Mahan, 35km southeast of Kerman, is a small, picturesque and low-key town that has long been famous throughout Iran for its shrine and garden, and as a summer retreat for the wealthy.
Mahan is well known for the tomb of the great Sufi leader Shah Ne'emat Ollah-e-Vali, as well as Shazdeh Garden (Prince Garden). The tomb of Shah Nur-eddin Nematollah Vali, poet, sage, Sufi and founder of an order of darvishes, has twin minarets covered with turquoise tiles from the bottom up to the cupola. The mausoleum was built by Ahmad Shah Kani; the rest of the building was constructed during the reigns of Shah Abbas I, Mohammad Shah Qajar and Nasser-al-Din Shah. Shah Nematallah Wali spent many years wandering through central Asia perfecting his spiritual gifts before finally settling at Mahan, twenty miles south-east of Kerman, where he passed the last twenty five years of his life. He died in 1431, having founded a Darvish order which continues to be an active spiritual force today. The central domed burial vault at Mahan, completed in 1437 was erected by Ahmad Shah Bahmani, king of the Deccan, and one of Shah Nematallah's most devoted disciples.
Aramgah-e Shah Nematollah Vali
The splendid dome over the Aramgah-e Shah Nematollah Vali (7am-10pm) is one of the most recognisable images of eastern Iran. Shah Nematollah Vali was a well-known Sufi dervish, mystic and poet (died in 1431 aged more than 100), who founded a dervish order patronised by a Muslim Indian king of the Deccan. In the centre of town, the mausoleum itself dates from 1436, built by an Indian king who was an adherent of Shah Nematollah Vali's teachings. In the centuries that followed, many rulers added to the complex, most notably Shah Abbas I, who added the turquoise tiled domes. The mausoleum is renowned for its seven intricately carved Indian doors, though two have recently been stolen. The tomb was restored under the Safavids (dome and main gate) and enlarged by the Qajars, who added the minarets. The plaster walls and ceiling are covered with calligraphy in spiral wheel pattern - ask nicely to be let in.
Entry to the mausoleum is free; the ticket allows you into a small museum and onto the roof from where there are superb views of the town, dented Safavid-era cupola and Qajar-era minarets - which can be climbed. Sufi books and music are sold in the courtyard bookshop.
Arriving at the handsome Bagh-e Shahzde (9am-10pm) is like being beamed onto a different planet. One second you are in the arid semidesert, the next it's all flowing qanat water and tall green trees. Built in 1873, the garden contains a cascading series of fountains leading up to a small palace that was once the residence of Abdul Hamid Mirza, one of the last princes of the Qajar dynasty, and is now a souvenir store. To the left, part of the complex has been turned into a teahouse/restaurant (Sofrehkhane Bagh-e Sharzde, opposite), and there is a small but unused bathhouse immediately north of the teahouse (ask to be let in by the ticket man).
As the sun disappears, the fountains and palace are floodlit, which is a wonderful sight. The gardens are 5km up Mahan's main road from the mausoleum.
Getting There & Away
About every hour, savaris and minibuses travel the 35km between Khaju (Kermani) Sq in Kerman and Ne'matollahi Sq, beside the mausoleum.