By Afshin Majlesi

In Hamedan, ancient monuments and gigantic in-cave lake await

January 29, 2023 - 18:36

TEHRAN – From the dramatic sceneries to countless cultural sites, and from archeological sites to the largest in-cave lake on the planet, Hamedan offers a variety of destinations for history buffs, sightseers and nature lovers.

A surprising aspect of the central-west city, which never fails to provide visitors with cultural heritage sites, is made up of picturesque natural landscapes, traditional dining establishments, public gardens, vibrant outdoor markets, and, most importantly, its friendly people.

Sprawling on a high plain, the ancient city was built by the Medes, Assyrians, Persians, and Parthians. It may no longer be the legendary metropolis it once was, but it still boasts all the culture you'd expect from a location with such a long history.

It is perhaps best known as the location of the Tomb of Avicenna, which commemorates and celebrates the life of the Islamic world's most revered scientist. The Ali Sadr Cave and the inscriptions of the Ganjnameh, which were created by the Darius and Xerxes rulers of ancient Persia, are two more amazing sights to see.

Hamedan, also known as Ecbatana in classical times, was once one of the most important cities in the ancient world. A pitiful few artifacts from antiquity still exist, but significant areas of the city center are dedicated to excavations, and there are a few historical oddities scattered about.

Here is a selection of travel attractions in the ancient city:


Ganjnameh is a must-see location for history and culture enthusiasts. Ganjnameh, which translates to "Treasure Epistle," contains collections of cuneiform inscriptions in three languages: ancient Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian.

The inscriptions, which date to the reigns of the Achaemenid Kings Darius I (521-485 BC) and Xerxes I (485-65 BC), were first meticulously examined by Eugene Flandin, a French painter and archaeologist, along with Pascal Coste.

The right inscription, belonging to Xerxes I, reads: “The Great God [is] Ahuramazda, greatest of all the gods, who created the earth and the sky and the people; who made Xerxes king, and outstanding king as an outstanding ruler among innumerable rulers; I [am] the great king Xerxes, king of kings, king of lands with numerous inhabitants, king of this vast kingdom with far-away territories, son of the Achaemenid monarch Darius.”

Wintertime ice climbing is very popular at a nearby waterfall that is nine meters high. The Alvand summit, on the other hand, is reachable on a single day during the summer. The site's laid-back atmosphere makes it possible to go hiking on Mount Alvand's side, and it's only a short drive from the city.

Gonbad-e Alavian

A prominent example of the Persian-Islamic style of architecture at the time is the Gonbad-e Alavian ("Alavian Dome") from the 12th century. In his travelogue "The Road to Oxiana," British travel writer Robert Byron describes the whirling floral stucco ornamentation added to the brick tower during the Ilkhanid Mongol era that has since become a famous feature of the structure.

Two elder members of the Alavian family are buried in its tiny cellar. Six arched rooms make up the interior space. In the middle are turquoise brick-covered, cube-shaped graves.

Above the building's entrance is a rectangular plaque decorated with flower and stucco honeycomb patterns. This plaque's outer frame is covered in stucco reliefs of Quranic verses written in the Kufic calligraphy style.

Masjed-e Jameh

One of the oldest mosques in Hamadan is Masjed-e Jameh, also known as the Friday Mosque. Three of the mosque's original four porches still exist. The mosque is rectangular. This building has two prayer rooms for nighttime prayers, a brick dome and a spacious, lovely courtyard with a huge pool in the middle.

The south iwan, which is a disused entrance, leads into a hall over which there’s an impressively large brick dome. Four of the mosque's six minarets continue the pattern of blue tile work that adorns the north iwan.

Tepe Hegmataneh

Tepe Hegmataneh, which is equivalent to the ancient city of Ecbatana, has a circumference of 1.4 kilometers and a surface area of roughly 40 hectares. In reality, the modern city of Hamedan is located on the site of Ecbatana.

Although the view of the distant mountains from the archaeological hill is pleasingly rewarding, particularly in the late afternoon, what lies below is an ancient Median and Achaemenid city. Over the past century, only a few small sections have been excavated, with the 1990s seeing the most activity. Nearby are two Armenian churches that are now a part of Hamadan University, as well as a sophisticated museum.

By the French Assyriologist Charles Fossey, Ecbatana was first discovered during an excavation in 1913. Since the majority of the ancient sites are covered by the modern town, excavations have been relatively few. Hagmataneh Hill's limited excavations in 2006 yielded no artifacts older than the Parthian period (247 BC–224 CE), but this does not rule out the possibility of older archaeological layers being present elsewhere within the vast site.

Bu-Ali Sina Mausoleum

His namesake square is dominated by the well-known Bu-Ali Sina (Avicenna) Mausoleum, which resembles a concrete crayon pointing upward. It was loosely based on the UNESCO-designated 1000-year-old tower built by Qabus in Gonbad-e Kavus. There is a small library, an herb display, an Avicenna memorabilia museum in a single room, and his tombstone.

Muslim physician Avicenna was the most well-known and significant philosopher-scientist of the Islamic Middle Ages. His contributions to Aristotelian philosophy and medicine were particularly well known. He wrote Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine), one of the most well-known books in the history of medicine and the vast philosophical and scientific encyclopedia Kitab al-Shifa (Book of the Cure).

Ali Sadr Cave

The gigantic water-filled cavern Ali Sadr Cave is thought to have existed during the Jurassic period. About 70 kilometers north of Hamadan is where the long cave's entrance can be found.

The cave spans several kilometers and is home to a vast network of dark channels, ponds, grottoes, and waterways, as well as imposing rock formations and stalactite-covered tops.

There, sightseeing involves paddling through well-lit labyrinths of waterways in paddle boats, exploring underground islets, and taking in rock carvings of hunting scenes, artifacts, paintings, and vessels made by prehistoric troglodytes.

One of the longest underground boat trips in the world, according to some tour guides and travel industry professionals, a standard tour takes tourists about 2,000 meters inside the cave, more than 1,400 of which are covered by boats.

After riding through the countryside for an hour from Hamadan, you can arrive at the cave. Taxis and shuttles are frequently available as well.


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