Wonders of Iran: Sabzevar

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tamara Ebrahimpour

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Pamenar Mosque
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Khosrowjerd Minaret
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Pamenar Mosque
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Stone inscription of the Friday Mosque
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Yahya Mausoleum
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Khosrowjerd Minaret
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Friday Mosque tilework
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Friday Mosque
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Hajj Mulla Hadi Sabzevari's tomb

The city of Sabzevar, located 250 kilometers west of the provincial capital of Mashhad in the northeastern Khorasan Razavi Province, was once part of the Parthian Empire.

Formerly called Beyhaq, the city was ruined and reconstructed many times throughout history until the Safavid era when it flourished.

Sabzevar gave rise to the 14th-century Sarbedaran movement, a Shia uprising against the Mongol rulers of the land.

Archeologists have identified some 496 historical sites in Sabzevar scoping from ancient mosques, schools and mausoleums to caravanserais, tombs and prehistoric mounds.

One of the oldest monuments in central Sabzevar is the 9th-century Pamenar Mosque which was constructed during Taherid Dynasty -- the first Iranian rule after the advent of Islam in the country.

The mosque stands next to a 15-meter tall swinging minaret adorned with Kufic inscriptions and stunning brickwork. The minaret is over 900 years old and is attached to an iwan.

Azure tiles bearing white Qur'anic verses adorn the Pamenar Mosque which includes a nine-arched sanctuary with three semi-arches.

Another eye-catching structure in Sabzevar is the Friday Mosque which dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

The mosque has two prayer niches (mihrabs), the first of which was built for Sunni Muslims and the second, constructed inside the first, was designed for Shias.

A Nast'aliq stone inscription has been placed above the entrance, which bears a decree from the Safavid king Tahmasb I. Two more inscriptions can be seen on the eastern walls bearing orders from Tahmasb II and the Qajar king Nasser al-din Shah.

The mosque has two minarets, two iwans and two sanctuaries. Its façade is covered with multi-colored tiles covered with floral patterns and Qur'anic script.

The 6th-century Yahya Mausoleum, built during the Ilkhanid era, has been renovated a number of times. The monument was decorated with green, azure, white and golden tiles, bearing Qur'anic script in the 14th-century.

The building has two entrances and two minarets, which were later added to the original structure along with an iwan, transenna and a dome covered with colorful tiles forming the words Allah, Ali and Mohammad.

One of Sabzevar's unique historical sites is the Adur Burzen-Mihr fire temple, located in the mountainous region of Mehr in Rivand village.

The quadric-arch known by locals as the 'Demon House' is believed by archeologists to be the remains of a fire temple belonging to Zoroastrian herdsmen and farmers.

Located 2061 meters above sea level, the undecorated Sassanid stone structure, built in the form of a ziggurat, has a plaster-covered interior and exterior.

Historical documents indicate that Adur Burzen-Mihr temple is one of the three 'Royal Fires', believed by Zoroastrians to have existed since the beginning of creation.

Khosrowjerd minaret, located 5 kilometers to the west of Sabzevar is a 30-meter-high Seljuk era brick structure. Decorated with Kufic inscriptions, the minaret is believed by some to have been part of a mosque. Some historians, however, say it was built to guide travelers, who could see it from 30 kilometers afar.

Archeologists have unearthed earthenware and objects as old as 3-6 thousand years in Sabzevar's historical mounds.

Excavations have yielded Parthian, Islamic, and Qajar artifacts. A 12,000-year-old stone machete from the Neolithic era found in the city, shows Sabzevar to be 1000 years older than previously thought.

Located along the Silk Road, Sabzevar played host to dozens of travelers in its numerous roadside and city caravanserais, the remains of which still dazzle visitors with their elaborate chambers, stalls and storage bays.

Zaferanieh Caravanserai, one of the city's roadside hotels, was constructed during the Qajar era and has a functional cistern.

Faramarz Khan Caravanserai has been turned into an anthropology museum, presenting a picturesque account of the city's traditions, customs and culture.

As Sabzevar is located in an arid region with hot and dry weather, its ancient inhabitants created and used ice pits or Yakhchals as an early type of refrigerator.

These dome-shaped structures had a subterranean storage space for storing ice and food. The thick heat-resistant construction material insulated the storage space during the whole year.

Sabzevar is not only known for its historical attractions, but also for its great and influential literary, philosophical and social figures.

Dr. Ali Shariati (1933 - 1977), a sociology graduate of Sorbonne University and one of the most original and influential Iranian social thinkers of the 20th century, is acknowledged for his contributions to the sociology of religion.

Man and Islam, An Approach to Understanding Islam, A Visage of Prophet Mohammad, Hajj, and A Glance at Tomorrows' History are among his many books.

The historian Abolfazl Beyhaghi (995-1077) is best known for his Beyhaqi History, which is considered one of the most credible sources on the Ghaznavid Empire (975-1187). The beautiful and fluent style of the book has made it a splendid piece of Persian literature.

Renowned novelist and author, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (1940-) is known for his folkloric magnum opus, Kalidar, which has been translated into different languages.

Ibn Yamin, the most important Persian poet of epigrams, was one of the earliest authors to write about the Shi'a Imams and the tragedy of Karbala.

Ata al-Mulk Juvayni was a 9th-century historian, whose Tarikh-i Jahan Gusha is one of the most important works of Persian historiography.

Hajj Mulla Hadi Sabzevari (1797-1873) was a great philosopher and poet, believed to be as influential as Mulla Sadra and Avicenna. His Secrets of Wisdom and Treatise on Logic in Verse deal with the basics of philosophy.

Sabzevar photos courtesy of Omid Etemadi


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