Siraf Port (Bandar-e Sīraf) also known as Bandar-e Ţaheri is a city in the Bushehr Province, 220km. south-east of the provincial capital, on the northern shores of the Persian Gulf.
The port was known as Tahiri until 2008 when the government changed the official name of the city back to Bandar Siraf.
The port was known as Siraf in ancient times. At the time of the silk road, most of the commerce towards Asia was performed through Siraf. Jewish oral history claims that at that time, all the inhabitants of Siraf were Jewish merchants. When Arabs invaded Persia, they forced the Jewish inhabitants to become Muslims. Furthermore, they changed the name to Taheri, which means pure in Arabic. The Arabs considered Jews as ritually impure and since they thought converting to Islam has made them ritually pure (Tahir) they changed the name of the port to Tahiri.
According to David Whitehouse, one of the first archaeologists to excavate the ancient ruins of Siraf, marine trade between the Persian Gulf and Far East lands began to flourish at this port because of the vast expansion of trade in consumer goods and luxury items at the time. The first contact between Siraf and China occurred in 185 AD. However, over time trade routes shifted to the Red Sea and Siraf was forgotten. Siraf as a port was founded in the 9th century, and continued its trade activity till the 15th century, then fell into rapid decline.
The historical importance of Siraf to ancient trade is only now being realized. Discovered there in past archaeological excavations are ivory objects from east Africa, pieces of stone from India, and lapis from Afghanistan. Siraf dates back to the Parthian era.
David Whitehouse also found evidence that the earliest mosque at Siraf dates to the 9th century and there are remains from the Parthian and Sassanid eras not far from the city. He found ruins of a congregational mosque surrounded by many smaller mosques. There are ruins of the luxurious houses of extremely rich traders who made their wealth through the port’s success. Siraf served an international clientele of merchants including those from South India ruled by the Western Chalukyas dynasty who were feasted by wealthy local merchants during business visits. An indicator of the Indian merchants’ importance in Siraf comes from records describing dining plates reserved for them. There is historical evidence of Sassanian maritime trade with the Gulf of Cambay in the modern-day province of Gujarat, as fragments of Indian red polished ware, of predominantly Gujarati provenance dating to the 5th and 6th centuries, were found at coastal sites on the northern shores of the Persian Gulf, and especially at Siraf.
Many of the findings (over 16,000 in all) excavated at Siraf by Whitehouse and his archaeological team in the 1960s and 1970s are kept in the British Museum in London.