destruction of historical monuments in Iran - the towers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye Sari Mazandaran Iran

Tour of Caspian Coast: City of Sari
The northernmost province of Iran

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This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Iran Road Tour: Tehran to Mashhad via the Caspian Coast

For most tourists, the Caspian Sea region‘s attractions are the beach, seafood, picnicking and camping in the lush green forests and hiking the mountains that flank the planet’s largest saltwater lake.

The visitors looking for history have to try harder.

There is archaeological evidence that people have lived in here for 70,000 years. But on our tour of Caspian Coast of Iran, it’s sad to realized that the bustling city of Sari (SAW-ree) is nearly devoid of any sign of its history.

Sari is the capital of the tropical Mazandaran Province, one of the three northern provinces known as Iran’s Caspian Sea region.

Tour of Caspian Coast: the twin dissected historic towers in Sari

After waking up in a nearby village home, wife Saeideh and I are standing speechless in an empty parking lot on our fifth day of escape from Tehran looking up at 500-year-old twin towers known as Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin towers.

They built the towers as mausoleums of local rulers. The rulers were posthumously promoted to the level of imamzadeh (“offspring” or descendant of a Shia imam).

destruction of historical monuments in Iran - the towers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye Sari Mazandaran Iran
No, it’s real. In Sari, Iran, two 500-year-old mausoleums were partly destroyed and enjoined to new structures built on the side. Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

The construction, dating back to around 1520 CE, is full of amazing detail and architectural marvels, says Seyyed Hussein Motevali.

destruction of historical monuments in Iran - the towers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye Sari Mazandaran Iran
“Amazing detail” on one of the two 500-year-old towers dissected to become part of the modern day Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin r, Sari, Iran. Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

The towers “are sitting on brick legs that are like automobile jacks” to absorb pressure generated by earthquakes, he says. “They are like towers on springs. You can actually walk underneath them if you bend down.”

“Every brick on the roof is sloped and painstakingly placed just right to precisely send rainwater away from the structure. … Unfortunately they didn’t do a good job restoring them. You can tell the restorations are nowhere close to the original.”

Tour of Caspian Coast: the twin dissected historic towers in Sari

The towers, unfortunately, were dissected and enjoined into new structures, including a hoseiniye (a Shia gathering hall, similar to a mosque) and a shrine that is now a destination for locals and pilgrims seeking guidance and miracles from the Imamzadeh.

destruction of historical monuments in Iran - the towers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye Sari Mazandaran Iran
No, it’s real. In Sari, Iran, a 500-year-old mausoleum was partly destroyed to be attached to a new structure built on its side. Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

Motaveli took me inside the shrine that contains a zari, a cagelike metal structure built over the imamzadeh’s grave. 

destruction of historical monuments in Iran - the towers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye Sari Mazandaran Iran
Seyyed Hussein Motevali inside the shrine of one of the imamzadehs at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye, next to a wooden door believed to also be 500 years old. Sari, Mazandran Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

I told Motevali that if the towers were in Europe, they would be meticulously restored and tourists would be paying ten- or 15-euro entrance fees.

Tour of the Caspian Sea: continued

Saeideh and I discovered that other nearby historical destinations mentioned on the Web are either boarded up or closed to the public. Kolbadi Historical House is advertised as a tourist site but we found out it’s not open to the public because it is private property.

scenes from the bazaar and streets of Sari mazandaran iran
Fazeli House, perhaps the only remaining structure open for public inspection in Sari, Iran, is closed for repairs, says the sign. Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

We even walked by several ab anbars (underground cisterns of drinking water) that were boarded up. Each of these structures alone are wonders of ancient construction and engineering.

Tour of Caspian Coast: ab anbar boarded up in Sari mazandaran iran
ab anbar boarded up in Sari mazandaran iran Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

The bazaar in Sari, Mazandaran, Iran

What Sari does a lot of is commerce and the bazaar in the center of town is relatively interesting to visit.

“History is just isn’t a priority in Mazandaran,” explained Narges, an architecture student who came up to us in the street when she overheard us inquiring about the town’s history.

“What is important to Mazandaran is tourism and agriculture,” she explained. “Most of the historical monuments are long gone. It’s just not a priority, unfortunately.”

Instead of history, we met someone who made our day.

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Ali and Saeideh plan their Iran roadtrips from their home in Mashhad. More about us here >>

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