Unesco

Cultural Heritage of Iran

Tchoga Zanbil Ziggourat

Chogha Zanbil meaning in Persian “the basket mound” is an ancient Elamite complex in the province of Khuzestan, and 30 kilometers south-east of Susa. This place is home to the best preserved and largest of all the ziggurats of Mesopotamia and the Iranian plateau. Chogha Zanbil was built by King Untash-Napirisha, mainly to honor the great god Inshushinak, i.e. the custody of Susa. The ziggurat was built in five floors, two of which remain today.

Persepolis

Persepolis, in Persian Takht-e Jamshid “the throne of Jamshid”, is located in the plain of Marvdasht, surrounded by the mountain of Kuh-e Rahmat “mountain of Mercy” 70km from the city of Shiraz. Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire from the reign of Darius until its destruction by Alexander. Persepolis was a royal spring / summer residence and seems to have been designed as a ceremonial center where representatives of submissive states came to pay homage to the king.

The historic site of Persepolis was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Meidan-e Emam

Naqsh-e Jahan Square (also known as Shah Square or Emam Square) is the main tourist spot in Isfahan. The square is surrounded by different monuments each with a different architecture and together with the bazaar they form a huge complex to explore. Emam Square was built by order of Shah Abbas and its architecture is attributed to Sheikh Bahaei. As Shah Abbas’s political strategy focused on centralization, the main idea of the project was to reflect all components of power. Thus, the Emam (Shah) mosque represents the power of the clergy, the bazaar represents the power of the merchants and the Ali Qapu palace represents the power of the Shah.

In 1979, Naqsh-e Jahan Square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Takhte Soleyman or Throne of Solomon

Located 45 km from the city of Takab, in the province of West Azerbaijan, northwestern Iran, this historical and cultural complex is, according to legend, the birthplace of Zoroaster. Dating back to the Sassanid era, Soleyman’s throne, in Persian Takht-e Soleyman was considered one of the greatest centers of Iranian education, religion, social and worship before Islam. . The site is an ingenious interaction between man and the environment: a lake, a volcano, a fire temple and a royal palace.

The site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.

Bam and its Cultural Landscape

In southeastern Iran, on the Silk Road, lies the desert city of Bam. A few kilometers from the current city of Bam, we see the ruins of an ancient city of the same name, the citadel of Bam ( Arg-e Bam). The origins of the largest adobe construction in the world date back to the Achaemenid era. This citadel, built entirely of adobe, is a fine example of a medieval walled city in the Iranian desert. In 2003, a large earthquake unfortunately devastated most of the citadel of Bam. However, restoration projects started straight away to restore this masterpiece to its original condition. Today, thanks to the restoration work, many visitors are still in awe of the glory of this gem. It goes without saying that the plan of the citadel has been fully preserved after its reconstruction.

In 2004, this site was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pasargadae

Pasargad, covering an area of about 180 acres, located 130 km from the city of Shiraz, the capital of the first great multicultural empire in West Asia, one of the first empires to respect the cultural diversity of its people. The main remains on the site: the royal palace, the royal garden and other gardens (the oldest example of the Persian garden), the tomb of Cyrus (very modest despite the greatness of this tolerant and respectful king) and the prison of Solomon (it could be rather a temple of fire than a prison) testify well to the exceptional architecture of the Achaemenids.

In 2004, this site was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Soltaniyeh

Soltaniyeh, located in the province of Zanjan, 240 km from Tehran, was the capital of the Ilkhanid Mongol rulers of Persia in the 14th century. The most famous monument in the city of Soltaniyeh, is the Mausoleum of Il-khan Öljeitü (Muhammad Khodabandeh), known as the Dome of Soltaniyeh. This dome is the symbol of Islamic architecture, the oldest example of a double dome in Iran. It is an octagonal-shaped building crowned with a dome 50 m high covered with turquoise earthenware tiles and surrounded by eight minarets. Much of its exterior decoration has been lost, but the interior retains superb mosaics, earthenware tiles, and murals.

Soltaniyeh was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Bisotun

The historic site of Bisotun, also called Bisotun, is located in the province of Kermanshah in northwestern Iran, on one of the branches of the Silk Road which connects the Iranian plateau to Mesopotamia. This historic site covers 116 hectares and is home to sixteen historical monuments. Some of these monuments include the bas-reliefs and inscriptions commissioned by Darius the Great, which tell the story of the rebellions Darius faced.

The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran

The Armenian monastic complexes of Iran are located in the northwest of Iran in the province of Azerbaijan. They manifest the universal value of Armenian architectural and decorative traditions. These monastic groups consist of two monasteries and a chapel: the Saint-Thaddée monastery, the Saint-Stepanos or Saint-Etienne monastery and the Dzordzor chapel. The oldest of them and the second religious center of the Armenian Church is the Saint Thadeus Monastery. They date between 7 th and 14 th centuries but have been reconstructed several times due to human and natural disasters.

In 2008, they were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

Shushtar is a city located in Khuzestan Province, southwestern Iran. Shushtar owes much of its fame to the historic hydraulic system found there. The main construction of this complex dates back to the Achaemenid period in the 5th century, during the reign of Darius the Great. Most of its construction dates back to the Sassanid period. He aimed for an optimal use of water by applying the old techniques of water treatment. The historic Shushtar hydraulic system is an interconnected collection of bridges, mill dams, waterfalls, canals and tunnels.

This system was inscribed on UNESCO’s list as a tangible cultural heritage site in 2009, dubbed “as the masterpiece of human creative genius”.

Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil

Khaneghah Complex and Sheikh Safi Al-Din Shrine is a place of Sufi spiritual retreat dating from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 18th century. It is the burial place of Sheikh Safi Al-Din, one of the founders of Sufism in Iran. The complex, being a fine example of medieval Iranian architecture, includes a library, a mosque, a school, a mausoleum, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery and a few offices. A perfect combination of Safavid art, religion and architecture.

In 2010, this ensemble was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex 

Iran’s largest covered market and one of the oldest in the Middle East, Tabriz Bazaar is a sprawling complex with 6,500 shops, 25 timchehs (small caravanserai), 11 hallways and a few schools, mosques and hammams. There are 40 different types of businesses. The Tabriz bazaar is therefore not just a place of commercial but also cultural exchanges which has well preserved its historical, social and architectural aspects. Due to the location of this complex, located on the Silk Road, it has been considered one of the most important shopping centers for many centuries.

Tabriz Bazaar was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Persian garden

This site includes nine selected gardens from different regions of Iran: – Old Pasargadae Garden in Shiraz, – Eram Garden in Shiraz, – Chehel Sotoun Garden in Isfahan, – End Garden in Kashan, – Abbas Garden Abad in Behshahr, Mazandaran, – Garden of Shahzadeh in Mahan, Kerman, – Garden of Dowlat Abad in Yazd, – Garden of Pahlevanpour in Mehriz, Yazd, – Garden of Akbarieh in Birjand, Khorasan. The architecture of Persian gardens is highly dependent on the climatic conditions of Iran. The hot and dry climate in some cities of Iran makes water an important element in architecture. The purpose of creating the Persian Garden was to provide a place of spiritual and lucrative relaxation; a paradise on earth.

These nine gardens, registered under the name of the “Persian Garden”, have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2011.

Masjed-e Jame of Isfahan 

This mosque is the result of the constructions, reconstructions, additions and continuous renovations carried out from the 10th th century until the end of the 20 th century. Ten centuries of the evolution of architecture, from the Seljuks to the Qajars. It is one of the oldest mosques still standing in Iran, a four-iwan mosque thus placing four doors face to face. This layout (a four-iwan courtyard), during the Sassanid era, was only used for palaces and gardens, but in the construction of the Jameh Mosque it was adapted, for the first time, in a religious form. The double-shell domes of the Jameh Mosque in Isfahan also represent an architectural innovation that has inspired the architecture of the region.

Masjed-e Jāme of Isfahan was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

Gonbad-e Qabus

Gonbad-e Qabus is one of the tallest brick towers in the world. It was built in the 10 th century when the Ziyarid king, Qabus, son of Voshmgir, ruled Iran. There are several hypotheses on the function of this monument. Some believe it to be a funerary monument, but archaeologists have found no corpses, so it is impossible to approve or disapprove of this story. Others believe it was a point of direction for lost travelers or caravanserais crossing the road. Whatever the purpose of its construction, Gonbad-e Qabus is a witness to Iranian history, art and architecture.

This site was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

Golestan Palace

The Golestan Palace (Flower Garden) complex was originally built during the reign of King Tahmasp of the Safavid dynasty. It was later renovated by Karim Khan of the Zand dynasty. Then Agha Mohammad Khan of the Qajar dynasty chose Tehran as their capital. The palace complex (the courtyard and the Golestan Palace) became the official residence and seat of the Qajar dynasty. The Pahlavis were also crowned there.

The Golestan Palace complex consists of different structures including palaces, museums, and halls. It also includes three main archives, including photographic archives, a library with manuscripts and a document archive.

It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.

Shahr-e Sokhte

Shahr-e Sokhteh meaning “the burnt city”, includes the remains of an ancient city and an archaeological site from the Bronze Age in southeastern Iran in the province of Sistan and Balochistan. Shahr-e Shokhteh is composed of five main sectors: the residential area, the central part, the industrial area, historical monuments, the cemetery.

The very diverse archaeological discoveries that have been made in the city indicate the existence of a rich and powerful civilization: the first brain surgery, the world’s first artificial eye, the first cinematic film, a wooden ruler, chess and backgammon, jewelry, water supply and sewage system, industries such as textiles, spinning, woodturning, marquetry, marble making, fishing net weaving , pottery, seal making, carpet weaving and metal tool making.

In 2014, the Sharhr-e Sokhteh archaeological site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cultural Landscape of Meymand

Maymand is a very ancient cave village located near Shahr-e Babak, in Kerman Province in southeastern Iran. This village has been inhabited for 3000 years, making it one of the four oldest villages in Iran. According to archaeological research, the village is even 12,000 years old. 10,000-year-old carved stones and 6,000-year-old pottery have been found at the site. The majority of the local inhabitants are semi-nomadic shepherds. They migrate three times a year to protect natural resources. The houses, called “Kicheh” are all hand-dug. As the number and size of bedrooms vary from house to house, the Kicheh do not have the same structure.

In 2015, the Maymand Cultural Landscape was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Susa

Susa, ancient city of Iran, located in the province of Khuzestan at the foot of the Zagros Mountains in the southwest of the country, is considered one of the oldest human settlements in the world with a history of over 6000 years. Susa was the capital of the Elamites and then that of the Achaemenids. Great achievements in different fields such as the writing system, architecture and the fusion of metals and glass were the result of the efforts of the Elamites to develop and advance their capital of three thousand years. This city, mentioned in the Bible, is an area of around one hundred hectares divided into three parts: the Acropolis, the heart of proto-Elamite Susa, the Royal City, the urban environment of the city and the Apadana, where Darius’ palace was erected.

This ancient city was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2015.

The Persian Qanat or Kariz

Qanat literally meaning “ canal ” in Persian is an underground tunnel that directs fresh water from a spring in the mountains to an opening at a lower elevation, for irrigation. The Qanat is an ingenious and sustainable way to easily provide a reliable water supply to all societies living in hot or arid regions of Iran. This water distribution infrastructure dates back approximately 3,000 years. It was developed in ancient Persia and later used by neighboring western and eastern countries.

En 2016, ces onze Qanats: Qanat Qasabeh, qanat de Baladeh, qanat de Zarch, qanat Hasam Abad-e Moshir, qanat Ebrahim Abad, qanat de Vazvan, qanat Mozd Abad, qanat de la Lune, qanat de Gowhariz, Ghasem Abad, Akbar Abadont ont été inscrits au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO.

Historic City of Yazd

Yazd is a desert town located on the central Iranian plateau, southeast of Isfahan, and surrounded by Dasht-e Kavir to the north and Dasht-e Lut to the south. The name is derived from Yazdegerd I, the Sassanid king. The city has been a center of Zoroastrianism since the 3rd century AD Yazd, having survived the different periods of history, is home to a variety of historical attractions such as Jame Mosque, Dowlat Abad Garden, Amir Complex Chakhmagh, the Zoroastrian fire temple, the towers of silence…

Yazd is the only Iranian city, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where people still live.

Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region

The province of Fars, located in southwestern Iran, was for 400 years the seat of the Sassanid dynasty, the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the invasion of Islam. These four hundred years marked the height of Persian civilization. Eight sites, in three different areas of this historic land, have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage under the name of “Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of the Fars region”. It emphasizes the importance of Sassanid architecture, its innovative aspects and its lasting influence.

These eight sites were recognized in 2018 as UNESCO World Heritage.

Unesco

Natural Heritage of Iran

Lout Desert

Dasht-e Lut or the Lut Desert is a large salty desert located in south-eastern Iran. This hyper-arid desert has been identified by NASA as the hottest place on planet Earth. Dasht-e-Lut covers 175,000 square kilometers, or about 10% of Iran’s land. “Lout”, in Persian, means a bare land, without vegetation. The “Kaluts” (Yardangs) are natural phenomena of Lut. These tall sand formations that are formed by centuries of wind erosion create spectacular landscapes in the western part of the desert.

In 2016, the Lut Desert was voted as Iran’s first natural site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Hyrcanian forests

The Hyrcanian forests, also called the Caspian forests, date back 25 to 50 million years and cover 7% of the country’s surface. Stretching over the northern slopes of the Alborz Mountains and coastal areas along the Caspian Sea, they cover five northern provinces of Iran, including Ardabil Province, Gilan Province, Mazandaran Province, Golestan province and North Khorasan province.

In 2019, the Hyrcanian forests were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unesco

Intangible cultural heritage of Iran

Radif of Iranian Music

The Radif is the traditional model repertoire of Iranian classical music. It includes more than 250 melodic sequences, called “Gusheh”, arranged in special orders in twelve (or thirteen) collections on the basis of their modal and melodic affinities. The Radif is considered the main emblem and the heart of Iranian musical culture, which is transmitted from master to disciple. Iranian musicians learn and memorize this repertoire to familiarize themselves with the theory and practice of Persian classical music so that they can improvise or compose traditional music on their own terms. The importance of Iranian music in world culture is such that in 2009 the Radif was inscribed in the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.

Ritual dramatic art of Ta‘zīye

Ta’zīye is a ritualistic dramatic art that tells about religious events, historical and mythical stories, and folk tales. Each performance has four elements: poetry, music, song and movement. Ta’zīye also plays an important role in the preservation of associated crafts, such as costume making, calligraphy, and instrument making. Its flexibility has led it to become a common language for different communities, fostering communication, unity and creativity.
The ritualistic drama of Ta‘zīye was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Music of the Bakhshis of Khorasan

In Khorasan Province, the Bakhshis are renowned for their musical talent with the dotār, a traditional two-string, long-necked lute. They recount Islamic and Gnostic poems and epics containing mythological, historical or legendary themes. Thus, they are considered the custodians of the culture of their community. Their music, known as Maghami, consists of instrumental and / or vocal pieces, performed in Turkish, Kurdish, Turkmen and Persian. Navāyī is the most widespread magham: varied, vocal, without rhythm, accompanied by Gnostic poems.
In 2010, the music of the Bakhshis of Khorasan was inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei Rituals 

Pahlevani is an Iranian martial art that combines elements of Islam, Gnosticism, and ancient Persian beliefs. It describes a ritual set of gymnastic and calisthenic movements performed by ten to twenty men, called Pahlevan each wielding instruments symbolizing ancient weapons. The ritual takes place in a Zurkhaneh (house of strength), a place considered sacred, with an octagonal arena and seats for the public. There are currently 500 Zurkhaneh across Iran, each comprising practitioners, founders, and a number of Pīshkesvats (pioneers).
These rituals were inscribed in the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO in 2010.

Traditional skills of carpet weaving in Fars

Iranians enjoy a worldwide reputation in the field of carpet weaving, and the carpet weavers of Fars, located in southwestern Iran, are among the most important. When it comes to the Shiraz rug, it is a simple, not very tight (yet extremely durable) rug with a woolen warp and weft. These rugs are almost always geometric in style and red-brown is the typical color. The Fars carpet is an artisanal product of the nomads of this region. Team work ! the men are responsible for the shearing of sheep and the women design and weave rugs.
The know-how of all weaving processes are transmitted to new generations through oral traditions and they were fortunately inscribed in the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO in 2010.

Traditional skills of carpet weaving in Kashan

The city of Kashan was the center of carpet weaving during the Safavid era and many workshops were established in this city. The Kashan rug is one of Iran’s most glamorous rugs. This masterpiece is woven on vertical frames, and are woven in cotton or silk by applying the Persian knot (asymmetric knot). In addition to the know-how of the carpet weavers who are mostly women, the folk songs they sing during the weaving are also a treasure of Persian oral culture.
The traditional skills of carpet weaving in Kashan were inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

Traditional skills of building and sailing Iranian Lenj boats in the Persian Gulf

The construction of Lenj is one of the oldest local industries in southern Iran dating back to the Afsharid period. Lenj is a type of large boat or small vessel that is used for transporting passengers or goods. These boats, considered to be handicrafts, are usually found on the coasts of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The people of the northern Persian Gulf coast use their own, hand-built Lenjs for sea travel, trading, pearl harvesting and fishing. Like many other professions in the past, Lenj’s building skills have been passed down from father to son, over time and the Lenj build themselves without a plan.
The traditional building and navigation skills of the Lenj in the Persian Gulf were inscribed as intangible heritage of Iran with UNESCO in 2011.

Naqqali,Iranian dramatic story-telling

Naqqāli means “narration”. It encompasses many aspects of art and performance in its nature, to the point that some scholars believe it plays a major role in the formation of modern theater and plays. This form of storytelling is accompanied by a musical instrument, and depending on the genre of the story, Naqqāl – the narrator – chooses to tell only the verses or to tell the story in musical form. The Naqqāl are the keepers of folklore, epic stories, and folk music. Naqqāli plays legends and folk tales from the Persian Empire.
Naqqāli was inscribed in the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO in 2011.

Qalishuyan rituals of Mashhad-e Ardehal in Kashan or carpet washing

Mashhad-e Ardahal is a village located west of the city of Kashan. It houses the tomb of Sultan Ali, the son of the fifth Shiite imam. According to legend, Sultan Ali was killed in the village by his enemies. His followers then arrived and wrapped his body in a carpet and washed him in a stream. The annual carpet washing ceremony (Qālišuyān) is associated with this legend. Every year on the second Friday of the month of Mehr (7th month of the Persian calendar), thousands of people go to this village to mourn the death of Sultan Ali. They walk to his shrine, and carry the remains of the sacred carpet used to wrap the body. Others take sticks and spin them in the air as a sign of fighting the murderers. The remains of the carpet are then washed in a stream whose waters are considered sacred and ultimately they return it to the shrine.
In 2012, these rituals were inscribed in the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.

Nowrouz, the Iranian New Year

Nowruz marks the first day of spring and is celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox (usually March 21). It has been celebrated as the start of the New Year by over 300 million people around the world for over 3,000 years. The word Nowruz means “new day” and its spelling and pronunciation may vary from country to country (Nawrouz, Novruz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz). Nowruz is said to be rooted in Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion. Today, it is indeed a universal celebration than a religious holiday.
Nowruz was inscribed on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in 2016.

Flatbread making and sharing culture: Lavash, Katyrma, Jupka, Yufka

As a staple and nutritious food, bread has a respectable and valuable status in Persian cuisine and culture. Lavash is a thin, soft bread about three mm in diameter made from unleavened dough. Making and sharing Lavash bread is an ancient tradition that exists in various forms in Iran, the Caucasus, and parts of West and Central Asia. The skills and rituals surrounding the preparation, making, storage and use of flatbread – called lavash, katyrma, jupka, or yufka – are shared by many countries in the region.
Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey inscribed this bread on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.

Choghan or Polo: a horse-riding game accompanied by music and storytelling

Chogan (Polo) is an entertaining equestrian game that has been played for almost 2,500 years. The game consists of two teams and involves passing the ball through the opposing team’s goal posts using a stick. During the game, musicians play traditional music and narrators tell stories. It is therefore a combination of athletic, artistic and cultural elements representing the history and identity of a nation. For the first time, Chogan was performed during the Achaemenid era in Iran. As the Achaemenids extended their borders, this ancient Iranian game found its way to other countries. Chogan can be considered the oldest team sport in the world.
In 2017, this ancient Persian game was recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Art of crafting and playing with Kamanche, a bowed string musical instrument

Kamantcheh, a bowed string musical instrument, is a fundamental part of classical and folk music in Iran and Azerbaijan. Kamantcheh has four strings that run the length of the instrument. The main body is usually constructed from mulberry wood and the sound emitted is very pleasing to the ears. Kamantcheh dates back to pre-Islamic times in Iran. Based on the available visual evidence from different historical eras, it can be said that the Kamantcheh was performed in many Iranian ceremonies, among which are the historical miniatures of Tchehel Sotoun Palace in Isfahan, which date back to the Safavid dynasty.
UNESCO listed the art of making and playing kamantcheh as an intangible cultural heritage of Iran in 2017.

Traditional skills of crefting and playing Dotar

Dotâr means “two strings” in Persian. This long-necked musical instrument has two strings that emit a lovely sound. As Dotâr is played by musicians in different cities and provinces, the structure of the instrument and the playing style change slightly depending on each region. In general, there are three main categories of Iranian dotar: “dotar of Khorasan”, “turkmen dotar” and “dotar of Mazandaran”. While playing, players tell epic, historical, lyrical, moral and Gnostic tales. Traditional knowledge of crafts and the play of dotar is passed on from teacher to student, and also present in local oral and written literature.
The traditional skills related to the making and the practice of Dotâr were inscribed in the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO in 2019.