Haifa's most striking landmark is the splendid Baha'i Shrine and Gardens, located on the edge of the city center. It is the second holiest shrine of the Baha'i Faith. The immaculate Baha'i Gardens, completed in 2001, are a tranquil memorial to the founders of the Baha'i Faith. Pilgrims come to Haifa from all parts of the world to pay homage to the first leaders of their religion, which emphasizes unity across cultures and religions.
History of Baha'i Shrine and Gardens
Haifa is the international headquarters for the Baha'i Faith, which began amidst persecution in Persia in the mid-19th century. Baha'is believe in the unity of all religions and believe that messengers of God like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad have been sent at different times in history with doctrines varying to fit changing social needs, but bringing substantially the same message.
The most recent of these heavenly teachers, according to Baha'is, was Baha'u'llah (1817-92), whose arrival was heralded by the Bab. Baha'u'llah was exiled by the Turkish authorities to Acre (Akko), where he wrote his doctrines and died a peaceful death in Bahji House.
The Bab's remains were hidden for years after he died a martyr's death in front of a firing squad in 1850. Eventually, the Bab's remains were secretly carried to the Holy Land. During one of his visits to Haifa in 1890, Baha'u'llah pointed out to his son the spot on Mount Carmel where the remains of the Bab should be laid to rest in a befitting tomb.
At first, the Bab's tomb was housed in a simple six-room stone building, constructed in 1899-1909. In 1921, the Baha'i leader Abdu'l-Bahá (eldest son of Baha'u'llah) was also buried in the shrine.
In 1948-53, Shoghi Effendi oversaw a major enlargement to the shrine designed in the Neo-Classical style by architect William Sutherland Maxwell. The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, where the governing body of the Baha'i Faith meets, was added in 1975-83. Also Neo-Classical in style, it was designed by architect Husayn Amanat.
The famous Baha'i Gardens (a.k.a. Terraced Gardens) were designed by architect Fariborz Sahba and constructed between 1990 and 2001.
In 2008, UNESCO named the Baha'i Shrine a World Heritage Site along with the shrine and tomb of Baha'u'llah in Acre.
What to See at Baha'i Shrine and Gardens
In the Haifa gardens, the huge domed Shrine of the Bab entombs Baha'u'llah's herald. The tomb is a spectacular sight, with ornamental gold work and flowers in almost every nook and cranny.
A visual symbol of the Baha'i emphasis on worldwide religious unity, the shrine is a blend of western and eastern styles. The granite columns recall classic Roman architecture, the Corinthian capitals are reminiscent of ancient Greece, and the arches add the flavor of the Orient.
On a higher hilltop stands the Corinthian-style Baha'i International Archives building, modeled after the Parthenon, and the Baha'i Universal House of Justice, with 58 marble columns and hanging gardens. These administrative buildings are not open to tourists.
All the Baha'i buildings face toward Acre, the burial place of Baha'u'llah.
The beautiful gardens were originally planned by Shoghi Effendi, the late Guardian of the Faith, and they have recently undergone a massive redesign aimed at putting them on the world's horticultural map.
The Baha'i gardens are now a geometric cascade of hanging gardens and terraces down to Ben Gurion Boulevard -a gift of visual pleasure to the city that gave the Baha'i religion its home and headquarters.
At the entrance to the shrine, where shoes must be removed, visitors are given a pamphlet providing further details on Baha'i history and doctrine.
Quick Facts on Baha'i Shrine and Gardens
|Names:||Baha'i Shrine and Gardens · Baha'i Terraces · Shrine of the Bab|
|Categories:||shrines; World Heritage Sites|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||32.814649° N, 34.987303° E|
|Hours:||Shrine daily 9am-noon; gardens daily 9am-5pm|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Baha'i Shrine and Gardens|
- Frommer's Online-Only Guides: Haifa
- Eyewitness Travel Guide to Jerusalem & the Holy Land
- Baha'i Shrine and Gardens on Mount Carmel – Tour Haifa
Map of Baha'i Shrine and Gardens, Haifa
Below is a location map and aerial view of Baha'i Shrine and Gardens. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.