New Iranian Historical Sites on UNESCO’s List
Monday, August 09, 2010
Two Iranian historical sites, namely the historical Tabriz Bazaar in East Azarbaijan province and the Mausoleum of Sheikh Safieddin in Ardebil province, were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision was taken during the 34th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Brasilia.
Sites in Saudi Arabia, Australia, India, the Marshall Islands and South Korea were also added to the list at the session.
Sheikh Safieddin Mausoleum
Sheikh Safi-eddin Ardebili was one of the ancestors of the Iranian and Shia Safavi dynasty who was born in 650 Lunar Hejira. His mother tongue was Tati and his poems in Tati language are still available. Tati was one of the Iranian languages and the native language of Azarbaijan. This language has more than 26000 speakers in Iran and Azerbaijan. Sheikh Safi passed away in 735 Lunar Hejira and his resting place is near his mausoleum and his residence.
Sheikh Safieddin Monastery and its Shrine Ensemble in Ardebil were built between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century. It is a place of spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition. Iranian traditional architecture is at its best here and catches the visitors’ eyes. The architecture maximizes the use of space to accommodate a variety of functions, including a library, mosque, school, mausoleum, cistern, hospital, bakery and administrative quarters.
The mausoleum is one of the most beautiful historical and Islamic structures and is regarded as one of the most important ancient structures of the country. The structure was built up in 735 Lunar Hejira by Sheikh Sadreddin Mousa, son of Sheikh Safi and was respected especially during the Safavid dynasty by the kings. The complex is composed of a group of stunning architectural structures including the tomb of Sheikh Safi (Allah Allah Dome), Shah Ismail I’s tomb-chamber, the Chini Khaneh (China Hall), the Dar al-Hefaze Hall, the Shahidgah Cemetery, the Haram Khaneh (Ladies Quarters) and the main courtyard.
Sheikh Safi's tomb-chamber (Allah Allah Dome) is a cylindrical tower capped with a low dome built after Sheikh Safi’s death. The interior of the mausoleum is octagonal with a brick structure with an approximate diameter of six meters, a perimeter of 22 meters and a height of 17.5 meters. The interior of the tomb is covered with flora paintings on canvas and a Quranic inscription inside the dome has glamorously given a spiritual aura to it.
The tomb of Shah Ismail I consists of a small rectangular room and its dome is lower than Sheikh Safi's. It has staccato manuscripts and is decorated with colorful tiles and Kufic inscriptions. A wooden box, decorated with finely engraved panels made of ivory and ebony, lies atop Shah Ismail's tomb. The tomb-chamber structures of Sheikh Safi’s mausoleum are considered among magnificent and glorious complexes of the Safavid era and the Safavid art gallery in Ardebil. They are also attached special importance in Iran’s artistic circles as the resting place of the Safavi ancestors, kings and princes and princesses.
The unique carpet of Sheikh Safieddin Ardabili’s mausoleum has also been included in the list of 50 selected artistic masterpieces of the world.This precious carpet is a symbol of art and mysticism of the Safavid era. It was kept at Sheikh Safi’s shrine in Ardabil, the burial place of Sheikh Safi al-Din, ancestor of Shah Ismail, founder of the Safavid dynasty, until 1983.
Woven between 1539-1540 by Iranian artists, the Ardabil carpet measures 10.51m x 5.34m (34' 6" x 17' 6") and is thought to be one of the largest oriental carpets in the world. It has been conserved in the best conditions so far and no damage has been inflicted on it. Art experts consider this carpet with its beautiful motifs as a unique abstract work of art which keeps pace with the abstract paintings of the current century in terms of artistic level.
The design is of singular perfection. Its size and splendor as a piece of workmanship do full justice to the beauty and intellectual qualities of the design. The origin remains unclear but it is said that Shah Tahmasb I had it woven for Dar al-Hefaze Hall or Qandil Khaneh. Some sources indicate that Shah Tahmasb I ordered it to be woven immediately after coming to power in the year 930 lunar hejira and it was woven by Master Maqsoud Kashani alone in 16 years.Yet, at one end of the Ardabil carpet, a cartouche contains an inscription which dates it to 1539/40 AD.
The motif of the carpet has been designed according to the image on the ceiling of Qandil Khaneh and those who had entered the place saw both the floor and ceiling of the same design, something that associates the mentality of mystics of the Safavid dynasty.
Link for Further Reading:
Grand Bazaar of Tabriz
The Grand Bazaar of Tabriz, a historic complex located in Iran's northwestern province of East Azarbaijan along with Sheikh Safi al-din Khāneqāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil, have been named as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
The famous Middle Eastern bazaar has been a fixture of cities in that region and of central Asia from ancient times. This was a central market for the city, often becoming covered or indoor as the years went by, and serving both local businessmen and families as well as travelling merchants. As they grew, they could often take over a whole neighbourhood, and have a hierarchy of avenues, streets, corridors, alleys and pathways, with halls, intersections and major chambers as nodes.
Evocative yet practical names of the past greet us, seeming to challenge any assumption of a modern monopoly of the concept of shopping malls, centres or precincts: ‘caravanserai’ (a central courtyard for the pack animals and caravans, surrounded by warehouses and traders’ shop fronts, now often abbreviated to ‘sara’), ‘hojra’ (a cell, kiosk, office or small shop), ‘rasteh’ (a row of such shops), ‘chahar soo’ (an intersection of two thoroughfares), ‘teamcheh’ (a small version of the caravanserai, often a chamber) and ‘dalan’ (alleys and pathways connecting all these together, lined with shops). We are invited to receive and enjoy the ancient hospitality of the residents and merchants of the bazaar of Tabriz.
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Iranian Sites on UNESCO’s List
1. Choghazanbil, Khuzestan province, 1979
2. Persepolis, Fars province, 1979
3. Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan province, 1979
4. Takht-e Soleiman, West Azarbaijan province, 2003
5. Pasargad, Fars province, 2004
6. Bam and its Cultural Landscape, Kerman province, 2004
7. Soltanieh Dome, Zanjan province, 2005
8. Bisotoun, Kermanshah province, 2006
9. Historical churches of St. Thaddeus and St. Stepanous, West Azarbaijan province, and Dzordzor (Zorzor), East Azarbaijan province, 2008
10. Shoushtar’s ancient water system, Khuzestan province, 2009
11. Mausoleum of Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili, Ardebil province, 2010
12. Tabriz Bazaar, East Azarbaijan province, 2010.