Esther & Mordecai Tomb

sights / Religious

Esther & Mordecai Tomb information

Hamadan , Iran
Address
Street 12 Zangeneh Lane
Telephone
+98 811 252 2285
Prices
admission by donation, typically US$1 & a pen
Opening hours
8am-noon & 3-6pm Sun-Thu, 8am-noon Fri
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Lonely Planet review

This vaguely Tolkeinesque, 14th-century tomb tower was once Iran’s most important Jewish pilgrimage site. These days visitors are few and far between and some of the Hebrew inscriptions have been repainted so often by those who evidently couldn’t understand them, that they have become stylised beyond readability.

Traditionally this is considered to be the burial site of Esther (for whom a book in the Bible’s Old Testament is named) and her cousin/guardian Mordecai. Jewish orphan Esther had married Xerxes I (Biblical King Ahasuerus) who’d ditched his first wife, Vashti, for being too much of an early feminist. Esther’s better-honed feminine wiles are later said to have saved the Jews from a massacre planned by Xerxes’ commander (and Mordecai’s enemy) Haman. With names very reminiscent of Babylonian gods, Esther (Ishtar?) and Mordecai (Morduk?) might be purely allegorical. Some suggest that the tower actually commemorated Jewish queen, Shushan-Dokht, who persuaded her husband, Yazdgerd I (r AD 399–420) to sanction a renewed Jewish colony at Hamadan.

The tower is mostly hidden behind a high grey metal barrier – ring the door bell (no English sign) and hopefully Rabbi Rajad will scurry out to greet you, opening the 400kg stone-slab door to the tower and telling you (in French or Farsi) to don a scull-cap (provided) before crawling into the inner tomb area. He’s an avid collector of foreign pens, which thus make an ideal tip.