US President Donald Trump Sunday (January 5) threatened to target 52 Iranian sites, “important to Iran & the Iranian culture”, if Tehran attacked America and its assets to avenge the killing of military commander Qassem Soleimani. “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” Trump said in a tweet.
Iran, or Persia, has been home to one of the oldest civilisations in the world, beginning with the Elamite empires in the fourth millennium BCE. It has a rich history, bearing the imprint of the many empires, religions and cultures that have rolled through it over millennia. Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, Alexander the Great, Nader Shah are just some of the many emperors that shaped the country’s history and evolution.
Today, 24 places in Iran find a place in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Here are five cultural sites in Iran known as much for their archaeological value as the history they embody.
Masjed-e Jamé of Isfahan
The Jameh Mosque is located in the province of Isfahan. According to the UNESCO website, “the Masjed-e Jamé (‘Friday mosque’) can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries, starting in AD 841. It is the oldest preserved edifice of its type in Iran and a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia. The complex, covering more than 20,000 m2, is also the first Islamic building that adapted the four-courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture. The site also features remarkable decorative details representative of stylistic developments over more than a thousand years of Islamic art.”
The Golestan Palace is a lavish monument of the Qajar era (1789 to 1925). According to the UNESCO website, it embodies “the successful integration of earlier Persian crafts and architecture with Western influences.”
“Built around a garden featuring pools as well as planted areas, the Palace’s most characteristic features and rich ornaments date from the 19th century. It became a centre of Qajari arts and architecture of which it is an outstanding example and has remained a source of inspiration for Iranian artists and architects to this day. It represents a new style incorporating traditional Persian arts and crafts and elements of 18th-century architecture and technology,” the website says.
Pasargadae was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II the Great, in Pars in the 6th century BC.
The UNESCO website says: “The palaces, gardens and the mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization. Particularly noteworthy vestiges in the 160-ha site include: the Mausoleum of Cyrus II; Tall-e Takht, a fortified terrace; and a royal ensemble of gatehouse, audience hall, residential palace and gardens.”
“Pasargadae was the capital of the first great multicultural empire in Western Asia. Spanning the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Hindus River, it is considered to be the first empire that respected the cultural diversity of its different peoples. This was reflected in Achaemenid architecture, a synthetic representation of different cultures,” the website adds.
Founded by Darius I in 518 BC, Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. According to the UNESCO website: “It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site.”
Takht-e Soleyman is an important marker of the history of the Zoroastrian faith in Iran.
According to the UNESCO website: “The archaeological site of Takht-e Soleyman, in north-western Iran, is situated in a valley set in a volcanic mountain region. The site includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary partly rebuilt in the Ilkhanid (Mongol) period (13th century) as well as a temple of the Sasanian period (6th and 7th centuries) dedicated to Anahita. The site has important symbolic significance. The designs of the fire temple, the palace and the general layout have strongly influenced the development of Islamic architecture.”
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