Shushtar is a historic city in southwestern Iran that is located on the slopes of the Zagros Mountains in Khuzestan province. This fortress city was named Adamdum by Elamite and was known as Surkutir during the Achaemenian era. In Farsi, the name Shushtar means better or greater than Shush (ancient city of Susa). According to Roman Ghrishman the French archeologist, the cave found northeast of Shushtar is the first human settlement in Iran and the approximate date of residence in Shushtar dates back to 5000 BCE. Historical monuments and artifacts found in the area manifest the existence of the city during Elamite, Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanid eras. Shushtar sits between the main tributary of Karun River and Gargar creek.
Shushtar has a dense and compact traditional architecture and texture. The narrow alleys of the city pass through suburbs and covered passageways to the city’s main square. Amazing ancient hydraulic system engineering, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, dames, bridges, underground water channels, shrines, traditional Bazar, and beautiful Qajar era buildings are among historic sites that Shushtar offers to its visitors.
Shushtar Traditional Bazar
The Shushtar Traditional Bazar is covered bazar which dates back to the Qajar era (1789 – 1925). The main section of the Shushtar Bazar is constructed like a cross. A variety of traditional foods exclusive of Shushtar such as pickled vegetables, dairy products, Shushtar cookies (Kolichah), Yellow Carrot jam (Zardak), Sesame seed products, and more are offered in this Bazar. Shushtar handicrafts are also available in the Bazar.
Traditional handmade textiles, Ihram weaving, Sajjade (prying mat) weaving, Jajim weaving, traditional jewelry, and pottery are among the domestic active handicrafts in the city’s handicraft center.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
A huge and complex water structure was built in Shushtar during Sassanid era which is comprised of interconnected bridges, dams, water mills, waterfalls, canals, and large water tunnels (built during the Achaemenid). The structure now known as the Shushtar historical hydraulic system has been referred to as “a masterpiece of creative genius” by UNESCO. Homogeneously and globally designed and completed in the 3rd century, construction of this hydraulic system in addition to its diverse engineering had and has various uses such as supplying water to urban areas and mills, irrigation and river transport. It also acted as a defensive system where the deflected channel from the Karun River formed a moat around the city.
In a sense, the construction of the system was initiated during the Achaemenid era (550-330 BCE). Darius the Grate built two diversion creeks on the Karun River for trade and commerce. One of which was a 30 meter deep navigable creek now called Gargar River. The river separates from the main tributary of the Karun River in the north of Shushtar and rejoins it in Bandagir village south of Shushtar. The Gargar River is still in use providing water to Shushtar through a series of tunnels that supply water to mills and form a spectacular cliff from which water cascades into a pool. It then flows to the 40,000 hectare plain of Minab (Paradise) where the operation hub of the hydraulic system (the Salasel Castle), the water level measuring tower, dams, bridges, basins, and mills are located.
Marashi Historical House
Marashi’s traditional house is one of the most beautiful and historic houses in the ancient area of Shushtar. Constructed during the Qajar (1789-1925) era and renovated in the Pahlavi period the house benefits from the two architectures. Marashi Traditional House was registered as an Iranian national heritage monument in 1969. The house which was built for Sayyid Mohammad Hassan Marashi as his residence is considered a masterpiece of Qajar-Pahlavi architecture. The Marashi was purchased by the Iranian Cultural and Heritage Organization and is now the office of World Heritage for Water Structures in Shushtar. One of the unique features of this house is its location on a rocky cliff, which offers a spectacular view of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System.
Tabib Traditional Hotel
Tabib traditional Hotel is located in the center of the historical area of Shushtar along Duddal historic district. Construction of the site goes back 200 years to the Qajar era when it was a trade center. As a distinctiveness luxurious home, it is decorated with arcographs, lithographs, brick arrangements, carvings on the wooden doors, and magnificent colored windows. The house is built on four floors: Shovadan (eight-meter deep basement), Shabestan (two-meter deep basement), the ground floor, and the first floor. Tabib Traditional Hotel was renovated and provided with conveniences for tourists in 2016. The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is located one kilometer from the hotel. This house has been registered as a National Heritage Site in 2017.
Salasel Castle (Shushtar Castle)
Salasel Castle (Shushtar Castle) is located along Shatit River in the northwest of Shushtar. The Castle which dates back to the Achaemenian era (550-330 BCE), had defensive and political functions as well as the operation center of Shushtar Hydraulic System. The castle was also used as the governor’s residence and as a shelter during wars. Salasel castle is where Shaour I the Sassanid King, is said to have imprisoned the Roman emperor Valerian. It is also said that Persians held out for two years against the invading Arab army.
Shushtar Salasel Castle was a massive fortress containing several courtyards, bathrooms, large pools, barracks, stables, underground quarters, and gardens, round towers, armory, kitchen, and moat. The Salasel Castle was registered as one of Iran’s national heritage sites in 1976.