The Historical Alexander’s Prison (Ziaiyeh School) of Yazd

Learn more about Iskandar Prison Ziaiyeh School in Yazd
A view of the courtyard of Alexander’s prison (Ziaiyeh School) in Yazd’s Fahadan neighborhood
Learn more about Iskandar Prison Ziaiyeh School in Yazd
A view of the courtyard of Alexander’s Prison in Yazd’s Fahadan neighborhood

The historical Alexander Prison (Ziaiyeh School) of Yazd is located in the Fahadan neighborhood of this city next to the Davazdah Imam Memorial (Twelfth Imam Monument). A historical figure named Ziauddin Hossein Razi, one of the famous mystics, founded the school. The construction of this building dates back to the Ilkhanid period. In recognition of its unique features, the said building was added to the Iran National Heritage list in 1968. Today it is considered one of the most famous Yazd tourist attractions.

The Ziaiyeh School is located in one of the Yazd historical neighborhoods, making it an interesting destination where you can study the history and architecture of Yazd. Since the building is known for two historical applications, a prison, and a school, it has considerable research value for studying Iranian history.

The History of Alexander Prison (Ziaiyeh School) in Yazd

The original building of Ziaiyeh School of Yazd was established in 1427 by a famous mystic named Ziauddin Hossein Razi. After his death, his sons Majd al-Din Hassan and Sharaf al-Din completed the construction of this school in 1499. The Ziaiyeh school is one of the historical monuments of the Muzaffarid dynasty and the same period as the rule of the Ilkhanid dynasty.

This building was constructed for educational purposes and it served as a school from the start. So, Its architecture is an example of a traditional Iranian-style school. The reason for names like Alexander Prison or Harun al-Rashid prison is that the building has a basement with a single access point through a staircase. If you close the entrance to that staircase, there is no way out for anyone locked in there, like a prison.

On the other hand, figures like Haroun Al-Rashid and Alexander The Great have always been cruel and oppressive characters in the historical memory of Iranians, whose names are synonymous with oppression and violence. Our ancestors attributed the design of such basements to these figures. Perhaps the punishment of students in the old educational system by imprisoning them in the basement is the reason for assigning such a title to the school building.

Fahadan Historical Neighborhood and the Formation of Yazd

Fahadan neighborhood is considered the Sharestan (the central area in old Iranian cities) of the historical neighborhoods of Yazd. It is, in fact, the center of Yazd’s urban development. The presence of the oldest building in Yazd (Davazdah Imam Memorial) in this neighborhood is proof of this claim.

According to historical documents, the formation of Yazd City dates back to the pre-Islamic period. Nevertheless, some archaeologists believe that Yazd with its current boundaries belongs to the Islamic period because it is close to the Jameh Mosque of Yazd. The development of Yazd City started in the Fahadan neighborhood in the early centuries after the Muslim conquest of Persia.

During the Kakuyids period, this city was very small with a barrier wall. Then, during the rule of the Muzaffarid dynasty, the local rulers of the central part of Iran gained considerable power during the Ilkhanid period. In this era, many buildings were built in Yazd.

The periods of the Seljuks, the Ilkhanids, and the Timurids were the peak era of urban expansion and architecture of the historical city of Yazd. Alexander Prison (Ziaiyeh School) was also built in one of these eras, during the reign of the Ilkhanids.

Architectural Features of Alexander Prison

A look at the architectural features of Ziaiyeh school
The view of dome of the Ziaiyeh school in Yazd from the adjacent park

This building is the only building in Yazd from the Ilkhanid period, which was built with four Iwans (halls) and has a central courtyard.

Its different sections include a dome vault, windcatcher, central courtyard, two courtyards on the sides, and small chambers. All these are among the architectural features of Alexander Prison.

There is a well at the center of the courtyard that is connected to the cellar. The diameter of this well is about 4 meters and the depth of the cellar is 7 meters. This well is an access shaft used to escape the desert heat for a few hours during hot summer days. However, there are claims that this place was once a dungeon.

This school is different from other Yazd historical buildings for the following three reasons:

  1. Decorations of the dome vault interior
  2. The presence of a central courtyard
  3. Four Iwan architecture

Another unique and distinguishing feature of this building is that the materials used in its construction are only clay adobe and mud. Therefore, environmental factors have damaged it throughout the years.

At the end of 1972 and the beginning of 1982, minor renovations were carried out on the dome and Iwan of this school. Periodic maintenance and constant repairs have made this historical building survive the passage of time for hundreds of years.

The only major renovation made in Ziaiyeh School of Yazd is the replacement of wooden doors installed in its different sections. The wooden doors of this building were destroyed by termite infestation. Therefore, during the renovation process, new doors were installed for all sections. All these doors have wooden Girih tiles (decorative tiles with geometric patterns).

Make Sure to Visit Alexander Prison (Ziaiyeh School) in Yazd

If you are interested in heritage tourism and enjoy visiting historical monuments, we recommend traveling to Yazd city. For your first experience, it is better to walk in the oldest neighborhood in Yazd, the Fahadan neighborhood. Historical buildings such as the Ziaiyeh School of Yazd are located in this neighborhood, most of which are made entirely of clay adobe and mud. This neighborhood is a spectacular display of traditional Iranian architecture.

You can travel to this city on an Iran tour package or personally. Destination Iran suggests visiting historical Yazd tourist attractions of architecture enthusiasts, and most of all the Ziaiyeh school (Alexander’s Prison), one of the prominent buildings of the Fahadan neighborhood.

Where is Alexander Prison (Ziaiyeh School) in Yazd?

Alexander Prison or Ziaiyeh School is located in the Fahadan neighborhood, Rakhtshoor Khaneh Alley, next to the Davazdah Imam Memorial in Yazd.

Frequently Asked Questions about Alexander Prison

If you did not find the answer to your question here, leave us a comment in the comment section below this post and ask your question. We will answer it as soon as possible.

What is the other name of Alexander Prison?

Harounieh Prison and Ziaiyeh School.
This building is also known as “Harun al-Rashid Prison (Harounieh Prison)” by the locals. The oldest texts that mention a prison building in Yazd belong to the Safavid period, and after that, Professor Karim Pirnia first introduced this building under the name of “Ziaiyeh School”.

Why is Ziaiyeh School called Alexander Prison?

There is a deep basement under the building, only accessed through a narrow staircase, which can function as a prison when it is blocked. For this reason, people named it Alexander’s Prison.
Also, among the common people, it is said that after the invasion of Iran, Alexander built a fortress for prisoners and remnants of the previous state known as Alexander’s Prison in Katheh (the old name of the central district of Yazd), which was later modified and turned into a school.

What is the architectural style of Ziaiyeh School?

This school is built in the Azeri architecture style. Azari style is an Iranian-Mongolian style of architecture that was popular during the Ilkhanid period.

Which of the famous historical buildings of Yazd is located near Ziaiyeh School?

Lari-ha Historical House, Heydarzadeh Museum of Coin and Anthropology, Arabzadeh Historical House, Jameh Mosque of Yazd, and Davazdah Imam Monument.

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