The tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili is located in Ardabil, Iran. Sheikh Safi, an eminent leader of an Islamic Sufi established by the Safavid, was born in Ardabil where this complex is located. The tomb of Sheikh Safi, in Ardabil, was first built by his son Sheikh Sadr al-Din Musa, after Sheikh Safi's death in 1334. The tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din in Ardabil is of Outstanding Universal Value as an artistic and architectural masterpiece and an outstanding representation of the fundamental principles of Sufism. Sheikh Safi al-Din Khanegah was built as a small microcosmic city with bazaars, public baths, squares, religious buildings, houses, and offices. It was the largest and most complete khanegah and the most prominent Sufi shrine since it also hosts the tomb of the founder of the Safavid Dynasty. For these reasons, it has evolved into a display of sacred works of art and architecture from the 14th to the 18th century and a centre of Sufi religious pilgrimage.
The conception of the entire ensemble layout, the proportions of the internal and external spaces and of the buildings, their design and refined decoration, together with the climax created by the sequenced path to Sheikh Safi al-Din’s shrine, all combined, have concurred to create a unique complex in which aesthetics and spirituality are in a harmonious dialogue. This place of spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition uses Iranian traditional architectural forms to maximize use of available space to accommodate a variety of functions (including a library, a mosque, a school, mausoleum, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery, and some offices). It incorporates a route to reach the shrine of the Sheikh divided into seven segments, which mirror the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates, which represent the eight attitudes of Sufism. The ensemble includes well-preserved and richly ornamented facades and interiors, with a remarkable collection of antique artifacts. It constitutes a rare ensemble of elements of medieval Islamic architecture.
The Safavids valued the tomb-mosque form, and the tomb with its mausoleum and prayer hall is located at a right angle to the mosque. The buildings in the complex surround a small inner courtyard (31 by 16 meters). The complex is entered through a long garden. The mausoleum, a tall, domed circular tower decorated with blue tile and about 17 meters in height; besides, it is the 17th century Porcelain House preserving the sanctuary's ceremonial wares. Several parts were gradually added to the main structure during the Safavid dynasty. A number of Safavid sheikhs and harems and victims of the Safavids’ battles, including the Battle of Chaldiran, have been buried at the site. Ilkhanid and Timurid architectural languages, influenced by Sufi philosophy, have created new special forms and decorative patterns. The layout of the ensemble became a prototype for innovative architectural expressions and a reference for other khanegahs. As the shrine of a prominent Sufi master, who also was the founder of the Safavid Dynasty, the property has remained sacred in Iran up to the present day.
In 2010, it was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The nominated property has been protected under the Iranian legislation since 1932. According to the law currently in force, special protection provisions are in place for the property, the buffer zone and for a wider area called the ‘landscape zone.’ These provisions, already in place, are also being incorporated into the revised Master Plan for Ardabil, final approval of which is scheduled for September 2010.