The scent of orange blossom filled the air as I entered the gardens in the historic Citadel in Shiraz. Carpets of Persian buttercups covered the lawns. This was just one of several magnificent gardens in Shiraz.
Persian gardens typically have a classic structure. They are formal with stone water features running through them which feed terraces, pools, and pavilions. These gardens have been built like this since the Sassanid and Achaemenid times and spread through the Muslim world. Today similar featured gardens can be seen all over the Middle East but also in India and Spain. It is also the image of heavenly paradise described in the Koran. Traditionally these gardens were surrounded by walls which sheltered the plants from the heat of the sun as well as providing support.
The Eram Garden is one of the most famous and was full of fragrant roses, pomegranates and orange blossom. There were cypress trees too and rows of spring bulbs. In corners people chatted quietly and picnicked for lunch. Turtles wallowed on one of the shady pools. It seemed a tranquil place with its water features and tree lined paths.
At the Naranjestan Gardens the orange blossom floated in the air and small boys demanded selfies with me, smiling as I walked along the paths to the pavilion. These gardens were unbelievably fragrant and almost hidden away from the main roads and traffic chaos. And yet they were an integral part of the culture here. That’s one of the lasting memories of Iran- the exquisite gardens with their scents of jasmine and orange blossom and that tranquil atmosphere within.