The Baha’i Gardens, also known as the “Terraces” of the Baha’i Faith or the “Hanging Gardens of Haifa,” are probably the most distinct tourist attractions in the city of Haifa, in northern Israel.
Until the Covid-19 (aka coronavirus) pandemic, the Baha’i Gardens received around 750,000 tourists a year – locals and foreign tourists alike, adherents to the Baha’i faith and people from other religions.
A short history of the Baha’i faith
The Baha’i religion is a relatively new one. It was established over 200 years ago by a Persian named Siyyid ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850), who proclaimed himself as the “Bab” (the “gateway” to God) and was the founder of the Baha’i Faith. He sought out to spread his beliefs and eventually gained tens of thousands of adherents. But despite that, he was shunned by the Shia clergy and was eventually executed, only six years after he established this movement.
The Bab’s efforts and legacy were continued by Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri, who went by the name of Bah’u’allah. Like the Bab, he was hounded by the Shia clergy but continued with his missionary work. In 1868, Baha’u’allah fled to the Ottoman Empire but faced imprisonment. He spent the next 24 years in prison in Akkro (Acre). He was allowed to purchase a summer house (although he was still technically a prisoner), where he lived for the rest of his life.
Baha’u’allah’s son, Abdul-Baha, continued his father’s work and the three of them became canonized as the three most important and esteemed figures in the Baha’i faith. Today, there are about 7 million Baha’i adherents.
The terraces represent the Bab’s first 18 disciples, whom he accorded the title the “Letters of the Living,” although no individual terraces are connected with individual letters. The additional terrace is the terrace of the Shrine of the Bab.
The gardens can be divided into three sections:
- Lower section – which opens up the German Colony.
- Middle section – the gardens surrounding the Shrine of the Bab (with the golden dome), a mausoleum that houses the Bab’s remains.
- Upper section – it’s just off the Louis Promenade and the main gate. This is where the actual tours begin.
The gardens were designed by Iranian-American Fariborz Sahba, a Baha’i adherent himself, who began work on the project in 1987 and oversaw construction. The project funds came from donations made only by Bahai’s from many parts of the world. The gardens were opened to the public in June 2001. They are laid out on the slopes of Mount Carmel and are impressive because of their symmetry.
Nowadays, the gardens are tended by Baha’i World Center, the religion’s global headquarters. Verdant lawns and vivid flower beds flow down to the Shrine of the Bab, whose own construction was completed earlier, in 1953.
The meticulously maintained gardens exude a European feel, with stone eagles, magnificent fountains, flower beds, hedges trimmed into eight-pointed stars, and neatly mowed grass lawns.
At night, the gardens look spectacular, as they are illuminated with lots of lights. The floodlights provide the Shrine of the Bab an even more resplendent golden glow. You can see the sparkling view of the gardens from the German Colony.
The gardens were open to everyone at no cost. But everyone, both men and women, were required to dress modestly, keep the place clean, and behave accordingly.
Until the Covid-19 pandemic, there used to be free daily guided tours conducted at the gardens, both in Hebrew and in English. As of this writing, the gardens are temporarily closed to the public. To keep yourself up-to-date regarding the news about Baha’i Gardens, whether or not they are open again to visitors, visit its website: https://www.ganbahai.org.il/.