Photo essay: The Mosques of Iran.

It was a photo of the Nasirul Mulk Mosque, also known as the pink mosque in Shiraz that drew my attention to the Mosques of Iran in the first place. For some reason I always thought Mosques were dark places, shrouded in mystery and strictly off-limits to non muslims. This couldn’t have been so far from the truth.

I came to Iran with a goal in mind to understand a little more about its history and Islam, as it was a religion and culture I was very unfamiliar with. Although I spoke about it to people there and learnt more about it, I still ended up with more questions than answers in the end. In fact, on a few occasions, what some people said about Islam would seem to be contradicted by something else further into the conversation. Like most religions though, any holy texts are open to interpretation and subject to ambiguity.

One thing that I was amazed with the mosques of Iran was the integration of artwork into the architecture. Every tile on the walls, arches and domes were incredibly detailed, as though they were a collective art exhibition. The Persians are masters of building vast spaces, incorporating impeccable geometry, having every detail carefully thought out and built with a sense of purpose in mind. Anybody is allowed access into the mosques outside of prayer time and it’s easy to become lost in the detail and discovery in every corridor and chamber.

Imam Mosque, Isfahan.

Known for the its blue mosaic tiles, the Imam mosque was built in the 17th Century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. It is considered a masterpiece of architecture, with its complex maze of rooms and acoustically designed in a way that allowed the Imam to be clearly heard without having to strain his voice.

The blue mosaic tiles appear both on the inside and out and have the primary use of reflecting the daytime heat off the building. It was also able to be seen from miles away by travellers along the silk road.

imam mosque iran

At the Naghsh-i Jahan Square looking at the exterior to the Imam Mosque. Notice how the mosque beyond the entrance is not in alignment with the square, as it is in alignment with Mecca. As a result, the entrance and the portal to the dome are in perfect view for everybody to enjoy.


imam mosque isfahan

Looking at the entrance and minarets. The size and design were meant to represent a gateway into the spiritual world.


imam mosque isfahan

A panorama shot of one of the prayer rooms.

imam mosque

Under the main dome. You could stand and speak into one corner of the room and the sound will be transported along the wall to the other side of the room.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was the first of the structures to be built on Naghsh-i Jahan Square by Shah Abbas I. It was to be his own mosque for private use, hence the smaller size and the absence of minarets. As he wanted his harem to be shielded from public contact at all times, he had the architects build a tunnel from the palace on the opposite end of the courtyard to the mosque.

For hundreds of years it was closed to the public but now, its doors are open to the public to view the exquisite tile work and architecture.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque isfahan

A view of the entrance to the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque isfahan

Golden coloured patterns on the dome become smaller as they reach the centre.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque isfahan

There are no courtyards or network of corridors or rooms; only the one prayer room with a myriad of artistic works that have inspired the patterns for many carpet designs that are made from neighbouring stores within the square and bazaar.

Jameh Mosque, Isfahan

The Jameh Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Iran. Built in 771, it has gone through various stages of reconstruction by various rulers throughout history up until the 20th century. It is located north of Imam square, but a series of undercover roads from the Grand Bazaar snakes its way from the square all the way to the mosque.

Of all of the mosques, it was the least busiest when I visited, and seemed to be undergoing extensive restoration work.

friday mosque isfahan

The architecture varies from room to room and is considered a condensed history lesson of Persian architecture.

jameh mosque isfahan

The original mosque was burnt down and rebuilt in the 11th century

Jameh Mosque, Yazd.

grand mosque of yazd

The Jameh mosque is known for having the tallest minarets in Iran as well as it’s eyecatching blue tilework from the top to bottom.

Nasīr al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz.

It’s now no secret that the image of this mosque captured my interest in Iran. I spent the most amount of time in the mosque on two separate visits just to capture the light at the right time of the morning as it rose over the eastern wing of the mosque and the rays hit changed to a shade of pink as it filled the room.

pink mosque shiraz

The best time of the year to visit is in winter when the colour from the sun’s rays will reach the far end of the room.

pink mosque shiraz

Despite its beauty, there were rarely any people inside.

Vank Cathedral, Isfahan.

Despite it not being a mosque, I wanted to include the Vank Cathedral in Isfahan. Located in the Armenian Quarter in Isfahan, it was built by the Armenian christian community after the Shah gave them a place to resettle after persecution by the Ottomans. In return they assisted the shah, using their knowledge and networks in developing Isfahan as a major trading route along the silk road.

vank cathedral isfahan

Inside, artworks depicting biblical stories as well as Armenian martyrs.

vank cathedral isfahan

Neck pain inducing is one way of describing the interior of the Vank Cathedral.

If you love any of the photos from this post, you can purchase a print from my site here. It’ll help keep me on the road just that little bit longer and to continue bringing you stories like this.

Subscribe to my newsletter updates where I send non blog stories and content on travel, food and photography – guaranteed no spam! You will also receive a FREE 50 page e-book from me of my travel highlights from Central and South America, including stories, tips and a budget breakdown for both continents


Photo essay: The Mosques of Iran. — 14 Comments

  1. I LOVE these photos, Jimmy! I discovered during our time in Malaysia that Islamic architecture is some of my favorite, and mosques are some of my favorite buildings to visit. I would love to visit Iran and get to see some of these for myself, but in the interim, your photos will do quite nicely. It’s lovely that you were able to take photos inside of them, as many mosques we have visited don’t allow photography indoors. The amount of detail and care that went into constructing these places is just so mind-boggling and your photos nicely exhibit their epic scope.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…How Much It Costs to Travel in Italy* (& Other Handy Advice)My Profile

    • I was quite surprised as well, they allowed tripods and outside of prayer time, you could spend as much time in there as you like. I think they want people to come and visit and spread the word as everybody I met said thankyou for coming.

  2. It’s apparent that the woman in the photograph of Jamed Mosque did not want to be photographed. Would it have been so difficult to find another angle pleasing to your photographic eye that did not include her? Great photos man, but the presence of a woman in a mosque covering her face so as not to be seen by the camera completely takes away from that image.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge