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Welcome to Shiraz: The Athens of Iran

Shiraz is a timeless city where the romance of past centuries is only very loosely veiled by a more pedestrian present.  Shiraz is traditionally associated with wine, roses, and nightingales, thanks to the glorious Persian odes that immortalize all three.
For more than 4,000 years Shiraz has been a center of Persian scholarship, trade, and culture, as well as an oasis of beauty, famed for its extensive water gardens, which are remarkable given the paucity of rainfall this 1600-meter high city experiences each year.  As soon as you leave the dry, dusty environs of the city behind for the more picturesque historic center of the city, you begin to understand why roses are so closely associated with Shiraz.  Though the city today contains only a hint of the extensive network of gardens that once bloomed in Shiraz, the ubiquitous roses continue to thrive in the city and roses are a key decorative motive in Shiraz’s famed tiled mosaics, which decorate some of the city’s famous monuments such as the Vakil Mosque.

Once an important gateway city along the Silk Route, Shiraz’s largest bazaars still heave with the city’s famous carpets, spices, and mosaic tiled decorative items.  One historic commodity, however, you won’t find in present-day Shiraz.  The city was famous before the Iranian Revolution for its legendary wine, made from the grape that bears the city’s name, which flourished in the high altitude and arid climate.  Sherry was also produced here, and Shirazians keep up a running argument with the citizens of the Spanish town of Jerez as to which culture first produced the popular fortified wine. 

Whether the wine enticed the scholars and poets or vice versa is not known, but Shiraz came to be the indisputable center of learning and culture in the empire, particularly under the patronage of the fifteenth-century Timurid Dynasty, under whom the city reached the zenith of its power and influence.  It was during this elegant and prolific century that Shiraz’s most famous son, the Sufi philosopher and poet, Hafiz penned the poetry that made him - and Shiraz - immortal. 

Hafiz spent most of his life in Shiraz, and is buried in one of the city’s most important landmarks the Aramgah-e Hafiz, a simple tomb that draws hundreds and thousands of Iranians each year to pay homage to the great poet.  On the winter solstice, Iranians open books of Hafiz’s poetry to try and guess what the future will bring.

Hafiz’s poetry is like Shiraz itself: lyrical, elegant, and tinged with a bit of languid sadness at the bittersweet fleetingness of life, like these lines, where he invokes Shiraz’s trifecta of roses, wine, and nightingales to mourn the passing of love and spring:

Poor Hafiz! After all, the spring is gone,
     The roses and the nightingales are going;
Yet of the roses you have plucked not one,
     Nor drunk one cup of wine, for all its flowing.

Visit Shiraz and nearby Persepolis on Alexander + Robert’s carefully curated itinerary, Persian Moments; a wonderful introduction to the timeless grandeur of this emerging destination.  Always capped at 16 guests for your maximum comfort and enjoyment.

Posted: 8/25/2017 10:56:10 AM by Alexander + Roberts