Dar al-Huffaz
Mashhad, Iran
Traditionally, a dar al-huffaz is a building adjacent to a mosque used for the reading and study of the Qur'an. The Dar al-Huffaz of the Imam Riza Shrine was built as part of the Timurid building campaign in Mashad undertaken by Gawhar Shah, wife of Shah Rukh (1405-1447), which centered on the mosque that bears her name. A small element of the Imam Riza Shrine, the Dar al-Huffaz is significant due to its location and its architectural articulation.

The Dar al-Huffaz is a tall rectangular room embedded in the main shrine compound and measures 18 meters by 8.65 meters. It is aligned with the Mosque of Gawhar Shah to its southwest and the Tomb Chamber to its northeast. To its northwest is the Dar al-Siyada (Chamber of Nobility), also built by Gawhar Shad, and to its southeast is the Dar al-Salam (Chamber of Peace). The lateral walls are articulated symmetrically with three arched niches. The structure is made up of three transverse pointed-arch vaults, reaching their apex at a height of twenty-six meters. Each vault is pierced with an octagonal oculus at its center, aligned with the wall niches.

Along the northwest wall, the northernmost niche opens into the Dar al-Siyada with an ornate golden door. Across the hall from it another golden door leads to the Dar al-Salam. The remaining niches along the southeast wall contain mausolea of Mashad dignitaries, including that of 'Abbas Mirza (1855-1927), the Crown Prince (na'eb al-saltana) to the second Qajar ruler, and Fath 'Ali, Qajar Shah of Persia between 1797 and 1834.

The middle niche of the northwest wall has a door to the Dome of Opak Mirza. Centered on the northeast wall is the "door facing the Imam" (dar-e pish ruy), leading into the Tomb Chamber of Imam Riza, and on the southwest wall, is recessed a door that opens into the arcade of the Gawhar Shad Mosque.

In addition to the finely wrought golden and silver doors, the Dar al-Huffaz is entirely covered with rich decorations. A stone dado incised in relief with inscriptions and floral arabesques covers the walls up to a height of 1.7 meters. Above, in place of the original tile decoration, is elaborate mirrorwork commissioned by the Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah (1736-1747). Chandeliers hang from under each oculus, providing additional light.


Golombek, Lisa and Donald Wilber. The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, Volume I, 332. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning, 59. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

O'Kane, Bernard. Timurid architecture in Khurasan, 127-128. Costa Mesa, Calif., U.S.A.: Mazda Publishers in association with Undena Publications, 1987.

Pope, Arthur Upham, ed., Phyllis Ackerman, assist. ed. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. Vol. 3, Architecture, Its Ornament, City Plans, Gardens, 3rd ed., 1203. Tehran: Soroush Press, 1977.

Saadat, Bijan. The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, 33. Shiraz, Iran: Asia Institute, Pahlavi University, 1976.
Mashhad, Iran
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Associated Names
Part of Site
late 15th c.
Style Periods
Variant Names
Imam Reza Shrine Complex: Dar al-Huffaz
Dar al-Hoffaz
Building Usages