Celebrated as the heartland of Persian culture for more than 2000 years, Shiraz is an opulent oasis of greenery and culture in an otherwise barren landscape; it is the town of roses, of nightingales, of love and, at one time, of wine. But above all, Shiraz is the town of poetry, of Saadi and Hafez. The popularity of these poets is such that their verse provokes tears and sighs of admiration, and most Iranians carry collections of their poetry and are able to recite lines pertinent to every aspect of life. Their writings have been immortalized in the form of innumerable proverbs and aphorisms.
Shiraz was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (AD 1747-79), when many of its most beautiful buildings were built or restored. Shiraz is home to the graves of Hafez and Saadi (famous poets of Iran), both major pilgrimage sites for Iranians. The earliest reference to the city, as Tiraziš, is on Elamite clay tablets dated to 2000 BC. In the 13th century, Shiraz became a leading center of the arts and letters, due to the encouragement of its ruler and the presence of many Persian scholars and artists.
It's also home to splendid gardens, exquisite mosques and whispered echoes of ancient sophistication that reward those who linger longer than it takes to visit nearby Persepolis, the area's major tourism drawcard. Shiraz is known as the city of poets, literature, wine and flowers. It is also considered by many Iranians to be the city of gardens, due to the many gardens and fruit trees that can be seen in the city. The foreign visitor who arrives in Shiraz today, and for whom the town is not as evocative as it is for an Iranian, may wonder at its reputation. Many of its famous gardens have long since disappeared and few of its buildings pre-date the XVIII century.
Shiraz has had major Jewish and Christian communities. The crafts of Shiraz consist of inlaid mosaic work of triangular design; silver-ware; pile carpet-weaving and weaving of kilim, called gilim and jajim in the villages and among the tribes. In Shiraz industries such as cement production, sugar, fertilizers, textile products, wood products, metalwork and rugs dominate. Shirāz also has a major oil refinery and is also a major center for Iran's electronic industries: 53% of Iran's electronic investment has been centered in Shiraz. Shiraz is home to Iran's first solar power plant. Recently the city's first wind turbine has been installed above Babakoohi mountain near the city.
There are the usual Iranian traffic issues, but the city's agreeable climate, set as it is in a fertile valley once famed for its vineyards, makes it a pleasant place to visit (except at the humid height of summer or the freezing depths of winter).
The main monuments in Shiraz are to be found in the centre of town, on the south bank of the Khoshk River. The city centre is Shohada Sq (still widely known as Shahrdari Sq), which is within walking distance of most hotels, the bazaar and the major mosques and shrines. The square intersects the city's major thoroughfare, Karim Khan-e Zand Blvd (usually referred to as Zand Blvd). To the north is the Khoshk River, and north of that are the tombs of Hafez and Saadi.