The Bahai Gardens in Haifa, a complex of structures and gardens which constitute the international center of the Bahai faith, is located on the Mount Carmel slopes in Haifa. The Bahai faith originated in 1844 in the city of Shiraz, in Iran. The first prophet of the new religion was Siyyid Ali Mohammad Shirazi who was a radical Shi’ite leader. Against the backdrop of disputes in the movement, he proclaimed himself Ali Muhammad Shirazi as a “Bab”, linking the hidden Imam (the twelfth Imam in the Shi’ite religion, who was the direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad) with other human beings. In 1850 the authorities executed the “Bab” and many of his followers. Among the Bahai leaders who remained alive were two half brothers, members of the Persian nobility: Mirza Hussein Ali Nuri, who received the nickname of Bahaullah, and Mirza Yahya Nuri, who was called Subh-i-Azal. In 1852, the brothers were exiled to Baghdad after a failed attempt to murder the Shah of Persia. In Baghdad, the brothers began to develop in different directions. While Subh-i-Azal and his followers who were called “Babs”, tried to hold on the existing religious principles, Bahaullah and his supporters, known as “Bahais”, considered that wide-ranging reforms should be implemented in new religious principles. At a certain point, the Bahaullah took the additional step of declaring himself a prophet. The authorities, who were concerned at the growing power of the Bahai religion in Baghdad, exiled the two factions to the city of Adriana in Turkey. In Adriana, there was a split between the two factions, and the disputes and power struggles led the administration to exile Subh-i-Azaland his supporters to Cyprus while Bahaullah and his followers were sent to the city of Akko. In Akko, the Bahaullah and followers were put in the ancient city fortress which was used as a prison from the beginning of the nineteenth century. At a certain stage, the authorities agreed to let Bahaullah and his followers leave the prison and live in Akko. The Bahaullah’s son, Abbas Effendi (1944-1921), known as “Abdul-Baha” established the World Bahai Center in Haifa and determined that this was the holiest site of the Bahai religion. In 1910, the bones of Siyyid Ali Mohammad Shirazi were brought from Tabriz in Persia to a new burial place in the temple on Mount Carmel. In 1953, within the area of the Bahai gardens in Haifa, a structure containing the grave of Ali Muhammad Shirazi was inaugurated. The structure can be recognized by its gold colored dome which can be seen from afar. It is the most striking and most famous architectural monument in Haifa, and it quickly became one of the characteristic symbols of the city. Additional buildings in the Bahai Gardens include a library – a structure which is architecturally, an exact copy of the Parthenon in Athens − and the “Universal House of Justice”, an striking building used as a meeting place for the “High Bahai Council”.
However, the masterpiece of the impressive site is the terraced garden sloping down from Mount Carmel to the outskirts of the German Colony, along 19 terraces, each of them a wonderful garden in itself, and when viewed as a whole, amazingly beautiful. These gardens were planted in an attempt to remind the viewer of one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon built by King Nebuchadnezzar. On 7 July 2008, the Bahai Gardens in Haifa were chosen as a world heritage site.