Located only a short distance east of Ardestan, this ancient town was an important point on the crossroads of trade routes starting from Sasanid or even earlier times to approximately the 11th century. Today it is a forgotten little town whose narrow streets and flat-roofed houses have changed little in the last hundred years. Located on the edge of the desert, Zavareh has a very arid climate, often with very hot days and cold nights. The name of Zavareh has caused disputes among scholars. Zavareh was the brother of Rostam in Shah-Nameh, and it is often believed that he was the founder of the town.
According to other theories, Zavareh derives from Zavvar (pilgrims), as it was an important site on the old caravan route to Mashhad, the main pilgrimage site of Islamic Iran. Some authorities claim that Zavareh means "the way to the sea", but it seems really far-fetched, even when we recall that there was once a sea on the site that is today occupied by the desert. People of Zavareh are very pious and pay much attention to performing their religious rites. It is even more so because a great number of them are Seyeds, allegedly tracing their ancestry from the Islamic prophet. The most important religious ceremonies are held during the first decade of Moharram in handsome Hosseiniyehs, the number of which is amazing for this relatively small town. The main crafts of Zavareh are carpets and copperware; in the past, the local cotton textiles enjoyed special renown.
|Sang Bast Castle|
Zavareh is known to have had an ancient pagan temple that under the Sasanians became a fire altar. The Khosrow Shah Qanat dates from the Parthian period. To the north of the town, the ruins of Sasanid buildings testify to the town's importance during the Sasanid period. According to the legend, these are the remains of palaces that were built at the order of Khosrow Anushirvan as gifts to his former classmates. After the advent of Islam and particularly during the Buyid period, Zavareh became a Shiite center, and at approximately the same time, the Seyeds migrated here from Esfahan. In the 11th century, the town had a fortified wall with four gates topped with watchtowers. For a long time, this fortress was occupied by the Ismailites.
On the road of Kashan to Isfahan
Zavareh first reeled under the crushing blows of Mongol hordes. The Mongols could not put down the resistance of the locals, so they ruined qanats and left the town without water. Nasir al-Din Tusi, the remarkable Iranian scientist loyal to the Mongols, prompted the locals to leave the town. When the enraged Mongols entered the empty town, they almost razed it. During the Safavid reign, Zavareh was firmly established as a Shiite center. The Afghans delivered the second irretrievable blow to the town, which was only partially restored during the Zand and Qajar rules.
Modern Zavareh is interesting for its peculiar architecture typical to desert towns. Its historical fabric includes narrow, winding lanes of residential quarters, the 17th-century derelict bazaar, several ancient icehouses and wells, and an astonishing array of open-air and roofed Hosseiniyehs. But its main places of interest comprise the Congregational Mosque and the Pa Menar Mosque and Minaret.
This mosque was founded in 1110 on a "kiosk" plan, after its prototype in neighboring Ardestan. But only some 25 years later, it was converted into the first Iranian four-eivan mosque, thus marking the emergence of the truly Iranian style in mosque building. This time the Congregational Mosque of Ardestan was copied from the Zavareh mosque and was also turned into a four-eivan structure. In both mosques, the south eivan is the widest and the most sumptuous of all, and the north eivan is wider than those on the east and the west. Completed in 1135, the mosque consisted of a courtyard with four eivans and a very fine sanctuary marked with a brick dome. The brick mihrab, decorated with stucco moldings and an inscription frieze, was added in 1156. The inscription is executed in Kufic and Naskh and recites verses from the Koran. Another ancient mihrab dating from the 14th century is located in the old winter prayer hall located behind the north eivan. There is also a prayer hall in the mosque's basement. It was built in the 19th century by Hajj Mir Mohammad Ali, the local philanthropist. The mosque's principal founder was Abu Taher and its architect was Ostad Mahmud Esfahani, both responsible for the Congregational Mosque of Ardestan. The founder's grave inside the mausoleum known as Gonbad-e Sabz (The Green Dome) is situated in the town's graveyard. The mosque's historical inscription in angular Kufic script, giving the date of the mosque's construction and the names of its builders, runs around the courtyard starting from the east eivan. It is a unique feature because in other Iranian mosques, such inscriptions are usually reserved for the sanctuary or the prayer hall. To the right of the entrance are the remains of the Seljuk minaret, the height of which now does not exceed 4.5 m. It has an illegible inscription and tilework debris.
Pa Menar Mosque and Minaret
This mosque was converted from a Sasanid fire temple during the early Islamic period. Its heyday, however, coincided with the Seljuk rule, when it was one of the most beautiful and unusual mosques of Iran. Its unusual features included six carved mihrabs, each incised in a separate niche along the mosque's qibla wall. Their exquisite plaster decorations dated from three different periods, the latest being created during the Il-Khanid rule. The original inscriptions of the mihrabs were in Kufic script, but in later periods, they were covered with plaster and new inscriptions, this time in Tholth, were engraved. No date is given in the texts of the inscriptions, but the donor is identified as Abu Mohammad ibn Ibrahim, the same person who built the brick minaret of the mosque. The minaret dates from 1069 and is Iran's second-oldest minaret after the minaret of the Saveh Mosque. Its Kufic inscription is among the most beautiful inscriptions of the 11th century.