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Iran World Heritage Sites (Part I)

The Armenian monastic ensembles of Iran

The Armenian monastic ensembles of Iran inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage list on 8 July 2008. This ensemble includes three Armenian churches in the West Azerbaijan and the East Azerbaijan provinces in northwest iron. The churches were established during the (7th- 14th) centuries known as medieval Persia.  These three Iranian churches named St. Thaddeus monastery, the Saint Stepanos monastery, and the chapel of Dzordzor. Armenian Highland, a part of northwestern Iran known as Iranian Azerbaijan is the homeland of the great community of Armenians.

Saint Thaddeus Monastery

The first and the oldest building among the Armenian monasteries in Iran called ‘’Kara Kelisa” or black church, dates back to 7th century and is about 20 km far from Chaldiran. According to Armenian church tradition, the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew travelled through Armenia in 45 AD to preach the word of god, where many people were converted and numerous secret Christian communities were established.

The whole complex includes the main building and thick walls and watchtowers. The oldest structure is built by black stone so that the church is called Kara Kelisa or Black church.

Saint Stepanos Monastery

The Saint Stepanos Monastery or Maghardavank located 15 km northwest of the city Jolfa in East Azerbaijan province, Iran. the church has a great view over a deep canyon along Araxes. The original structure dates back to the ninth century or even further AD 62 during the Parthian empire, but it was rebuilt in the Safavid era after being damaged in an earthquake. It is exactly the second important church od Armenian community in Iran.

The main plan is circular with a cone-shaped dome. The church is under the inspiration of Iranian and Roman architecture, surrounded by seven guard tower. The main entrance is in the middle of the western wall, there is a prominent relief of Mary and Jesus in the forehead of the gate as stone façade.

Dzordzor Church (St. Mary Church)

The third of Armenian Monastery recognized by UNESCO is church Dzordzor located in Maku County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. From the whole complex, only the church is still standing firmly. The church has a cross-shaped plan, like other Armenian churches of that time, it was built with carved stones of various sizes. The church’s facade is very simple except some decorations around windows and entrance.

Bam and its cultural landscape

Bam refers to a city in Kerman province of Iran. The city has a desert climate with hot summers and cold winters. At the highest point of the city, there is the ancient citadel of Bam or ‘’Arg-e Bam” as the largest adobe complex in the world. Originally, this enormous citadel on the Silk Road date back to the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) and even further but the current buildings were from the 7th to 11th centuries. The Bam and its cultural landscape was registered by UNESCO on the list of Iran’s world cultural heritages.

 It was a military city exactly a government centre divided into the ruler’s part and the ruled- over part. The first includes main building as citadel, barracks, mill, houses, stables and water-well. The ruled- over refer to common area surrounding the major part. In addition to the whole complex, the citadel is also the largest adobe structure in the world too. There are two important structures just behind the citadel named the Zoroastrian temple and The Khale Dokhtar citadel, it believes the second one is traced back to Sassanid area. Arg-e Bam has a very considerable place in Iran history and literature, it was always the symbol of greatness but sometimes pride. Based on strong evidence Lotf Ali Khan (1769 – 1794), the last king of Persia from Zand dynasty was betrayed and captured by the ruler of Bam before being blinded and killed by his rival Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar (1742-1797).


Bīsotūn or historically Behistun, situated at the foot of the Zagros mountains in the Kermanshah, Iran. Bīsotūn is a village on the road of Ecbatana, the capital of ancient Media, to Babylon. Bīsotūn annually attracts many history lovers and world travellers in view of the fact that it is one of the UNESCO’s world heritage site and its inscription was to the decipherment of cuneiform as the Rosetta Stone was to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The whole complex includes prehistoric and historic sites of Hunters’ cave, Farhād Tarāsh, Median fortress and temple, Parthian sites, Behistun Palace of Khosrau II, Ilkhanid caravanserai, Bas relief of Mithridates II of Parthia, Bas relief of Gotarzes II of Parthia. The site was always mentioned by historians and travelogues as an important religious and governmental centres of Iranian and ancient world, which is why almost all of the important historical dynasties of Iran are present here.

The world fame of Bīsotūn is because of the Bīsotūn relief and inscriptions which is a multilingual inscription by order of Darius the Great (522-486 BC).‏ The inscription contains, Darius autobiography of Darius including his ancestry and lineage, Punishment of captured impostors and conspirators, and some pray to God to protect Iran from enemy and drought.‏ The Old Persian text is written in five columns; the Elamite text in eight columns, and the Babylonian text in 112 lines.‏ The life-sized bas-relief of Darius I, the Great show him holding a bow as a sign of kingship, with his left foot on the chest of the pretender Gaumata lying on his back before him and nine figures of conquered peoples stand to the right, with hands tied and rope around their necks. Two servants are attending the king and a Faravahar floats above.

The cultural landscape of Meymand

Meymand is a village in the central district of Shahr-e Babak county, Kerman, Iran. Meymand is so popular with Iran travellers in view of the natural and cultural landscape. The 3000 years old village is a bed of hand-dug cottages amid the rocks which are still inhabited by villagers who are semi-nomadic agro-pastoralists.

Based on some archaeological evidence, the history of residence in this area dates back to nearly 10.000 BCE., due to some petroglyphs near the village. 6000 years old potteries were discovered through the archaeological surveys, too.

There are three kind of settlement used by the inhabitants

Sar-e-Āghol: the settlements on the southern fields includes two kinds of structures Markhāneh, the semi-underground circular houses and Mashkdān houses, above ground and built with dry stone walls and a conical roof. They are used from the end of the winter until late spring.

Sar-e-Bāgh: refers to the houses near the seasonal rivers including a roof structure of vertical and horizontal timbers covered with grass thatch supported by dry stone walls. these houses are used during summer and early autumn. The nearby structures of Kel-e-Dūshāb pit to make Dūshāb or syrup of grapes are still in used.

Troglodytic: the reason of Maymand popularity is these structures, to say the least. They are cave dwelling carved out of the soft rock used for living, storage or sheltering the animals and locally called ‘’ Kiche”. They are used during the winter months.

Nowadays only 70 families live in the Meymand to keep the agro-pastoral system alive. There must be a tourism management plan to develop the tourism there, encourage the travellers to visit Maymand and help the community to raise the quality of life.

Gonbad-e Qābus

The 53- meter tower of Gonbad-e Qābus located in a city named Gonbad-e Kavus county, Golestān Province, Iran. Golestan province, formerly called Gorgan or Jorjan is well known for some important tourism area and environmental phenomena like, Bandar-e Turkman, the ancient forest of Hyrcania, Khalid Nabi Cemetery, Kaboud-Val waterfall, but the magnificent jewel of Golestan province tourism is Gonbad-e Qābus tower which is the tallest brick-tower of the ancient world.

The main region of Golestan province, formerly called Hyrcania, exactly during the historic time of Iran and then after in the Islamic era named Gorgan or Jorjan. Jorjan was a former centre of art and industry with important products like horse and pottery. The tower is the only remaining evidence of Jorjan in north-east of Iran which survived from the invasion of Monguls in 14th-15th centuries.

The tower built in (1006 AD) by order of Ziyarid ruler, Qābus Ibn Voshmgir who was a scientist, philosopher and an impartial judge. The building is an innovative example of Iranian architecture including the basement, 10 pointed star-shape body and a conical-form roof based on a geometric formula. The tower becomes one of Iran’s UNESCO world heritage sites in 2012. The historians mentioned the tower was meant to be Qabus’s mausoleum, but today, there is no evidence of tomb or something to show a body was buried inside so that it could be considered as a monument and watchtower similar to the other towers of Iran‏.

Unique architecture has made the building one of the masterpieces of ancient world and one of the popular tourism destination in north-eastern Iran.

Golestan Palace

Located in the heart of Tehran, Golestan Palace is one of the latest masterpieces of Iranian architecture before Western architecture dominance in this city. The complex registered as the world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007.all of it was built during the 131 years’ rule of the Qajar kings. The Qajar dynasty was an Iranian Royal Dynasty reigned from 1789-1925. They came from Qajar tribe with Turkic origin.  the Qajar dynasty permanently lost many of Iran’s integral areas such as Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan to the British empire and Russians in 19th century. Tehran was first chosen as the capital of Iran by Agha Mohammad Khan the founder of Qajar dynasty in 1796.

It built around a beautiful and vast garden near Tehran’s Arg or the citadel of Tehran. The citadel of Tehran was built during the reign of Safavids king, Tahmasp I 1524–1576), and was later renovated by Zand King, Karim Khan (1750-1779). The complex was selected as the residence and seat of power by the Qajar ruling family and then after it was developed and renovated by the following kings after Agha Mohammad khan.

The palace features authentic elements and style of Iranian architecture but in some part the the influence of Western architecture is evident. This complex and especially the main palace has rich architectural decorations and ornaments including paintings, marble-carvings, tile-work, stucco, mirrors, enamel, woodcarvings, and lattice window.

The complex consists of 17 structures, including palaces and halls. At present, most of them used as museums, the main archives of photography, the library of manuscripts, and the archive of documents. The most important places of the complex are  Marble Throne, Pond House, Karim Khani Nook, Containers Hall, Salam Hall, Mirror Hall, Ivory Hall, Diamond Hall, Emarat e Badgir, Shams ol Emareh, Museum of Gifts, Abyaz Palace, Photographic archive and many others.

The Marble throne

It is an especial terrace known as Takht-e Marmar, it was built by the order of Fath Ali Shah of the Qajar dynasty (1797–1834) in 1806. The Formal ceremonies and coronations of Qajar king and Reza Shah Pahlavi were held on this terrace. The main structures of this terrace especially the throne were made of the yellow marble of Yazd. This hall is adorned by architectural arts and ornaments like marble- carving, painting, tile working and enamel.

Brilliant Hall

This hall is called the brilliant hall because it is dramatically adorned by the brilliant mirror work of Iranian artisans and extraordinarily crystal chandeliers. It was built under the order of Nasser ed Din Shah) 16 July 1831 – 1 May 1896(

The Mirror Hall

The Mirror Hall is the most famous of the halls of the Golestan Palace which is famous for its extraordinary mirror work. There is a very famous painting of this hall painted by Kamal ol Molk the greatest painter of contemporary Iran, named mirror hall.

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