Set in the heart of Haifa, the Bahai Gardens are possibly the most famous tour attraction of the city. Completed in 2001, the 18 terraced gardens flanking the shrine of the ‘Bab’ are a ‘must-see’ for anyone visiting Haifa or touring the area. The gardens are part of the Bahai world headquarters, and are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History of the Bahai and Haifa’s Bahai Gardens
Bahai is one of the youngest religions in the world, incepted in Iran in the 19th century. Its founder, Siyyid ‘Ali Muhammad proclaimed in 1844 to be a ‘Báb’ (from Arabic: a Gate), a predictor of new revelations and prophets. Not surprisingly, he was persecuted by the Shi’ites of Iran, and eventually was executed. Two years later, in 1852, an Iranian nobleman named Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí claimed to be the God the ‘Bab’ was addressing. Taking the title Bahá’u’lláh (in Persian: ‘Glory of the Lord’), he compiled his messages in writing, and escaped from Iran. When he settled in Turkey, Bahá’u’lláh was arrested by the Ottomans, and banished to Akko‘s prison, with his family. Later, when the Ottomans realized his pacifistic messages pose no threat to their rule, the Bahá’u’lláh was released to a ‘house arrest’ in Akko’s Khan el-Umdan. Eventually his disciples purchased a plot near Akko where he spent the rest of his life.
In his last years the Bahá’u’lláh traveled to the Carmel and equated it with Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. He stated that the mountain where Elijah’s overcame the Ba’al prophets, should be the burial site of his precursor, the ‘Báb’. This was fulfilled in 1909 when the bones of Siyyid ‘Ali Muhammad were transferred from Iran and buried above the port of Haifa. A Golden domed sepulchre over the tomb was completed in 1953, and by 2001 the whole gardens complex was complete and open to the public.
Covering an area of 50 acres, the terraced gardens combine a wide variety of flowers, bushes, and small trees, with water fountains and small sculptures set among them. Big sized trees along the garden’s perimeter set apart the serine park from urban views and daily noise.
Touring the Bahai Gardens
A guided tour in English is conducted every day at 12:00, free of charge. It takes about 45 minutes and includes walking down 600 steps. The lowest and the topmost terraces are open every day from 9:00 to 17:00. The Bab’s tomb is open every day till noon. Even if limited in time, a short stop at the top terrace is worth every effort. The spotless terraced gardens with the stunning panoramas of Haifa and northern Israel are among the most beautiful viewpoints in all of Israel!
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