roman empire in 41 BCE were invested in the new capital, which became one of the greatest cities in the ancient world.

The city became even more important after a rebellion of Seleucia against king Vardanes, which ended in 43 CE. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus calls Vardanes the founder of Ctesiphon, which suggests that he did something to improve the status of this city. A generation later, king Pacorus is said to have increased its inhabitants and built its walls. Ctesiphon measured 30 square kilometers (cf. the 13,7 square kilometers of imperial Rome).

In the second century CE, the large city became the natural target for Roman aggression, because the Romans thought that the capture of the Parthian capital would inevitably result in the fall of the eastern empire. In 116, 165, and 198, the emperors Trajan, Lucius Verus, and Septimius Severus took Seleucia and Ctesiphon. But the Parthian state was organized in a very loose fashion, which gave it a certain resilience.

However, in the long run, the capture by Septimius Severus had a disastrous result. According to a modern estimate, the Romans took away so much gold and silver that they were able to postpone a European economic crisis for three or four decades, and we can imagine the consequences for the Parthians. Their empire was seriously weakened and in 224 CE, the Persian vassal king Ardašir revolted. Two years later, he took Ctesiphon, and this time, it meant the end of Parthia. It also marked the beginning of the second Persian empire, ruled by the Sassanid kings.

Although Ctesiphon was the capital of the Sassanid empire, Seleucia was not forgotten; it was renamed Veh-Ardašir (“the good city of Ardašir”). The cities remained a military target. In 238, he Roman emperor Gordian III wanted to capture Ctesiphon in order to prevent the new Sassanid empire from becoming too powerful, but was murdered before he reached his goal. Odenaethus of Palmyra was more successful in 262 CE, and so was the emperor Carus, who took the city in 283 CE. But when Julian wanted to do the same thing, he was defeated and killed in action (363 CE).

In the fifth century, Ctesiphon became a very important center of Nestorianism, a Christian church that accepts a larger distance between the two natures of Christ than the churches of the West. Missionaries from Ctesiphon christianized many people along the Silk road, e.g., at Rhagae and Maracanda, and in Margiana and Aria. In 635 CE, the first Christians reached China.

In 540 CE, the Sassanid king Khusrau I conquered the capital of Roman Syria, Antioch. The inhabitants were deported and settled in a new city near Ctesiphon and Veh-Ardašir, which was called Khusrau’s Antioch. There were perhaps four comparable settlements. As a consequence, the Arabs started to call the place Al-Madain, “the cities”.

In 637 CE, the Muslims took and looted Ctesiphon and the other cities. This was the beginning of their conquest of Mesopotamia. In 762 CE, they built a new government center, 35 kilometers upstream: Baghdad.

Geography of Iran: Bishapour

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The ruins of the historical city of Bishapour are found on the slope of Koohmareh heights, 23 Kilometers west of the city of Kazeroon. Bishapour was built on the side of the ancient Imperial Road which was once one of the country’s most strategic roads.

During the Achaemenian period, the Imperial Road connected Takht-e-Jamshid and Estakhr to the ancient city of Shush. During the Sassanid period this road connected Firoozabad and Bishapour cities to Tisfoon, which was the then capital of the Sassanid dynasty.

In addition to enjoying military and strategic significance, this road was also an important trade route. The city was later called Antiuk Shapour, meaning more beautiful than Antakieh, in Asia Minor, and this was due to its location in the beautiful Shapour plain, in the green and narcissus- filled Karen plain with the Cheshmeh Sasan River crossing it. In addition to all these natural features, the city’s architecture borrowed designs and motifs from other civilizations of that era. Bishapour easily competed with the most beautiful and richest cities of the then civilized world like Antakieh (Antioch), the bride of all cities in Byzantium.

The people came to tour Bishapour from different corners of the country. The city planning and architectural patterns in Bishapour, which were some of the most wonderful architectural phenomena of the time, remained unknown till the present time. There is no evidence to point our to any fundamental changes in city planning during the Partian period prior to the construction of Bishapour. The Darab Gard and Ardeshir Khoreh had been built on the basis of the Parthians traditional architecture. However, a prevalent cultural movement in then Bishapour concentrated on the revival and maintenance of the National Persian traditions which had deep roots in that land.

Archaeological documents and scientific research, plus the works discovered in this city, all speak of the same reality and we can observe how the city planning changed on the basis of political initiatives, new governments were established, the economy flourished and a firm social order emerged, since during those days the city was the center of the ruling party where state directives and decrees were issued.

Such cities were by no means mere residential areas. The design of the city is not circular. Streets and roads cross each other in the center. These streets and parks and other recreational centers, lush areas, and special complexes produced a beautiful checkered design which contributed to the residents tranquility.

The state buildings were constructed in the center of the old castle, north of the city, which was the best choice for this purpose. Each building in this complex had its own specifications and peculiarities. Here unlike the Partian era, the facade did not manifest the glory of the building and instead large halls with vaults and a variety of colorful and ornamented designs plus brick tiles on the floor, which were unprecedented up to that date, had been adopted from the capital of Byzantium in the Antakieh style of architecture. Application of stucco and colorful paintings inside the vaults and under the ceilings all spoke of a new design in Bishapour.

Due to incomplete excavation, there is no completed knowledge about the city structure, however studies of the monuments discovered so far like the city castle tower and rampart, reception halls, porches carpeted with brick tiles in the eastern and western sides of the hall, as well as the buildings, in the unique Anahita temple, all indicate that at the beginning, the Sassanid culture and civilization had been affected by its past and pursued the art work of the Achaemenian period. Though the Sassanids failed to reach and enjoy high levels of technical expertise in city planning, in stonework however, especially in producing embossed three-dimensional shapes, they could well compete against their predecessor, Achaemenids, and adopted their style.

Stonework
Examples of sophisticated stonework can be seen in Tang-e-Chogan located in the northern section of the city. Utilizing decorative designs art and motifs of other civilizations, like those of eastern Rome, a combined Iranian style was produced which was influenced by the older Iranian style and that of the West. And in this manner, the artists of the time initiated new styles and this was a revival of traditional Iranian architecture and a new page in the history of Iranian city planning and architecture.

Dabir was the designer and architect of Espai city whose name was mentioned in the Persian manuscript of the city during the Partian and the Sassanid periods. The gigantic reception hall of Shapour Palace which was built in the southeastern section of Anahita temple, and occupies about 781 square meters, is one of the earliest and biggest dome-shaped architectural works during the Sassanid period.

Bishapour’s reception hall is composed of four parallel and connected porches under a 25 meter high dome.

Buildings
The building itself is built in the shape of a cross with total of 64 decorative niches. Two porches carpeted with tiles are connected to the reception hall whose discovery is proof of the technical skills applied there with a combination of the motifs borrowed from Western architectural styles. There are very beautiful paintings and stucco works in the palace which reflect the talent and taste of the builders. In the great Anahita temple, the goddess of water is another wonder that has been discovered in Bishapour. This great cellar- like building is cube-shaped and has 14-meter-long double-layer stone walls.

No mortar has applied in these walls. The width of these double layer walls is about 235 centimeters. On the building’s northern side can be seen four stone cow sculptures of the Achaemenian era. These sculptures have been installed two by two, facing each other. A couple of these sculptures still exist on the northern side of the palace as exclusive symbols of the temple.

On the sides of the southern hall there are two doorways, one overlooks the western hall and the other overlooks the eastern hall, exclusively built for people to observe the flow of water. To construct such a great hall for worship, an area with dimensions measuring 27x23x7 cubic meters was dug in the depth of the ground, designed in a manner to let a branch of Shapour River, 250 meters away from the temple, flow into it.

Water distribution
The water distributing canals had been precisely designed and built to facilitate the flow of equal amounts of water in each of the waterways. The great Bishapour temple, which was unearthed following scientific studies and archaeological excavations, is the symbol of a place designed to worship and admire water. It is the most clear manifestation of the belief during Shapour the Babakan, where the flow of water is mixed with a sense of respect. This has been a place for the admiration of water, one of the four basic elements attributed to Nahid, the goddess and guardian of water.

Cities of Iran: Bushehr

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Bushehr, city in southwestern Iran, located on the Persian Gulf in a vast plain running along the coastal region, the capital of Bushehr Province. Bushehr is a major fishing and commercial port (so called Bandar-e Bushehr). It is one of the chief ports of Iran and is at a distance of 1,218 km. from Tehran, and has a hot, humid climate.

The strategic location of city of Bushehr has been the main reason for the establishment of the port of Bushehr. During the 1st and 2nd Millennium BCE, the Peninsula of Bushehr was a thriving and flourishing seat of civilization called “Rey Shahr”. Many relics have been found in this regard related to the Elamite era and the civilization of Shoush (Susa). These structures of “Rey Shahr” are said to be related to Ardeshir of Sassanid dynasty and “Rey Shahr” was formerly known by the name of Ram Ardeshir. Thereby through the passage of time came to be called Rey Shahr and thence Bushehr.

It is obvious that the Persian Gulf and consequently the province of Bushehr enjoys a remarkable situation with trade in addition to its remarkable situation regarding military affairs. For these reasons the Europeans were interested to take control of the region and the city of Bushehr. The Portugese, invaded the city of Bushehr in 1506 CE and attempted to take the place of the Egyptian and the Vinecian traders who were dominant in the region.

Old Port of Bushehr

In 1734 Nader Shah of Afsharid dynasty chose it as the site for an Iranian naval base. During the Zand era, the region was a place for political challenges between different political groups. When the Qajar dynasty replaced the Zand dynasty, they gain less control on the region of the Persian Gulf, so the British influence in the region increased gradually.

At the end of the 18th century, the British and Dutch transferred their regional commercial offices to Bushehr, and during the 19th century the town was prominent as the home of the British political agent for the Persian Gulf. The Consulate General of British governed Bushehr for 20 years. This situation had lasted till 1913, and during the long battle between the Iranian and the British troops, the Iranians lost in 1857 and the British influence expanded to include all the Persian Gulf cost. But in 1913 the Iranians won the long battle. Consecuently Britain moved its diplomatic and commercial center across the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Peninsula at the beginning of the 20th century.

A Shrimp Seller at Fisher Market in Bushehr

The city was economically depressed until the 1960s when the government initiated a major development program. In 1975 the government began building a nuclear power plant at Bushehr. This facility was only partially completed when it was bombed by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). When Germany, the initial backer of the plant, declined to complete it after the war, Iran tried to secure aid from other countries. In 1995, however, Russia signed an agreement to finish the plant.

Bushehr is one of the important ports in Persian Gulf whic has an international airport, and highways connect the city to Ahvaz to the northwest and Shiraz to the northeast. A secondary coastal road links Bushehr to Bandar-e Abbas to the southwest. The old section of central Bushehr has many examples of traditional Persian Gulf architecture from the period 1870 to 1920.

Bushehr is an export market for the farm produce of the neighboring and fertile Fars Province. Bushehr’s industries include seafood canneries, food-processing plants, and engineering firms. It has a population of 205,320 (2001 estimate).

 

Cities of Iran: Zavareh

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The ancient desert township of Zavareh is reminiscent of the cultural and artistic values of the homeland of prominent men. Measuring 5,972.27 square kms, it is a township located at the northeast of Isfahan province next to the central desert area, bordering the towns of Garmsar on the north, Ardestan on the south, Anarak on the east and Mahabad on the west. The township’s capital is Zavareh and comprises of two Districts of Rigestan (Talakabad) and Sofla (Shahrab) as well as around 83 villages. The historico-religious town of Zavareh 132 kms to the northeast of Isfahan is located on the route connecting Tabas, Khour and Biyabanak, Anark, Kashan and Isfahan. It is also located along Kashan-Yazd railway. The ancient city is known for noteworthy monuments such as the first four-portico mosque constructed in the post-Islamic Iran — Zavareh grand mosque — and the second historical minaret set up in the country — the high-rise minaret of Pamenar mosque.

At the center of Zavareh, the tilework of the dome of Imamzadeh Yahya — the son of Imam Mousa ibn-e Jafar — attracts the attention of viewers visiting the town. Next to the holy shrine of this Imamzadeh, the traditional architecture is manifested in the remains of ancient relics such as bazaar, large and small covered as well as open-air Hosseiniehs (mourning centers), seminary, bath house, water storage, mosque, market place, grand mosque, Hasht-Behesht historical monument, mystic Seyed Baha’eddin Heydar’s tomb, four-terrace houses, Bonkuyeh mosque, the Minaret of historical castles, icehouse and the fortifications reminiscent of the past.

Zavareh grand mosque
Out of plenty of Zavareh’s ancient monuments, the grand mosque has a special charm. As the country’s first four-portico mosque in the post-Islamic era it attracts the attention of tourists, students and instructors of architecture. It is a worthwhile eternal heritage left behind from past ages by our ancestors. It dates back to 12th century CE coinciding with the reign of Saljuqids. It was set up on an area measuring 1,200 square meters at the order of steadfast benefactors. The building materials used in constructing the mosque include bricks, plaster, soil and wood. Its architecture has been based on the Islamic mathematical principles.

Zavareh grand mosque is located downtown between the main bazaar and the market place facing other buildings. Its exterior is covered by bricks. Two entrance doors at the eastern and western flanks of the monument opening into the mosque face each other. Next to the western gate of the mosque there is a cylindrical brick tower leading into the mosque, upon which a wooden cell is set up for Mo’azzen (one who calls people for daily prayers). Tablets covered with Kufi scripts in bas-relief are hung above the porticos with beautiful gateways sitting at the corners of the verandas in secondary directions. The entire mosque floor is covered with bricks and a half-meter high brick platform sits at the center of the mosque.

The minaret of Pamenar mosque
Zavareh’s Bonkuyeh (Pamenar) mosque is one of the exclusively valuable monuments dating back to the reign of Saljuqids. Its construction was finalized in late 11th century CE. Initially it comprised seven altars with precious stuccos. But unfortunately, the mosque was partly demolished during the renovation process in 1980 and several charming tablets and altars were replaced by a congregation hall. A number of verandas, a nocturnal praying space and a minaret are the only remnants of the mosque. The mosque’s minaret is the second ancient one across the country.

The minaret is cylindrical and more than 20 meters high. It is made of brick, soil and plaster and is located at an octagonal space, into which a small door opens. A brick pole similar to an axis is set up inside the minaret, around which staircases lead up to the minaret in a clockwise direction.

Zavareh old bazaar
The ancient bazaar in Zavareh has a special charm. In old days, it was flanked on both sides by two caravansaries, one of which is totally collapsed and the other one is replaced by a new.

The bazaar has a Roman ceiling through whose holes the rays of sun penetrate into its interior. Its floor is covered by stone. A number of cells are observed in the bazaar whose doors are locked and forgotten in silence. The bazaar unfortunately is no more in use, except few traditional workshops.

Zavareh has many monuments and places to pay a visit, like: The Green Dom, Stone Castle, Qanats (traditional water reservoirs), Hast-Behesht Complex and Sarhangabad palace.

Cities of Iran: Bushehr

http://www.iranchamber.com/cities/bushehr/bushehr.php

Bushehr, city in southwestern Iran, located on the Persian Gulf in a vast plain running along the coastal region, the capital of Bushehr Province. Bushehr is a major fishing and commercial port (so called Bandar-e Bushehr). It is one of the chief ports of Iran and is at a distance of 1,218 km. from Tehran, and has a hot, humid climate.

The strategic location of city of Bushehr has been the main reason for the establishment of the port of Bushehr. During the 1st and 2nd Millennium BCE, the Peninsula of Bushehr was a thriving and flourishing seat of civilization called “Rey Shahr”. Many relics have been found in this regard related to the Elamite era and the civilization of Shoush (Susa). These structures of “Rey Shahr” are said to be related to Ardeshir of Sassanid dynasty and “Rey Shahr” was formerly known by the name of Ram Ardeshir. Thereby through the passage of time came to be called Rey Shahr and thence Bushehr.

It is obvious that the Persian Gulf and consequently the province of Bushehr enjoys a remarkable situation with trade in addition to its remarkable situation regarding military affairs. For these reasons the Europeans were interested to take control of the region and the city of Bushehr. The Portugese, invaded the city of Bushehr in 1506 CE and attempted to take the place of the Egyptian and the Vinecian traders who were dominant in the region.

Old Port of Bushehr

In 1734 Nader Shah of Afsharid dynasty chose it as the site for an Iranian naval base. During the Zand era, the region was a place for political challenges between different political groups. When the Qajar dynasty replaced the Zand dynasty, they gain less control on the region of the Persian Gulf, so the British influence in the region increased gradually.

At the end of the 18th century, the British and Dutch transferred their regional commercial offices to Bushehr, and during the 19th century the town was prominent as the home of the British political agent for the Persian Gulf. The Consulate General of British governed Bushehr for 20 years. This situation had lasted till 1913, and during the long battle between the Iranian and the British troops, the Iranians lost in 1857 and the British influence expanded to include all the Persian Gulf cost. But in 1913 the Iranians won the long battle. Consecuently Britain moved its diplomatic and commercial center across the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Peninsula at the beginning of the 20th century.

A Shrimp Seller at Fisher Market in Bushehr

The city was economically depressed until the 1960s when the government initiated a major development program. In 1975 the government began building a nuclear power plant at Bushehr. This facility was only partially completed when it was bombed by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). When Germany, the initial backer of the plant, declined to complete it after the war, Iran tried to secure aid from other countries. In 1995, however, Russia signed an agreement to finish the plant.

Bushehr is one of the important ports in Persian Gulf whic has an international airport, and highways connect the city to Ahvaz to the northwest and Shiraz to the northeast. A secondary coastal road links Bushehr to Bandar-e Abbas to the southwest. The old section of central Bushehr has many examples of traditional Persian Gulf architecture from the period 1870 to 1920.

Bushehr is an export market for the farm produce of the neighboring and fertile Fars Province. Bushehr’s industries include seafood canneries, food-processing plants, and engineering firms. It has a population of 205,320 (2001 estimate).