Persian Gardens Declared as World Heritage Sites

As reported by the United Nations News CService (June 27, 2011) and the Persian-Language Jam e Jaam website (June 27, 2011), Iran’s Persian Gardens have become known as UNESCO World Heritage sites. As reported by the United Nations News CService (June 27, 2011):

The Persian Garden includes nine gardens in as many provinces of Iran. They exemplify the diversity of Persian garden designs that adapted to different climate conditions while retaining principles that have their roots in the times of Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC.

The Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae which has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

The Pasargardae tomb – a reconstruction by Professor Stronach.

Reconstruction of Pasargadae by the Persepolis-3D website: from left to right –north side, south side, east side and north side of Pasargadae. For more details on the above pictures and the architecture of Pasargadae, see Professors Stronach and Gopnik: Pasargadae.

The initiative was first reported by Iranian news services who noted that since December 2005 UNESCO had been cooperating with experts in Iran to tabulate a list of heritage sites pertaining to Persian Gardens in Iran. Dr. Adel Farhangi (the advisor of the director of the Research Center of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization – ICHTO) had reported that a team of experts compied documents on sites (for submission to UNESCO) in the Fin Garden of Kashan, Shazdeh in Mahan, Fat’habad in Kerman, and Dolatabad in Yazd.


On the second part of the above video, Professor Stronach speaks about the Persian Gardens as part of his decades long research into the domain of Iranian Studies, which earned him the WAALM – Persian Golden Lioness Award of 2010.

The initiative to register the Persian Gardens was first made in a conference in Iran in 2004 which witnessed talks and presentations on the subject. It was also agreed that the submission of a registry for UNESCO would entail the study and classification of the architectural and civil engineering styles utilized in the construction of each of the gardens, as these would vary according to era (i.e. Achaemenid, Partho-Sassanian, Safavid, etc.).

The Persian Gardens have indeed withstood the test of time.

Origin of Persian Gardens at Pasargadae

Pasargadae was the imperial capital of Cyrus the Great and it was here where the “Persian Gardens” were formed. These were in essence an Achaemenid project which further developed, refined and expanded the Babylonian-Assyrian concept of the garden. The end-result of this was Pari-Daeza (Old Iranian: Park, Walled Garden) or the “Persian Garden”. The term Pari-Daeza is of Iranian origin and originally refers to the enclosed hunting grounds of the Median kings.

The Persian Gardens at Pasargadae were built in accordance with mathematically based geometric designs. There were 900 meters of channels constructed of carved limestone; these transported water throughout the garden. This was essentially a sophisticated irrigation system featuring stone water-channels and open ditches that were designed to channel water into small basins at every 15 meters in the garden.


An overall top view of Pasargadae at Cyrus’ time. Note the canal, water channels; the two rectangles are gardens.

The garden itself was planted with a variety of fruit and Cyprus trees, flowers such as roses, lilies, Jasmines and exotic grasses. Arrian has described the gardens as

a grove of all kinds of trees…with steams…” and encompassed by a large area of “…green grass” (Arrian, Expedition of Alexander, VI, 29).


A top view of a reconstruction of the Persian Garden at Pasargadae. Note water channels at rim of garden (see also History Channel program “Engineering an Empire: The Persians“).

The Pasargadae complex was indeed a unique symbiosis of Iranian (Medo-Persian), Anatolian (i.e. Ionian) and Mesopotamian civil engineering techniques. These would be the harbinger of Persopolis city-palace and other Achaemenid sites such as the recently discovered palace at Tang e Bolaghi.

Persian Gardens of the Post-Islamic Era

The Persian Garden has certainly survived into the post-Islamic era. The basis of such a design was built into the pavilion of Shah Abbas the Great (r. 1588 – 1629 AD) of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1736 AD).


The Maydan e Shah in Isfahan dated to the Safavid era.

Many small towns and villages in modern Iran today continue to have gardens that derive their inspiration from the Achaemenids of old.


A Persian garden in Tehran in 1971. 

For more photos of post-Islamic Persian Gardens kindly click on the photo below:

Legacy of the Persian Gardens on Civilization

Cyrus’ gardens have exerted a profound legacy outside the borders of Iran, and especially in Europe. The Greeks adopted the Persian garden after Alexander’s conquests of Persia and most likely during the ensuing Seleucid era. The Persian term Pardis entered the Roman lexicon which facilitated its transmission to other European languages. The Greeks, Romans and succeeding European civilizations were to build parks and gardens on the Persian model. The breathtaking gardens of Versailles France, the baroque gardens of Belvedere Palace of Austria or the Butchard Gardens of Victoria Canada may never have existed today had it not been for Cyrus’ gardens at Pasargardae.  Even the Bible commemorates the word “Paradise” in its lexicon.  


The gardens at Versailles Place in France.

The influence of the Persian Gardens has also spread to the Orient, notably China and then Japan, probably mainly due to the arrival of Sassanian refugees to China after the collapse of the Sassanian Empire in the 650s AD, although earlier influences cannot be ruled out.


A Chinese Garden.

The most notable example of the influence of Persian Gardens in the Indian subcontinenet can be found in India’s Taj Mahal place built by the Moghuls (1526-1707).

The Taj Mahal, completed by 1648, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The master architect of Taj Mahal was an Iranian named ‘Ostad Isaa Afandi’ from Shiraz. The builders were also Persian stone masons, imported from Iran by Mogul Shah Jahan, as per the request of the aforementioned Chief Master Architect Afandi. The white marble for the Taj Mahal was  imported from Isfahan. The calligraphy was created by the Persian calligrapher Abd ul-Haq, who came to India from Shiraz, Iran, in 1609. Shah Jahan conferred the title of “Amanat Khan” upon him as a reward for his “dazzling virtuosity”. Another striking Iranian influence can be seen in the design of the gardens and waterworks of the locale. Much of the fauna of Taj Mahal’s Persian gardens were directly imported from Iran. The term “Taj Mahal” is Persian for “The Royal Gounds” or more literally “The Crown Locale”. 

Video recreation of the arts and architecture of the Safavid era (1501-1722). Note the  emphasis on the Safavid Persian Gardens featured in the video. 

Wall Street Journal Reviews Kaveh Farrokh’s 2011 Textbook

The Wall Street Journal recently published a review of Kaveh Farrokh’s third and most recent book entitled:

Iran at War: 1500-1988. Osprey Hardcover 480 pages, released May 24, 2011 • ISBN: 978-1-84603-491-6. Contact: John Tintera, Marketing Director @ 718/433-4402,

To order consult Chapters-Indigo or Amazon.

The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Arts has also announced this book on Twitter.

The review has also appeared on Reuters News ServiceThe New York Herald, ABC News (ABC 13ABC 18ABC 40), NBC News (NBC 6NBC 10NBC 12NBC 38), CBS News (CBS  9), Fox News (Fox 19Fox 26Fox 28Fox 42Fox 54) and The Nashvile News. See also Payvand News of Iran report.

Below are portions of the review on the Wall Street Journal – kindly note that the pictures inserted in the text below have not appeared in the Wall Street journal:

Kaveh Farrokh is an expert on Persian languages and Iranian history whose new book, Iran at War: 1500-1988, provides a full examination of modern Iranian military history… His previous title Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War (Osprey, 2007) was named “Best History Book” by the World Academy of Arts Literature and Media in 2008. Dr. Patrick Hunt at Stanford University, said this about it,  ”… a book for all who have ever been curious about the ‘other’ view on Persia, not from the Western standpoint rooted in Greece, but from the traditions of the Persians themselves… Meticulously researched and documented…..”

A European copper engraving of Shah Abbas made by Dominicus Custos citing him as“Schach Abas Persarum Rex” or “Shah Abbas the Great monarch of Persia”. Shah Abbas’ victories over the Ottomans weakened them against the Europeans to the West, and especially in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Note how Custos makes a particular emphasis on linking Shah Abbas to the “Mnemona Cyrus” (the Memory of Cyrus the Great of Persia).

Iran at War begins where Shadows in the Desert ended, with the Arab conquest of Persia and the rise of Islam in the mid-7th century. Farrokh then describes the pivotal 16th century which saw the rise of a powerful family, the Safavids, which ruled Iran for 200 years. During the Safavid period, a strong, secular-minded central government fielded an army that was able to stare down threats from the Turks, Arabs, and Russians in the west and the Uzbeks and Afghans in the east. According to Farrokh, the push south, east, and west from Iran’s hostile neighbors during this era foreshadowed security threats it has faced down to the current day and does much to explain why modern Iran is so eager to its project power.

Note the following radio interviews scheduled to date with Farrokh on Iran at War: 1500-1988:

  • WFLA-AM, Tampa Florida (June 17, 2011)
  • WHFS-AM Washington DC (July 1, 2011)
  • KCMN-AM, Colorado Springs (july 5, 2011)
  • Money Matters Network – Stu Taylor on Business, National Syndicated (July 7, 2011)
  • WGTD-FM Milwaukee WI (July 12, 2011)
  • WDEV, Burlington VT (date to be announced)

Tayyara! Tayyara! (Arabic: Airplane! Airplane!). Iraqi crew of a BMP invading Iran in 1980 (at left) abandon their vehicle in haste at the sound of the roaring engines of two US-made Iranian F-4E Phantoms. Iranian Phantoms (at right) were also reported to be flying just meters above ground level to fire their 20mm cannon at Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles (Picture Source at left:; Picture Source at right: Farrokh, 2011).

Radio Interview with Kaveh Farrokh on Friday June 17, 2011


Kaveh Farrokh is due to be interviewed live on his new book, Iran at War: 1500-1988 on June 17, 2011 by the WFLA-AM radio station in Tampa Florida at 6:10 am Pacific time,

Kaveh teaches ancient Persian history at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division, and is affiliated with a number of academic organizations, including Stanford University’s WAIS (World Association of International Studies) program, the Hellenic-Iranian Studies Society, and The Iran Linguistics Society.               

Kaveh has been noted for a number of citations including the following:                  

Kaveh has been interviewed by a number of media outlets including:

Kaveh’s second book “Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War” received praise by Dr.s Geoffrey Greatrex (University of Ottawa), Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (University of Edinburgh, Department of Classics), Patrick Hunt (Stanford University), Nikoloz Kacharava (The University of Georgia in Tbilisi, Member of Academy of Sciences in Georgia, Active Member of New York Academy of Sciences) (posted on .             


Shadows in the Desert Ancient Persia at War (at left– consult OspreyPublishing or which has been translated  to Russian (at right-consult the Russian EXMO Publishers website).


Farrokh greets Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye of Harvard University(shaking hands with Farrokh) and world-renowned Iranologist, Dr. Farhang Mehr (at center), winner of the 2010 Merit and Scholarship award (photo from Persian American Society,March 1, 2008).  As noted by Mafie, Professor Frye of Harvard University wrote the foreword of Farrokh’s text stating that “…Dr. Kaveh Farrokh has given us the Persian side of the picture as opposed to the Greek and Roman viewpoint …it is refreshing to see the other perspective, and Dr. farrokh sheds light on many Persian institutions in this history…” (Mafie, 2010, pp.2).     


The Nobel Peace prize awarded to Sir Ralph Norman Angell (1872-1967) in 1933 (Photo in Public Domain). The United Nations affiliated organization ACUNS has noted that The World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media – WAALM has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (report also posted in, the Persianesque on-line Journal). Kaveh Farrokh is the chair of WAALM-School of Cultural Diplomacy’s Department of Traditions & Cultural History (for more infromation see Blog).

Ancient Nakhchevan: New Discoveries of an Iranian Legacy


The Expedition Team

An important new finding, first reported by the CAIS of London (hosted by Shapur Suren-Pahlav), has surfaced in Nakhchevan in the Caucasus. This pertains to a joint archaeologicl expedition conducted by the Republic of Azarbaijan (ROK) and the US. The ROK team was organised by the Republic’s Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Nakhchivan Department of the National Academy of Science of Azerbaijan; the ROK team was led by Professor Veli Bakhshaliyev. The US team was composed of archaeologists from Pennsylvania University. The head of the Pennsylvania University  expedition was Professor Lauren Ristvit.

Location of Nakhchevan (from the website of CAIS, hosted by Shapur Suren-Pahlav).


The team has found archaeological remains in the Oglangala city fortress in the Sharur region of Nakhchevan that date to the Median era (728-550 BC) of ancient Iran. See also report on the website of The Naxcivan Archaeological Project-University of Pennsylvania.

The expedition found the following:

  • Residuals of ancient buildings, including a large palace dating to the Medo-Achaemenids of ancient Iran.
  • Ancient graves, a number of other samples of material culture.
  • Ceramics dated to the 2nd-early 1st millennium BCE.

Layout of the Nachchivan archaeological digs in 2006-2008 (picture source: The Naxcivan Archaeological Project-University of Pennsylvania).

According to Professor Bakhshaliyev, previous research revealed that Oglangala, was the center of an ancient state which was often attacked by the ancient Urartian kingdom. Professor Bakhshaliyev further avers:

We wondered how such a strong state as Urartu failed to occupy the city. Based on the result of the digs, it can be said for sure that this region was a center of a semi-independent ancient state which was fighting with Urartu“.

The Ancients residing in this territory have created a rich culture, constructed a grand palace with big columns, said another head of the expedition, professor of the Pennsylvania University Lauren Ristvit.   She said the joint US-Azerbaijani archaeological expedition has been holding studies in Sharur region since 2008 and intends to continue studies next year.

Archaeologists Veli Bakhshaliyev and Emin mammedov at the Nakhchevan site (picture source: The Naxcivan Archaeological Project-University of Pennsylvania).

As noted in the website of The Naxcivan Archaeological Project-Unniversity of Pennsylvania:

We discovered fragments of several stone columns, perhaps suggesting that this is a large columned hall during the Achaemenid period. Three pottery sherds—inscribed with cuneiform—link the Middle Iron Age occupation of this citadel with fortresses at Bastam in Iranian Azerbaijan and Ayanis in Eastern Turkey

In 2009 the expedition team has also discovered a number of cuneiform inscriptions, without revealing their language. The territory after the collapse of Median dynasty in 550 BCE, became part of the Achaemenid dynasty (550-330 BCE) and therefore, the language of the discovered inscriptions could be Old-Persian.

Origins of the name of Nakchevan

The name Nakhjavan, possibly derived from the middle-Persian compound of ‘nakhchir+wan’ (‘tree quarry’, i.e. tree supplying ground), while some believe the name derived from Armenian meaning ‘the place of descent’, a Biblical reference to the descent of mythical Noah’s Ark on the adjacent Mount Ararat. The medieval geographers however referred to the area as Nashava.  Nakhjavan and present-day Republic of Azarbaijan, were parts of the Iranian province of Arran and other Iranian Khanates until 1828. The name of the former province of Arran and the Khanates was changed to the Republic of Azarbaijan in 1918.

Researchers engaged in explorations at the Nakhchevan site (picture source: The Naxcivan Archaeological Project-Unniversity of Pennsylvania).

Nakhchevan and the Pre-Islamic Era

The oldest material culture artefacts found in the region date back to the Neolithic Age. The region was part of the state of Mannae, and later Median dynasty of Iran.   After the collapse of Median dynasty in 550 BCE, it became part of the Satrapy of Armenia under the new dynasty, the Achaemenid Iran (550-330 BCE). After the invasion of Iran by Alexander II, the area along with the rest of Achaemenid Empire felt to the hands of the invaders, until the liberation of Iran by the third Iranian dynasty, the Arsacids/Parthian (248 BCE-224 CE).   Arsacids succeeded by the new dynasty, the Sasanians in 224 CE and subsequently the region remained part of Iran until the invasion of Iran by Arab-Muslins in 640 CE. In the 8th century,

The last of ancient Persia’s pre-Islamic dynasties, the Sassanian Empire (224-651 AD) at its maximum extent in the 620s AD.

Nakhchevan and the Post-Islamic Era

Nakhjavan was one of the scenes of Iranian uprising against the Arab invasion led by Persian revolutionary Babak Khorramdin (“those of the joyous religion” in Persian).   Nakhjavan from Arab rule in the 10th century went to the hands of Bagratuni King Smbat I and handed over to the princes of Syunik. This region also was taken by Sajids in 895 and between 909-929, Sallarid between 942-971 and Shaddadid between 971-1045. In the 11th century the region was taken over by the Saljuqs, a Persianised-Turkic dynasty in 1055, with their capital in the central Iranian city of Esfahan.   In 12th century, the city of Nakhjavan became the capital of the state of Atabegs, which included most of Azarbaijan Province of Iran and significant part of Arran province (nowadays the Republic of Azerbaijan).

Post-Islamic structure in Nakhchevan.

 The Armeno-Georgian princely house of Zacharids frequently raided the region when the Atabeg state was in decline in the early years of the 13th century. It was then plundered by invading Mongols and became part of the new Empire in 1236.   In the 16th century, the Safavid dynasty of Iran regaind the control of the area. Because of its geographic position, it frequently suffered during the wars between the Safavids and the Ottomans in the 16th to 18th centuries.   After the last Russo-Iranian War and the Treaty of Turkmenchay, the Nakhjavan khanate passed into Russian possession in 1828 and separated from Iran for the last time.

Map of Iran in 1805 before the invasions of Czarist Russia. Note the Caucasus (Nakhchevam Baku, Georgia, etc), north of Iran and along the eastern Caspian littoral, which was Iranian territory.  Russia invaded Iran and forced her to cede the Caucasus. Iran also lost important eastern territories such as Herat  which broke away with British support, Picture source from CAIS.