Radiating with six straight avenues from a central square (Imam Khomeini), Hamadan is one of the oldest continually inhabited towns, centers of civilization, and numerous capitals of different dynasties that have ruled Iran through the ages. Capital of the province of Hamadan, at the foot of Mount Alvand, and located at an altitude of 1,829 m above sea level, it is 400 km to the southwest of Tehran by road via Qazvin, and can be reached by air as well. It is a trade center for a fertile farm region where fruit and grain are grown.
In the modern Hamadan which is built on the plans prepared by the German architect Karl Fritsch, nothing is left to be seen of ancient Ecbatana or the Medes capital before they formed a union with the Persians. It was the residence of Achaemenian Kings, and the summer resort of the Parthian and Sassanian dynasties due to its strategic vicinity to Ctesiphon. In the 7th century AD Hamadan was passed to the Arabs, and it was later held by the Seljuk Turks (12th-13th centuries) and the Mongols (13th-14th centuries).
Hamadans climate is mild and delightful in summers, and cold in winters. Early spring and late autumn are the rainy seasons for the region. To this day Hamadan is a very popular retreat with Iranians during the warmer months when the climate in autumn and spring is one of the most pleasant in the country, but winters are long and sever.
Before going into a description of the historical monuments of Hamadan, and regarding the towns rather prolonged history, the reader is reminded of two hills on which some of the most ancient remains can be seen even today, however not that much interesting: 1) Hagmatana Hill, with ruins of the walls and ramparts of the Median and Achaemenian periods. Located in Ekbatan Street (north of Ekbatan Square), which is presently under archaeological excavations and 2) Mosalla Hill (now a park), situated in the east of Ayatollah Mofatteh Avenue, which is said to be the ancient site of Anahita Temple. According to some archaeologists, the site had been a Parthian stronghold, the remains of which could be seen until a few years ago, with parts of its ramparts visible even today.
The ruins of ancient Hagmatana, on the site of which the present Hamadan stands, date from the period of Median monarchs (7th and early 6th centuries BC) who had made the city their capital. Hagmatana was further developed under the Achaemenian and Parthian rulers and was known as the first capital of the ancient Persian Empire. Scientific excavations and accidental diggings for construction works have resulted in the discovery of numerous objects, including some gold and silver tablets, in the region. This indicates that the treasury of the Achaemenian monarchs was kept in Hagmatana and that the present Hamadan has been constructed upon a part of the site of the ancient city. In the old Sar Qaleh, Qaleh Shah, and Darab quarters, one could see the remains of a thick wall that once enclosed the Achaemenian Darius palace (521-486 BC). Some traces of the Haft Hissar Palace and the historic ancient rampart, sparsely found in the old citadel of Hamatana bear witness to the grandeur of this capital of the Median and the Achaemenian periods. However, an adequate appreciation of this grandeur will only be possible when systematic scientific excavations are carried out in this area. So far, the discovery of the heads of a stone statue in the hillock Mosalla has proved the earlier existence of an Ashkanian fort on that hill. At all events, Hagmatana has been one of the important military centers of the Sassanian period and has retained the same position in the Islamic era. There exists ample evidence in the history of Islamic period concerning its prosperity.
Avicenna Mausoleum & Museum:
Hamadan has been the land of great heroes and scientists; Cyrus the Great grew up here, Pharaortes was executed here, and after thousands of years the vestiges of the mythological walls surrounding the beautiful town of Daiakku (Deioces), the Medes King, still can be seen there. The world-famous Iranian scientist, philosopher, and physician Abu Ali Sina known to the West of Avicenna, a prodigy who knew Koran by heart, lived in Hamadan for several years. He died in 1307. A large mausoleum built over his tomb in 1952, together with a library (which contains approximately 8,000 volumes of books) and a small museum devoted to his works are visited by most local and foreign tourists. A magnificent view of the city and the Mount Alvand can be seen from the roof of this museum.
Avicenna was above all a mathematician whose theories were taught in Europe until the 19th century. Today he would have been called a “pluridisciplinary” scientist. His works as a poet and philosopher are still studied by Iranians and Orientalists.
On the left side gallery of the mausoleum there is a grave which is attributed to Abu Said Dakhdukh. The grave of Aref-e Qazvini, a famous early-twentieth century Iranian poet is also situated in an open yard close to the entrance of the building.
Actually, mausoleums are the best historical monuments of Hamadan for a tourist to visit. Like the whole city, the exterior of historic sites and mausoleums have been renewed in most cases by constructions inspired by spindle-shaped structure of Mongol towers, to the exclusion of all other features of these towers.
Mausoleum of Baba Taher:
The 20th century Mausoleum of Baba Taher (another modernist atrocity), situated near the northern entrance of the city from Tehran Highway and at the end of Baba Taher Street in a square named after him, is a rocket-like monument to a mystic poet contemporary of Avicenna, Baba Taher, who died in 1019 AD. The mausoleum was reconstructed in 1970. Baba Taher, living in the first half of the 11th century AD, was one of the great gnostics of Ahl-e Haq (Dervish or Follower of Truth) sect to which the gnostic order of mountainous Iran belonged. Baba Tahers songs and maxims were originally read in Fahlavi, Lurish, Kurdish and Hamadani dialects, taking their present form in the course of time.
At least more interesting than the monument are the magnificent flowers and winding paths that surround it at the center of a rather large hilltop square.
Gonbad-e Alavian (or Masjid-e Alavian) is a four-sided interesting 12th century mausoleum belonging to the late Seljuk period. On the exterior, it resembles the Gonbad-e Sorkh of Maragheh. Inside this Dervish Monastery, taken over by the powerful Alavi Family ruling Hamadan for two centuries is decorated by the same type of gypsum moldings of Heydarieh Mosque of Qazvin. The Alavi Family tombs (two in all) are in the crypt and can be reached by a spiral staircase inside the tower. As regards its architectural merits, the stucco ornamentation of its mirhab with intricate geometric designs and whirling floral motifs on the exterior walls and several inscriptions in Kuffic and Thulth styles, this monument ranks among the most beautiful in its kind in Iran.
The most noteworthy monument in Hamadan, the dome may at one time have been intended as a mosque. It is notable for the outstanding quality of its stucco ornamentation, with whirling floral motifs on the exterior walls and intricate geometric designs on its mirhab. The shrine stands in the vicinity of Eyn ol-Qazat Square
Hamadans oldest Achaemenian rock carvings consisting of two huge inscribed panels (twenty lines) carved on two rock faces of some two meters in height are located 5 km west of the city on the slopes of Mount Alvand. The site is known as Ganj Nameh (Treasure Book, or Treasure Inventory), because for a long time it was believed that the lengthy cuneiform inscriptions contained a clue to the whereabouts of the fabulous treasures accumulated by the Medes and Achaemenians. In fact the Old Persian, Neo-Elamite, and Neo-Babylonian texts of the inscriptions belonging to Darius I and Xerxes I, consist of a genealogical account of the Achaemenian monarchs and the adoration of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian God, as well as their conquests. Almost at eye-level, they are reached via a bridge over a river lined with tea-houses. The texts are translated into Persian and English and posted on two billboards. The English translation reads as follows:
The Great God Ahura Mazda, greatest of all the gods, who created this earth and the sky and the people; who gave happiness to the people; who made Xerxes king; an outstanding king among many kings, an outstanding ruler among many 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 Achaemenian monarch Darius.”
Shrine of Esther and Mardocai:
Mausoleum of Esther and Mardocai in a small walled garden on Shariati Street 200 m west of Imam Khomeini Square is traditionally believed to be the place where Esther, the Jewish Queen of Susa and Xerxes wife, and Mardocai, her uncle, have been buried. It is considered as the most important Jewish pilgrimage site in Iran, and used to be visited by Jewish pilgrims from all over the world. Inside the brick dome and upon the plaster work of the walls there are some Hebrew inscriptions. The experts now say Esther was in fact buried in Susa, and this tomb probably belongs to another Jewish Queen, the wife of Sassanian king Yazdgird I (339-420 AD), Shushan Dokht.
There has been a Jewish colony at Hamadan according to Herfeld since the latter’s time. The simple brick building, constructed in the 13th century on the site of an earlier (probably a 5th-century tomb), is entered through a rough stone door, which swings open into a large assembly room, a vestibule, an elevation, and a Shah Neshin. Actually, it has nothing to speak about from the architectural point of view. The exterior form of this mausoleum, built of brick and stone, resembles Islamic constructions. Another smaller chamber facing the twin tombs is used for prayers aided by an ancient Torah on vellum. The two ebony tombs are covered with a striking collection of colorful clothes.
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