Celebrated as the heartland of Persian culture for more than 2000 years, Shiraz has become synonymous with education, nightingales, poetry and wine. It was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (AD 1747–79), when many of its most beautiful buildings were built or restored. In his 1893 book A Year Amongst the Persians, Edward Browne described Shirazis as ‘…amongst all the Persians, the most subtle, the most ingenious, the most vivacious’. And even in Iran, where regional one-upmanship is common, everyone seems to like Shirazis. A city of poets, Shiraz is home to the graves of Hafez and Sa’di, both major pilgrimage sites for Iranians. It’s also home to splendid gardens, exquisite mosques and whispered echoes of ancient sophistication that reward those who linger longer than it takes to visit nearby Persepolis, the area’s major tourism drawcard. There are the usual Iranian traffic issues, but the city’s agreeable climate, set as it is in a fertile valley once famed for its vineyards, makes it a pleasant place to visit (except at the humid height of summer or the freezing depths of winter).