Visit Khuzestan, land of sunshine, palm trees and history

July 16, 2021 - 21:48

TEHRAN – The southwestern Iranian province of Khouzestan is one of the oldest regions on the Iranian plateau. Due to its oil refineries, Khouzestan is considered to be the heartland of Iranian energy production.

There is nothing like this land for its hospitality, with its kind-hearted and loving people. A place where the soil is blessed with goodness and generosity.

Known for its warm climate, Khuzestan is the land of palm trees and sunshine.

The Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) involved the province heavily. As a result, it suffered many damages, traces of which are still evident today.

In spite of this, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country, as it is home to the World Heritage Sites of Susa, Tchogha Zanbil, and Shushtar Hydraulic System, as well as several other historical sites and natural features.

Here is the list of some important tourist attractions of the province.


The UNESCO-registered Susa was one of the city-states of ancient Elam (2700 – 539 BC), which later became the winter capital of the Persian Achaemenid kings, who ruled Iran from c. 550 to 330 BC. Elam was an ancient country in southwestern Iran approximately equivalent to the modern region of Khuzestan province.

Part of Susa is still inhabited as Shush on a strip of land between the rivers Shaour (a tributary of the Karkheh) and Dez.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Susa has been continuously inhabited since 4,200 BC placing it among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. In addition, there are traces at Susa of a village inhabited around 7,000 BC and painted pottery dating from ca. 5,000 BC at the site.

The archaeological site includes the ruins of the Achaemenid palace complex of Darius I, the Great, and is located on a fifteen-meter-high artificial raised 100-hectare terrace. It has suffered greatly in the past seventy years.

Susa became part of the Persian Empire under Cyrus II, the Great in 538 or 539 BC. During the balance of the Achaemenian period (to 330 BC), Susa functioned as one of the rotating capitals (a winter capital) of the Achaemenian Kings.

It is said that Alexander of Macedonia captured Susa in 330 BC and plundered the city, seizing some 40,000 talents of gold and silver from the treasury.

According to UNESCO, “the excavated architectural monuments include administrative, residential, and palatial structures” and the site contains several layers of urban settlement dating from the 5th millennium BC through the 13th century CE.

Relics unearthed from the region demonstrate that even the earliest potteries and ceramics in Susa were of unsurpassed quality, decorated with birds, mountain goats, and other animals designs.

The finest pottery was found in the lowest strata and belonged to two different civilizations, both Neolithic, according to Britannica.

After the fall of the Achaemenid Empire and the reign of Alexander the Great, who married in Susa, the city became part of the Seleucid empire. It was now called Seleucia on the Eulaeus. A palace in Greek style was erected, next to Darius’ palace. The administrative center, however, was in the southern part of the city, where nearly all Greek and Parthian inscriptions were discovered. In the Parthian age, the city minted coins.

During the Sasanian age, the city had a large Christian community. It was sacked by the Sasanian king Shapur II, who transferred the population to Iwan-e Karkheh, but Susa was sufficiently recovered in the early seventh century to fight against the Arabs, who nevertheless captured the city which remained important until the thirteenth century CE.

Different archaeological seasons in Susa have yielded ample relics including pottery, arms, ornamental objects, metalwork, bronze articles, as well as clay tablets. Susa is also a gateway to several worthy destinations such as the UNESCO-tagged ziggurat of Tchogha Zanbil, the ruins of Achaemenid Apadana Castle, Shush Castle (Akropol), Prophet Danial Shrine, Museum of Susa, the archaeological mount of Haft Tapeh.

Tchogha Zanbil

The UNESCO-tagged prehistoric ziggurat of Tchogha Zanbil is considered by many the finest surviving example of Elamite architecture in the globe.

Its construction started in c. 1250 BC upon the order of the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (1275-1240 BC) as the religious center of Elam dedicated to the Elamite divinities Inshushinak and Napirisha.

The prehistoric mud-brick complex bears testimony to the unique expression of the culture, beliefs, rituals, and traditions of one of the oldest indigenous communities of Iran.

The ziggurat overlooks the ancient city of Susa (near modern Shush). Reaching a total height of some 25m, the ziggurat was used to be surmounted by a temple and estimated to hit 52m during its heyday.

UNESCO says that Tchogha Zanbil is the largest ziggurat outside of Mesopotamia and the best preserved of this type of stepped pyramidal monument.

Tchogha Zanbil was excavated in six seasons between 1951 and 1961 by Roman Ghirshman, a Russian-born French archeologist who specialized in ancient Iran.

Shushtar Hydraulic System

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, a UNESCO-registered prehistorical ensemble in southwest Iran, is known globally as a masterpiece of creative genius.

The ensemble comprises bridges, weirs, tunnels, canals, and a series of ancient watermills powered by human-made waterfalls. It is named after an ancient city of the same name with its history dating back to the time of Darius the Great, the Achaemenid king.

Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2009, the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System may testify to the heritage and the synthesis of earlier Elamite and Mesopotamian knowhow. According to UNESCO, the ensemble was probably influenced by the Petra dam and tunnel and by Roman civil engineering.

UNESCO says that the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System demonstrates outstanding universal value as in its present form, it dates from the 3rd century CE, probably on older bases from the 5th century BC. It is complete, with numerous functions, and large-scale, making it exceptional.

The property is as rich in its diversity of civil engineering structures and its constructions as in the diversity of its uses (urban water supply, mills, irrigation, river transport, and defensive system). The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System testifies to the heritage and the synthesis of earlier Elamite and Mesopotamian knowhow; it was probably influenced by the Petra dam and tunnel and by Roman civil engineering.

“The hydraulic system has been considered a Wonder of the World not only by the Persians but also by the Arab-Muslims at the peak of their civilization,” according to the UN cultural body.

Furthermore, one of its main canals is a veritable artificial watercourse that made possible the construction of a new town and the irrigation of a vast plain, at the time semi-desert.

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System sits in an urban and rural landscape specific to the expression of its value.

Karun River

Karun, the largest and most abundant river in Iran, flows from deep gorges in the Zagros mountain range to Khuzestan Plain in the southwest of the country.

The river is a major source of water for the country, as well as a popular tourist attraction.

In its former state, it was the route for ships, but now it's occupied by a number of bridges, nine to be precise, making it almost impossible for vessels to pass.

At 950 kilometers in length, Karun is the longest river in Iran and the only one that is connected to oceanic waters.

As it flows toward the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, it meets the Arvand River, which is fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Khuzestan’s oil-rich center, Ahvaz, depends on it for its water supply.  

Listed on the national heritage list, Karun attracts domestic travelers and foreign tourists. There will be plenty of opportunities for stopping and watching from its bridges. Star-gazing from the bridges is an absolute must here.

Ahvaz Black Bridge

One of the first bridges in Ahvaz, the Black Bridge is a key tourist attraction in the city.

The first modern bridge that has been connecting the two sides of the Karun River for many years is almost built on the site of the old Ahvaz bridge that originates from the Sassanid era.

The new Black Bridge structure was built simultaneously with the opening of the national railway network in 1929. In the southern part of the country, it became one of the most important railway roads. This name was inspired by the color of the bridge’s body.

Armies used this bridge to transport food, ammo, and army forces during World War II. The bridge was inscribed on the national heritage list in 1999.

The Tomb of Daniel the Prophet

The tomb of the biblical prophet, Daniel, is surmounted by a massive cone in white plaster, attracting great numbers of domestic pilgrims including the Jewish community as well as foreign travelers.

The mausoleum cannot be missed while traversing Shush, though its architecture is of no great antiquity. It contains two courtyards, each encircled by adjoining chambers and porches.

The pilgrimage also offers some accommodations to visitors willing for an overnight stay.

According to Atlas Obscura, there are many places that claim to be the traditional burial place of the biblical prophet. But the tomb located in Shush is the most widely accepted and the first that was mentioned by Benjamin of Tudela, a medieval Jewish traveler whose journeys preceded Marco Polo’s by about 100 years, and who first visited Asia between 1160 and 1163.

Shevi Waterfall

Shevi is Iran’s largest waterfall, measuring 100 meters long and 50 meters wide.

This waterfall is located in Dezful and is best visited in spring when the weather is perfect and there is plenty of green space to enjoy.

Trees such as oak, willow, and fig are among the variety of vegetation around the waterfall.

Zaras Village

Once an intact village in the heart of the Zagros Mountains, Zaras is a favorite travel destination in Khuzestan province.

The temperate climate in winters or scenic nature seems to be the raison d’etre. However, the village was put on the map for nature lovers when became equipped with tourist facilities over the past couple of years.

Situated adjacent to a lake, the village is teemed with oak trees and is surrounded by rouged mountains. The lake is a place to sail and catch fish.

There are also tourist attractions near the village, including historic monuments such as Tagh-e Tavileh and Atabaki citadel, as well as Shivand waterfall, villages, and gardens where various fruit trees grow.

Kul-e Farah rock reliefs

Elamite bas-reliefs of Kul-e Farah are located near the ancient city of Izeh.

The prehistorical site, which was probably home to an Elamite temple and place of worship, includes six bas-relief carvings depicting graves, buildings, and a water canal.

Elam was an ancient pre-Iranian civilization centered in the far-west and south-west of what is now modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of what is now Khuzestan and Ilam provinces as well as a small part of southern Iraq.

Kul-e Farah ancient area was registered on the National Heritage list in 1999.

Rangoonis Mosque

The mosque of Rangoonis, or as the villagers call it, Rangooni ha, was built southwest of Abadan by Indian architects in 1922.

People from different cities and countries came to Abadan after the discovery of oil and the establishment of a refinery, making it an industrial town.

Muslim employees of Rangoon (Yangon), the then capital of Burma (Myanmar), along with British, Indian, and Pakistani immigrants, constructed the mosque and gave it the name of their hometown.

The Rangoonis Mosque has Mughal architecture and extensive cement reliefs.  The Mihrab (prayer niche) of this mosque is adorned with arabesque and geometrical motifs as well as an embossed depiction of heaven. The mosque has a Shabestan (inner sanctum), a courtyard, and minarets.

Since 2010 the mosque has served as the location of the Historical and Handwritten Documents Museum and houses handwritten Qurans as well as historical documents dating back to the Qajar (1789-1925) and the first Pahlavi (1925-1941) eras including financial documents and correspondence belonging to Iranian merchants in India and Britain with Iranian merchants, promissory notes, negotiable instruments, and business letters.

The Rangoonis Mosque was registered as a National Heritage Site in 2000.

Dez coastal resort

Dez coastal resort, also called Ali Kalleh, is a popular coastal park in Khuzestan.

The seafront attracts large numbers of visitors from neighboring cities and provinces per year, especially during spring and summer.

A series of alcoves have been made along the beach for the comfort and convenience of passengers on their journey.

There is also a park and greenery area, along with playground and entertainment facilities, which makes it a place for people to entertain in other seasons. Another attraction of this place, especially for children, is the existence of several types of slides on the riverside.

The resort is situated northward of Dezful, adjacent to the Dez Dam, which is built over a river of the same name originating from the Zagros Mountain range.

Photo: A view of the UNESCO-tagged prehistoric ziggurat of Tchogha Zanbil



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