Masjed-e Vakil: A bustling tourist destination in Shiraz

April 27, 2019

TEHRAN – A trip to Shiraz without a visit to Masjed-e Vakil (Vakil Mosque), which is part of a bigger 18th-century ensemble, may be tantamount to a trip to Istanbul while missing the Blue Mosque.

The atmospheric ensemble of Masjed-e Vakil, Bazaar-e Vakil, and Vakil Bathhouse has always been a bustling tourist destination in downtown Shiraz, and a must-see for both local and international backpackers.

Karim Khan Zand, the founder of the Zand Dynasty who ruled from 1751 to 1779, ordered the construction of the ensemble in the 18th century, as part of his grand development projects in the heart of his capital city.

The mosque is connected to the bazaar and almost attached to the bathhouse with a lane in between. As one enters the mosque, they can see a corridor leading to the Vakil Bazaar on the left-hand side.

The mosque has a recessed entrance decorated with Shirazi rose-pink tiles, a splendid inner courtyard surrounded by beautifully tiled alcoves and porches, two vast iwans (porticos), and a pleasingly proportioned 75m-by-36m vaulted prayer hall. A distinguishing feature of the mosque, however, is the forest of 48 diagonally fluted columns that support the prayer hall, displaying a hypnotic rhythm of verticals and arabesques.

There is also a vast courtyard with a relatively long pool in the middle. Around the courtyard, stand two iwans in a symmetric way in the northern and southern sides.

According to Destination Iran, at the southern iwan, there is an entrance leading to a roofed columned hall (shabestan) with 48 monolithic pillars joining one another on top through vaulted brickworks. The pillar shafts are carved in a spiral way and decorated in form of acanthus leaves at their capitals. Color of the stone pillars and those of brick-formed ceiling match.

Some visitors refer to Iranian bazaars as “a city within another” because most of them embrace mosques, madrasas, bathhouses, guesthouses, amongst others.

All ceiling decoration has been made by plain bricks except the one line coming from the southern iwan directly toward the mihrab of the mosque. This part is an amazingly splendid corridor-like pathway set by its ceiling tile decoration embellished by Shirazi “haft rang” (seven-color) tiles.

The builders of the mosque have made a minbar (preacher’s seat) out of a piece of green marble with a flight of 14 steps leading to the seat on top. This minbar is an exemplary work at Zand-period mosques.

Some visitors refer to Iranian bazaars as “a city within another” because most of them embrace mosques, madrasas, bathhouses, guesthouses, banks, once thriving caravansaries and residential neighborhoods.

Today the bazaar is home to almost 200 stores selling carpets, handicrafts, spices, antiques, leatherwork and clothes amongst others. Its broad vaulted passageways are designed in such a way that ensures the interior remains cool in summer and warm in wintertime.

Shiraz is home to some of the country’s most magnificent buildings and sights. Increasingly, it draws more and more foreign and domestic sightseers flocking into this provincial capital which was the literary capital of Persia during the Zand dynasty from 1751 to 1794.

Under tourists’ eyes

Here is a select of comments that visitors to the mosque have posted to TripAdvisor, one of the most popular travel websites in the world:

“One of most beautiful mosques”

Not so crowded. Really nice interior and right next to Vakil bazaar. Go there in the late afternoon to have a nice sunlight enlightening the pillars. (44bat from Las Rosas, Spain; Reviewed April 2019)

“Another fantastic mosque”

If you have been to other mosques like in Isfahan this one looks like the others. However, this is still a nice one to visit if you like the tiles and decorations. Many options for good photos. Allow between half an hour to an hour. (LarsSoholm from Skanderborg, Denmark; Reviewed February 2019)

“Worth to be seen”

In general, most major mosques in Iran are worth to be seen. Impressive structures with amazing tile works. Some of them several hundred years old.

“Nice Mosque in the heart of the city”

The Mosque architecture is fantastic, one of the oldest in Shiraz, the area around is full of shops and cafes. Great at night for view and photography (mohsens2002 from Istanbul, Turkey; Reviewed October 2018)

“Style and substance”

The Portico sets the tone, with a riot of Shiraz tile work. The gem for me was the night prayer hall and minbar. Go and see it! (SeeWhatDSees from Ireland; Reviewed October 2018)

“What a jewel!”

This mosque is really beautiful…. Several pillars in the mosque makes this mosque other then all the others. Mosaics are mostly original, which is special to see. (Mariska B. from Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Reviewed September 2018)

AFM/MQ/MG

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