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Shiraz Historical Houses Architecture Guide For Globetrotters

A Persian traditional house is specifically known for its enclosed garden and courtyard, stained-glass windows with stunning joinery, painted ceilings, tile work and brick work, noticeable in Shiraz historical houses especially the ones built by Shirazi merchants and dignitaries during Qajar dynasty. They are many of these stunning houses in Shiraz historical district or so called Baft-e Tarikhi Shiraz boasting more than 1200 years of recorded history while 360 hectares of the old town still in place at the heart of Shiraz city today. It was not just the celebrated English writer Agatha Christie who stayed in and recorded one of these houses in her book "The House at Shiraz" after her first trip to Shiraz during Pahlavi dynasty and there are details of Persian houses in Shiraz during Zand and Qajar dynasties written by travelers who have stayed in Shiraz for weeks and months and have been hosted by hospitable Shirazi families.

Nowadays some houses counting Naranjestan-e Qawam, Zinat al-Molk and Forogh al-Molk mansions are open to visitors and many houses have been converted into luxury guest houses, boutique hotels or basic hostels for the sake and enjoyment of local and foreign travelers.

These old buildings have played a major role in making Shiraz one of the best touristic destinations in Iran. Experiencing the true Iranian way of living by staying in a heritage hotel instead of a regular hotel, is a dazzling tourist experience for visitors from all around the world.

What is a Shiraz Historical House like

A Shiraz historical house or mansion or an Iranian historical house in general enjoys an indoor courtyard and garden with a pool in the middle and at the moment is located withing the historical district at the center of Shiraz city surrounded by the newer part of the city expanded from Pahlavi reign till now in different directions specifically toward northwest.

Generally, a Shiraz historical house is fully enclosed inside, insulated with high-strength walls decorated with brick work or tile work patterns and with minimal vents to keep out heat and street noise.

These historical mansions are also known for their open-ceiling structure. Usually, the indoor courtyard of these charming buildings is decorated with tile work and brick work and emphasized with pools in the center with plants, trees and flowers all around.

Iranian Historical Houses Details Based on Shiraz Qajar Mansions

What we describe today about Iranian historical houses is mainly based on the mansions built during the reign of Qajars so it is the best to rely on the description of someone who stayed in one of these mansions at the time and as Shiraz has been a popular city among globetrotters in history we have a good record of one these travelers who has not missed traveling to Shiraz in his lifetime.

As one of the administrators  in the East India Service in Madras, Robert Balir Munro Binning (1814-1891) had to quit his post for health reasons in 1850 and hit the road for two years in Ceylon and Persia with great deal of attention to Shiraz. He was Keeping the record of his trips as personal notes or letters to himself but when Dr. Dunkan Forbes, Professor of Oriental Languages in King's college in London, saw the diary found it an important source with rich details that must get published. "A Journal of Two Years' Travel in Persia, Ceylon" gives of great details about Persian especially Shiraz and Persepolis in two volumes.

We will study different parts and decorations of a Qajar mansion in Shiraz city based on the observation and description of Roberts of a house he resided in Shiraz for weeks hosted by a Persian family. The parts and decorations of the houses may vary based on the wealth of the owner who built it.

Front Door Exterior

The only visible sign of the house, in the street, is a low door, which is kept barred in the inside. It is constructed of thick timber, embossed with large iron knobs, and having an iron knocker suspended above the keyhole. No window or other aperture relieves the uniformity of the high mud-colored wall.

Corridor, Courtyard & Plan (Dehliz & Hayat)

Entering by this door, a short passage called the "Dehliz", leads into the "Hayat" or court of the house, a space of thirty feet square, the greater part of which is paved with slabs of stone; having in the center, an oblong tank of water, about five feet deep, constructed of stone: and on either side of the tank, a small plat of ground, in which grow half a dozen orange trees, a few rosebushes, Jessamine shrubs, and other flowers. Round this court, the house is built; the principal part of it, being directly opposite to the entrance. The end where the entrance lies, is occupied by the kitchen and one or two closets. On either side of the court, leading from this are four small rooms, some of which are occupied by the servants, while the others remain empty, or are used as occasion requires.

Principal Room (Divankhaneh)

Facing the entrance, consists of two stories with a flat roof above: and the greater portion of the lower story is occupied by the Divankhaneh or principal room, which is raised a few feet higher than the level of the court. This apartment is about 16 feet square, and the side of it, towards the court, is entirely occupied by the Orsi, a large window of colored glass, extending the whole length and height of the room.

Stained Glass Windows & Curtains (Orsi)

The Orsi merits particular description. It is a kind of proscenium, the upper part of which, consists of open woodwork, carved, painted and gilt; and containing an infinite number of minute panes, or rather bits, of colored glass, arranged in fancy patterns. From this upper half, descend five sashes, sliding in grooved posts: each sash being seven feet high, and reaching down to the floor. These are also composed of little panes of stained glass, fitted into the woodwork and any or all of these sashes can be opened, by sliding it upwards into the higher portion of the Orsi; so that the whole apartment can be thrown open to the court, or completely closed, according to the inmate's pleasure. Above the Orsi, on the outside in front, is fastened a curtain, like a drop scene, which is let down and pulled up, by means of cords and pulleys. In hot weather, this curtain is often lowered, to keep out the glare and heat, while the Orsi is thrown open. I should observe that no putty is used in a Persian window. The little pieces of glass are fitted into grooves in the woodwork; and when fresh pieces are to be inserted in the room of broken ones, it is often necessary to take a great part of the window to pieces. Much taste is often displayed, in the construction of an Orsi; and in palaces and great houses, this is generally a very handsome affair.

Wainscot (Hezareh), Niche (Taghche) & Decorations

The other three sides of the room, have a Hezareh or wainscot (if it can properly be so termed) of level white plaster, painted with flowers, running round to the height of three feet; and above this, the wall is worked into Taghcheh or niches, also of white varnished plaster, ornamented with a profusion of painting and gilding, representing birds, flowers, and shrubs. Above this, runs a cornice of gold and azure, about eight feet from the floor: and the upper part of the wall is occupied by a representation of his late majesty Fath-Ali Shah Qajar sitting in state, and attended by ten ladies. The figures, which extend round three sides of the room, are nearly as large as life, and gaudily colored. The ceiling is in keeping with the rest of the apartment; being covered with painting and gilding in mosaic or arabesque pattern. 

There is a great waste of paint and gold leaf, in these decorations; The floor is covered with a mat; above which is an ordinary carpet, and round the sides of this, are spread the Namads or thick doubled layers of felt, upon which the Persians seat themselves.

Fireplace (Bokhari), Pull of Shoe Antichambers (Kafshkan) & Threshold (Dargahi)

In the center of the wall, opposite to the Orsi, is the Bokhari or fireplace, a narrow kind of stove, without a grate, projecting slightly from the wall. At the sides of the room, are doors leading into small antichambers, called the kafshkan or "pull off shoe" for here every one leaves his shoes, previous to stepping over the Dargah (threshold) of the chief room.

Closet room (Sandooghkhane)

From the front of these antichambers, a few stone steps lead down to the court; and at the sides lie the Sandook-khaneh or closets for stowing away trunks and baggage.

Small Rooms (Gooshvare)

Beside these closets, proceed narrow, tortuous staircases, conducting to the story above. This upper story consists of two Gooshvare or small rooms, used as sleeping apartments. Each apartment has a small Orsi in front; and the walls are of white stucco, ornamented with figures of birds done in relief.

Roof (Bam), Parapet Wall (Ma'jar) & Rain Spout (Navdan)

Beside these sleeping rooms, two doors, approached by a few steps, lead out upon the Bam or terraced roof of the house. This roof, which is very thick and substantial, has a Ma'jar or low parapet wall running round it, and is furnished with several Navdan or long wooden spouts, to carry off the rain. In the heat of summer, people commonly sleep on the roof at night, and at this season, they sit there during the day, to bask in the sun. It is incumbent on a Persian, to build a parapet round his roof, as it was on the Jews.

Doors' division (Lenge), Chain (Cheft), Hasp (Rizeh) & Latch (Koloon)

The doors in the house, all consist of two leaves. They are badly fitted, and do not suffice to keep out the cold and wind; for which purpose, a chintz curtain is generally hung up in front of each door, inside of the room. Each Lenge (leaf or division) fastens by means of a few links of chain, called the Cheft, which fits upon the Rizeh, a kind of hasp, fixed in the top of the door frame. To this hasp, a padlock is attached, when it is requisite to fasten the door securely. The outer door of the court, leading into the street, is secured by a lock, as well as by a thick wooden bar, called the koloon.

Men and Women Sections (Zanane, Mardane) in Wealthy Mansions

Persian houses are all built much on the same principle: but those inhabited by men of wealth and rank, having families and numerous dependents, are much larger, and cover a great space of ground; being divided into two compartments: the Zanane or part occupied by the women; and the Mardane, where the lords of the creation dwell which are distinct and separate. In these mansions, a second courtyard with garden-plats and tank of water, lies behind the gentleman's quarters, and contains another division of the house, similar to the first, wherein the ladies and female attendants live: and here, the chief wife's authority is paramount, even to the exclusion of her liege lord, if she does not choose to be troubled with his company. Here the ladies receive their visitors, and give entertainments, &c., to which none of the other sex are, on any account, admitted.

Balcony (Balakhaneh), subterraneous apartment (Sardab) & Wall spaces (Jirz)

The upper story of a house, instead of being divided into two small apartments, often consists of one room, as large as that below, having closets at the sides, and opening towards the court, with an Orsi. This is termed the Balakhaneh; a word from which our "balcony" is probably derived. Many dwellings are also furnished with a Zir-zamin or Sardab, a subterraneous apartment, lighted from above; which is resorted to in summer, and is cool in the hottest weather.

In the best houses, the ornamental work is executed in first-rate style. The Orsi is a splendid arrangement of colored glass, the roof is beautifully arabesqued, the Taghcheh (niches) finely painted-and the Jirz or spaces of the wall between these niches, inlaid with looking glass, neatly joined together. This has a very pretty effect, particularly when the lamps are lighted at night, and the apartment seems to be multiplied to an endless extent.

Alcove (Shaneshin), Inner Room (Tanabi), Upper Apartment (Ghorfe), Wind Tower (Badgir)

In some of these mansions, the Divankhaneh is very large, and has at one end, a Shahnesheen or alcove, elevated on a dais, in which the inmates usually sit. This alcove often has a small Orsi occupying its back, which leads into a Tanabi or inner room behind. Above the alcove, is commonly a Ghorfe or upper apartment, open to the Divankhaneh; and here they sometimes sit, in hot weather, as being cooler than down below. A Badgir or windtower is occasionally erected above; but this addition to the dwelling, is not so common or so necessary, on the table land of Fars, as in hotter regions.

Platform (Sakkoo), Wooden Ledge (Torre)

In one corner of the court, there is generally a draw-well, having a wooden wheel over it, with a rope and leather bucket. Upon the roof, there are two or three chimney tops, built of brick, three or four feet in height; and sometimes a Sakkoo or platform, in the center, a few feet high, upon which the beds are spread in the warm summer nights. Many houses have besides, a kind of eaves of wood-work, three or four feet broad, extending round the top of the house, outside of the parapet wall. This wooden ledge, called the Torre, is plastered on the upper side, and painted and gilt on the lower.

Shiraz Historical Mansions to Visit

Qavam Mansion (Naranjestan-e Qavam)

Narenjestan Qavam Construction was commanded after the death of Ali Akbar Khan (Qavam al-Mulk I) by his son Ali Mohammed Khan (Qawamul-Mulk II) but during his lifetime just the house plan was done so his son, Muhammad Reza Khan (Qawamul-Mulk III) completed the construction of the house in 1886.
This 3500 square meter complex consists of Divankhaneh where during the Qajar era, was the place to resolve the disputes among people and hold meetings of noblemen and officials, the Andadruni where the Qavam family settled, the Gachineh Hammam and the garden. An underground tunnel linked these different sections.

The Front door of the mansion is made of teak wood and displays very beautiful wood carvings. The roof of the Hashti or vestibule that connects the entrance door to the court through the corridor is covered with beautiful brickwork and plaster tiles, and the yellow and blue tiles evoke your senses.

The Divankhaneh (Reception Hall) is built in the northernmost part of the garden, on two floors and with 20 rooms. All the rooms in the main mansion (except the rooms on the left side) are nested and connected. So that you can go from the central rooms to the last room in the east of the building without leaving the building. The basement of the house was also used as an armory and food storage. The most magnificent and part of the Qavam Mansion in Shiraz, is the portico (Ivan) of this section. All the ceiling and walls of the portico are artistically mirrored and in front of the building there is a large pool reflected in them. The white and elevated columns of the portico are made of marble and the capitals are decorated with exquisite carvings. At the bottom of the facade of the building, there are stone carvings showing Achaemenid soldiers, a lion, and a battle scene with Halahel.

Passing through a wooden door with three delicate arches, whose crescent head is decorated with colored glass, the king's room of the mansion or Hall of Mirrors is located. This room is exactly the same as the portico, covered from ceiling to floor with spectacular mirror work. At the end of the room, a marble fireplace is set up. On this fireplace, a pattern similar to the inscriptions of Persepolis is done, and on both sides of it, the image of Qavamul-Mulk III is engraved.

On either side of the portico, there are two large doors with inlay wood carving, each leading to a corridor. These corridors lead to the side rooms, upstairs rooms, and the hall of mirrors and are connected to the courtyard by a staircase. All the rooms of the main mansion are decorated with unique plasterwork and paintings, and the wooden ceilings of the house are painted with very eye-catching motifs.

The ceiling paintings, which are called Marjuk by locals and serve many houses of Shiraz that belong to the Zand and Qajar periods.

All the doors of the house are made of local walnut wood and inlaid in Indian style. The shells used in these doors belong to the shores of the Persian Gulf.

Between the two southern buildings of the garden, there is a large wall covered with seven-colored tiles. This wall consists of 1 large archway and 2 small archways, and the design of its tiles are inspired by the images of the Zandiye period. In the large archway, three servants can be seen in the long clothes of that era. The first servant is holding a bowl, the second servant is holding a cup, and the third is holding a bowl of fruit.

The main building of Narenjestan Qavam had been originally set up as the Shahram Museum, and in 1967 it became the headquarters of Pahlavi University's Asia Institute directed by Arthur Upham Pope for three years and later headed by Richard Nelson Frye.

Zinat al-Molk House

Zinat al-Molk House is located in the west of Qavam mansion in Shiraz, and in fact, is considered the interior of Narenjestan Mansion and only intimates and family members had access to it and the two mansions are connected to each other by an underground corridor. Zinat al-Molk was the daughter of Qavam al-Molk IV (Habibullah Khan Qavam) and the wife of Forough al-Molk.
The most alluring part of the house is the Hall of Mirrors, which is located on the west side. All the walls and the ceiling of this room are mirrored and painted, and the Orsi windows with their colored glass pieces have given a magical atmosphere to the room. A large pool stands out in front of the western building, and on its forehead is a crescent decorated with seven-colored tiles.

The house of Zinat al-Molkk leads to the Narenjestan-e Qavam mansion with a corridor through the basement. This basement is located throughout the building. The entrance to the basement is located on the right side of the entrance door of the house and the exit is parallel to it in the opposite building.

In the past, the bricked part of the basement was the armory and the other rooms were used to store food. The middle part of the basement was also used for rest and relaxation in the hot season. Mrs. Zinat al-Molk later dedicated the basement of the mansion to charity work and for hosting the people in need. Currently, this basement is a museum dedicated to hosting wax figures of notable people of Shiraz city and Fars province through history.

Forough al-Molk House

،This mansion was built in 1932 during the reign of Reza Shah when Officer Forough al-Molk decided to build a three-story mansion in one of the best neighborhoods of that time in Meidan-e Shah district of Shiraz. This house was actually the residence of Ismail Qavam and his second wife, Qamar al-Hajiye. The Foroughul-Molk house in Shiraz was owned by the Qavami family until 1949, until it was donated to the Education Organization by Mr. Forogh al-Molk. The blue tiles on the front of the house still carry the name of Forough al-Molk School. in 2003 the restoration of the house was managed and was converted to a nice art museum by Hasan Meshkinfam one of the celebrated contemporary painters and photographers of Shiraz.

Foroughul-Molk house in Shiraz is a 3-story building consisting of basement, ground floor and first floor. This house was part of a large complex belonged to Foroughul Molk containing a stable, a guard house and two residential houses. Currently, the housemaids, guards and stable section is converted to a nice boutique hotel by Pazira Travel group named Forough-e Mehr Hotel.

Alcove (Shahneshin) is located on the northwest side and is decorated with wooden lattice and stained glass windows and Orsis. This mansion has a way to the interior through a pond. Hozkhaneh is a large and octagonal space with a dome-shaped roof.

Shiraz Top Historical Converted Hotels

Forough Boutique Hotel

Forough Mehr Hotel was restored and converted to a hotel by Pazira Travel Company as a part of its travel business and cultural activities in historical district of Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran and Tabriz. As a part of Forough al-Molk historical house that was later separated and used as a residential house by locals, this Qajar style house that was built few years after the fall of Qajar dynasty was badly damaged and needed heavy restoration. The amazing tilework that has been added around the courtyard is inspired by the Moshir mosque close to the house. This hotel has 18 rooms in single, double, and triple rooms and has nice small rooms with private bathroom and air-conditioning and boasts one one the most beautiful courtyards of the historical houses and heritage hotels of Iran. Its rooftop and balcony view gives you a nice idea of the historical district of Shiraz and its beautiful domes plus the mountains surrounding Shiraz city.

Address: Address: Sang Siah Pass, Dastgheib Blvd., Namazi Intersection

Tel: +98 71 32225877 Website :

Oscru Hotel

The Screw Hotel is a historical building located close to Vakil Bazar in Shiraz and beside Gumruk caravanserai established during Zand dynasty and was the place to put taxes on commodities and also to hold festivals and rituals. They were people whose job was to compress cotton using screw cotton press so that the merchants can carry more cotton by camels in Caravans. The people who were pressing the cottons with screw cotton press were called Screwchi in Iran and later it became the surname of these people of Shiraz city. It is where the new of this hotel has been originated. This hotel is located in Darb-e Shahzadeh historical district of Shiraz. The hotels is nicely restored and equipped and include 8 beautiful room that can accommodate the expectations of many travelers.

Address: Next to Vakil Bazaar , Shiraz, Iran, 

Tel: +98 71 32242629 Website:

Darb-e Shazde Hotel

Darb-e Shazdeh as a converted hotel is another example of nicely Restored and well equipped hotel in historical district of Shiraz. Built during the last years of Zand or first years of Qajar dynasty, it has nice Orsi and lattice windows and holds are nice rooms including the mirror room, small prince room, upper double room, double garden room, Pahlavi room, five door room, Hozkhane room, seven door room and Orsi room. It is located in Darb-e Shahzadeh historical district of Shiraz.

Rd. 26, Karimkan Zand St., From Isfahan Gate, Taimoori St, Rd. 30, before the shrine, right cross the bakery, Shiraz, Iran

Tel: +98 71 32248304 Website :

Shiraz Top Historical Converted Restaurants and Cafes

Vakil Restaurant

Originally the building of this nice restaurant and cafe was a part of the complex established by Karimkhan Zand when Shiraz was the capital of Iran but during Pahlavi dynasty it was renovated from ruins and was an important place for performing theater in Shiraz and later during Shiraz Art festivals it was the place of some of the top theater performances by Iranian and International theater groups. After revolution it was shut down but recently it was restored again and is now serving nice Persian cuisine to Iranians and foreigners visiting Shiraz.

Address: Taleghani Street, Shiraz, Iran Tel: 0713 2230884

Parhami House

A converted hotel and restaurant located close to Nasir-ol-Molk mosque and Qavam house in the heart of Historical district of Shiraz in God-e Araban district, it serves a wide range of nice food and drinks. You can enjoy eating a nice Persian meal in a Qajari house and later walk around the off-the-beaten track of Shiraz historical alleys.

Address: No 10 Alley 34, pop side of Nasirolmolk Mosque, Lofalikhan Zand Street, Gode Araban, Shiraz, Iran Tel: +98 71 3223 2015

Forough Hotel Balcony Cafe

Located in the courtyard and balconies of Forough hotel, it is a nice place to sip coffee or tea and marvel at the beautiful Persian tiles of this stunning house.

Address: Address: Sang Siah Pass, Dastgheib Blvd., Namazi Intersection 

Tel: +98 71 32225877  Website :


Shiraz tours

Book the Shiraz city tour of Uppersia Travel and visit Shiraz historical houses and mansion. You may also ask for a customized tour of Shiraz if you want to visit less visited houses or if you need more time to study the houses to learn from your local tour guide from Shiraz. We can also have an architect beside your tour guide if you need more technical information.
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Zand Blvd, Roodaki St. , Zip code: 7135744934, Shiraz, Iran