Mount Carmel was a well-known sacred place in ancient times. It plays special and important role for the Baha’i followers around the world as the center of their religion. The historical link between the Baha’i faith and Israel was established as early as at the coming-to-be of the world religion. In the end of 19th century, the founder of Baha’i religion, Baha’u’llah was exiled from Persia, where he was born. The forced exile led him to Baghdad, and then to Constantinople (Istanbul), Adrianople (Edirne), and finally Akko (Acre) which played then the role of the house of correction in the Ottoman Empire. Bahji, which is near Akko, became for Baha’u’llah the last refuge.
During his visit to Haifa in 1890 Baha’u’llah showed his son ‘Abdu’l-Baha a certain place on Mount Carmel and clearly pronounced, that this place has to become the final resting place for the Báb’s remains. The Báb is the man who brought people the good news about Baha’i faith. Baha’u’llah ordered his son to build here an appropriate burial place and prophesized, that in this very place there will be the center of the world Baha’i religion. The Báb died as a martyr in 1850 in Persia, 6 years after his prophesy about his great spiritual mission. For the next sixty years after his death his remains had been transferred from one place to another to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.
Only in 1909 his remains were finally buried in Mount Carmel in the same place Baha’u’llah showed his son. The first brick into the foundation of the Shrine of Báb was put by Abdu’l-Baha personally.
Shoghi Effendi, the keeper of the Baha’i religion, continued Abdu’l-Baha’s mission and build the Shrine surviving to this day. The Shrine of the Báb was erected by a famous Canadian architect William Sutherland Maxwell. The Shrine was designed as an impressive mix of Western and Eastern architectural styles. The beautiful granite pillars were built in the classical Roman order. Their Corinthian capitals were made under the influence of the art of Ancient Greece, and its imposing arcs added unique Eastern motifs to the overall picture.
In 1987 they began to plant gardens on Mount Carmel’s slopes to decorate the Shrine of the Báb and to make it beautiful. 18 grandiose terraced gardens link the mountain foot with its top: 9 under and 9 above the Shrine. They were planned by the architect Fariborz Sahba, famous for his planning of the Indian Bahá'í House of Worship (the so-called Lotus Temple).
The gardens were intended to be ‘hanging’ on the slopes of Mount Carmel. They would make an appropriate setting and passages to the Shrine, one of the most sacred Baha’i places. According to the architect, “The shrine of the Báb is envisaged as a precious gem, for which the terraces provide the setting, like a golden ring for a precious diamond. The terraces are designed as nine concentric circles appearing to emanate from the shrine of the Báb. All their lines and curves direct the eyes and feeling towards that central edifice. The geometry of parallel surfaces and lines have been employed to create the most agreeable and comforting setting for the spectator along the entire landscape.”
In addition to the other ornaments enriching the landscape, combination of such natural elements as water and light plays important role in the gardens’ planning. The gardens stretch for one kilometer and are 225 meters high. Their width reaches 400 meters. During their planning special attention was paid on preservation of the environment. For this reason a modern irrigation system was assembled for water saving.
The Baha’i Shrine: the terraced gardens of the Shrine of Báb
The Baha’i Shrine is surrounded by the unique gardens on both sides. Creativity in gardening gradually helps to change the outward look of the landscape along the terraces. Due to constant and diverse planting of the local trees and wild flowers the natural landscape is recreated. Flowers of various colors are surrounded with grass, while other plants and trees make amazingly beautiful ‘tapestry’ almost all year round. A great multiplicity of plants covers the vast area of Mount Carmel and creates small ‘natural reserve’ attracting wild animals and making the environment better. It is one of the few little islands of tranquility at the heart of the active and live city. The highest terrace has an entrance through the underpass to the Louis Promenade running on the mountain top. At the foot of the mountain, the space of entrance to the first terrace joins the German Colony, which is being actively restored beginning from the seacoast line.
These two projects are among the most attractive and ambitious construction plans on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The terraced gardens create the texture completely embellishing Mount Carmel. The gardens were planted with many various sorts of green plantations that bloom all year round. The gardens’ center is marked with the clear lines running down to the foothill. They mix up with various transition areas consisting of different landscapes and flowering trees. The terraced gardens are embellished with beautiful metal and stone ornaments as well, but the main ornament is made with natural mixture of water and light. Smooth surfaces reflect sunlight in various shades. In the night hours the ornamental lamps light up all 18 terraces and focus one’s attention on the Shrine of Báb shimmering in thelight like a gem in precious casing.
On Baha’i followers
Baha’i is an independent monotheistic religion. Its followers believe in Baha’u’llah who lived in 1817-1892. They believe that he was the last of the Prophets of God. Baha’i followers emerge, as it often happens, from different races, ethnic groups, cultures, professions, and social strata. As Shoghi Effendi, the Guradian of the Baha’i faith, said:
“The Bahá'í religion recognizes the one-ness of God and His prophets, whose essential teaching is the unlimited seeking after truth, the exposure of false beliefs and prejudices of any and every kind, as well as the teaching that the fundamental goal of religion is the advancement of concord and harmony, since it should go hand in hand with science and since thisconstitutes the one and only foundation for a reformed and advanced society, as well as a society which seeks constantly after peace.
The Bahá'í religion essentially preaches that there should be equal opportunities and equal rights for both sexes; calls for compulsory education and the prevention of conditions which create excessive poverty or wealth; recommends the adoption of one language for international communication; and the establishment of institutions which will immediately - and with urgency - work towards the preservation of a durable and lasting world peace.”
In 1959 the historian Arnold Toynbee argued that: “Bahaism is an independent religion on a par with Islam, Christianity, and the other recognized world religions. Bahaism is not a sect of some other religion; it is a separate religion, and it has the same status as the other recognized religions.”
According to the 1992 edition of Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Baha’i religion is introduced into 250 states and regions.
The Universal House of Justice stands on Mount Carmel, right above the Shrine of Báb. It is the highest Baha’i administrative body which manages the affairs of International Baha’i community with the help of 600 volunteers presenting more than 55 countries. The Baha’i administrative town consists of several buildings built in neo-classicist style. Among them are: The Universal House of Justice, international Baha’i archives, a library, and administrative centers. The international Baha’i archives, which are located in a house built in 1957, were the first construction made according to a certain architectural style. After that the other buildings followed. They were designed by the architect Hussein Amanat.
Many ornamenting methods make the hanging gardens even more beautiful. You will be surprised by the ornamented iron gates, custom-made clay vessels, and fountains adding a note of tenderness and refinement to the gardens’ splendor. Sound of water flowing down from the top of Mount Carmel right to its foothill from the both slopes makes an impression of a flying bird, and for a moment you can forget about the mad rush of the city life.
Tours of the Baha’i Gardens
Three parts of the gardens are open and do not require any reservation.
The first one is “the terrace number 19”. You can get there from the Panorama street, 61.
The second part surrounds the Shrine of Báb. You can get there from HaZionut Ave, 80.
The third part is “the entrance square” under the terrace number 1, where you can get to from the crossing of HaGefen and Ben Gurion streets.
The terrace number 19 and “the entrance square” are open every day from 09:00 to 17:00.
The area surrounding the Shrine of the Báb is open every day from 09:00 to 12:00.
If you want to take part in a guided tour of the Baha’i Gardens, you can see their schedule at the official Baha’i web page: http: www.ganbahai.org.il/eng . No reservations needed.
Tours are arranged every day, except for Wednesday and Baha’i religious holidays. Each tour takes from 45 minutes to an hour, and you will walk about one kilometer. Each tour visitors go down several hundred steps.
People suffering from respiratory diseases or problems with their knees should know about the tour’s exercise stress. We recommend you to wear a hat and comfortable shoes and to bring a bottle of water.
The two tours do not include a guided visit to the mausoleum of the Báb.
For the visitors’ information: the Baha’i gardens are one of the most sacred places for Baha’i followers. Therefore we earnestly ask you to respect this place and to put up modest clothing. Please, do not bring your pets with you. We also ask you not to bring weapons and food. We will be particularly grateful, if you watch closely your kids.
All the tours are free.
To book a tour for groups of more than 25 people you should call between Sunday and Thursday from 09:00 to 17:00 by the number 04-8313131.
Haifa Objects of Note
City Temples and Churches are indispensable part of Haifa. They are of special interest for tourists. The Orthodox Church of Elijah the Prophet, the Catholic Cathedral of Santa Maria of the Greek Catholic Church, and the Carmelite Stella Maris Monastery, where, according to a Christian tradition, there is the Prophet Elijah’s Tomb are especially interesting.
The German Colony (HaMoshava HaGermanit) situated in the downtown is a neighborhood built in 19th century by the German Christians, who called themselves Templers. This district distinguishes with beautiful stone houses with tiled roofs in accordance with the typical city planning of that time.
The Carmelit is the only Israeli subway. The underground funicular railway allows residents and guests of the city easily move up and down the slope of Mount Carmel. After you get out of the highest Carmelit station, you can visit the Haifa zoo and stroll through Louis Promenade with its magnificent view of the sea.
Haifa Beaches You just can not pass by the beaches of Haifa with their soft golden sand, flickering water, and warm waves alluring you.