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    Shah Wali complex, Taft, Yazd, Iran

    Iran - Shah Wali complex, Taft, Yazd, Iran


    The name of Taft was mentioned in many historical books since the 9th century AH. Its name was also mentioned in Erfan books because of the great Aref, Shah Nimatullah Wali who lived there.

    Shah Wali complex was built in 15th century using adobe and brick; it contains a mosque, a mausoleum, a hussainiyyah, a cistern, bazaar and a religious school. Antiquities found in this place are held in the Museum of Anthropology in Taft.

    Among the history books, Taft is introduced at the beginning of the 15th century by Shah Nimatullah Wali, the supreme mystic of Timurid period. Presence of this religious icon as well as the initiatives and developments implemented by him and his descendants, placed Taft at the turning point and the beginning of new developments.

    The findings of an academic study indicate that this place, as a form, has always been subject to change. These changes could be categorized into two groups: (a) the changes which have been gradual and have taken place over a long period and (b) those which have taken place over a short period. The gradual changes have taken place starting from the Timurid to the Safavid era, at which point the complex has reached completion and evolved as a complex. After the initial developments of the complex, the complex underwent some short period changes in its components and spatio-temporal structure. These short period changes coincide with the demolishment of the old Takiya and construction of the new Takiya. Following these short period changes, the gradual changes of the second stage starts.


    Beginning of the 15th century (1409-1414) can be considered as the introduction of Shah Wali Khanqah. Basic cores of this square Khanqah were the palace and A‘li ivan, the domed structure of the sepulcher, the underground crypts, the chambers, the bath, and the big kitchens for the traveler or resident dervishes. Establishment of the Khanqah and the residences of some of his descendants in Taft rendered it as one of the most important religious-political bases for the Nimatullahi dynasty. As this Khanqah gained more fame, following structures were gradually built in the region during the years 1457-1514 A.D:

    - Mosque of the Khanqah (Shah Wali mosque);

    Different dates have been reported for the construction of mosque of the Khanqah. “Encyclopedia of Mofidi (Jame-e Mofidi)” has attributed construction of the mosque to Shah Na‘im al-Din Nimatullah Baghi and his wife Khanesh Beygom (sister of Shah Tahmasb Safavid). Based on this claim, the date of its construction would be in the mid-16th century, while the mihrab inscription (1468) and the inscription around the wooden grid door (1484) are indicative of its construction in the mid-15th century.

    - Safa ivan;

    It was built by Amir Nezam al-Din Abdul Baghi during his chancellery in the government of Shah Ismail Safavid at the beginning of the 16th century in the Khanqah facing the Shah Wali mosque.

    - The old Takiyya with its facing square;

    Approximately at the same time as the construction of the mosque and completion of the Khanqah, Takiyya was being formed behind the mosque parallel to the floodway and facing it. This Takiyya was most likely a Khanqah in hosting the ceremonies and ethics of the Sufis and dervishes and was located at the southern side of the current Husayniyya and perpendicular to the current Takiya. This Takiyya was demolished years later when Shi'a became the formal sect in the country.

    At the beginning of the Safavid era and the presence of “Shah Na‘im al-Din Nimatullah Baghi” and his wife (Khanesh Beygom, sister of Shah Tahmasb I), the conditions were set for development of the Shah Wali complex (Takiyya and Khanqah) as a landmark for evolution of Taft and the present complex.

    - Mansuriya mansion;

    At the beginning of the 17th century, the Mansuriya mansion was built in the Khanqah so that the architectural components of the palace, the Safa ivan, the Mansuriya, the mosque, and the garden of the Khanqah, confined a square of a large area proportionate with the town.

    - The Nawwabi complex and the Safi Qoli Beyg mausoleum;

    The constituent components such as the Nawwabi bazaar, the Nawwabi caravansary, and the Nawwabi water mill gradually took the role of a connection and filler of the space between the Khanqah and the Takiyya. Moreover, the Sufi governor of Yazd, “Safi Qoli Beyg”, reserved a tomb for himself next to the old Takiyya before his death. Another initiative of Safi Qoli Beyg in Taft was the endowment of the gardens and a bazaar called Agha bazaar.

    Qajar era (1794-1925)

    The most important historical transformation and change in the Shah Wali complex and Taft were the demolition of the Takiyya from Timurid dynasty located in the southern side and the construction of the new Takiyya in the western side of current Husayniyya. It seems that the event was occurred due to dissensions between Nemati and Heydari and even, opposition of Qajar Shi'a clergymen against Sufism. These oppositions demolished many Takiyyas and clubs of Sufism and they were common from Safavid era until the end of Qajar era.

    By construction of the new Takiyya, linear structure and development of the complex was altered which caused several changes in the body of Husayniyya.

    Mausoleum of Safi Qoli Beyg behind the current Takiyya was demolished as a result of cultural changes in Pahlavi era with Shahpour madrasa being replaced using Pahlavi styles. Part of the Nawwabi bazaar, which was placed in the southern side (on front of Nawwabi caravansary and water mill), and also Kalak, which was located in the symmetrical axis of the old Takiyya, were demolished in order to make Husayniyya more consistent with the new Takiyya and structure, and “Nakhl-Gardani” ceremony during Muharram. Nawwabi caravansary and water mill were also demolished in recent years for building “Office of Communication”. Some parts of Khanqah such as pool and side opposite mosque within the Khanqah have been demolished by presence of two streets beside the floodway and behind the complex so that the Khanqah has lost its previous coherence. As previously discussed, historical evolution of Shah Wali complex from Timurid era up to current era can be investigated in four distinct historical periods in terms of their political, cultural, social, and economic conditions.

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    This workshop is designed according to the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme in order to give young people a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Furthermore, Patrimonito means 'small heritage' in Spanish and the character represents a young heritage guardian. Patrimonito has been widely adopted as the international mascot of the World Heritage Education Programme.
    Date: 29th December
    Number of trainees: 7
    Duration: 3 hours

    The workshop of "Patrimonito" was held on 29th of December. Participants arrived around 10:30 and they were welcomed by hot chocolate and Persian cup cakes. After a little introduction by trainers and trainees, the process started by making two groups and letting them choose a name for their group, each group was accompanied by a mentor then each group was given some images of world heritage sites in Iran and some descriptions, each group was asked to match images and descriptions, the mentor was guiding them throughout the activity. All trainees were participating actively and trying to remember their experiences about their travels to these places. When they were done with the activity, the mentors started giving the answers and a brief explanation about each site; mentors were using trainees’ ideas and experiences to complete their tasks.

    Shortly after that, the second part started which was a presentation done by two of mentors. The aim of this presentation was to define the value of these world heritage sites and duties of each person as a "Patrimonito", and what happens if there is no "Patrimonito" and nobody cares about our tangible or intangible heritage. In this part trainees started questioning and understanding the whole concept of being a "Patrimonito", they also added their own suggestions on how to protect our heritage and by the end of this part, they were completely aware about their role as a "Patrimonito".
    Now it was a best time to have a short break, during the break trainees were introduced to some of intangible heritages as they were served by traditional food and snacks and even they way of serving was according to traditions and everyone had this opportunity to discuss about intangible heritage while enjoying some traditional food and snacks.
    When the break was done, everyone was asked to choose a heritage either tangible or intangible and they had to introduce their chosen heritage to a tourist by making a postcard using what they have learnt. They were given all of necessary tools such as color papers, color pencils, glue, scissors, images of heritage and a mentor was with them in order to help them completing the task.

    When they were done, they handed out their postcards and with the mentors they sat together and spent a few minutes asking and answering about what they have learnt. Then they were told to say their vows for protecting their heritage and caring about it, the mentor said the vow and the trainees repeated after her and they officially became a "Patrimonito".

    The last but the best part was when they were given the certificates, and they were told that since they are aware of the value of the heritage and they know how to protect it, they are chosen as "Patrimonito" and they should continue their mission by introducing the value of heritage to others. They were granted certificates and labels and the workshop of "Patrimonito" was finished by taking some memorial photos.