Piped water in the desert, Safavid-style

Recently, I showed you some Safavid-era public fountains, in Isfahan.  But the massive infrastructure developments of the era included installation of water supplies in the most unlikely places – for example, in the desert area sandwiched between 40km of salt plains (the Darya Namak), and 30km of salt mud (click here for a photo of …

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Shaykh Bakhaie and his camel oil mill

Shaykh Bahaie is renowned as a polymath – theologian, mathematician, philosopher, poet and physician – during the reign of Shah Abbas I.  My favourite invention of his is an angled-stone sundial at the Masjid-e Shah in Isfahan, the shadows of which accurately indicate prayer times. Nearby Bahaie’s hamam in Isfahan (the water of which was …

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A Bamboo cart to the source of the Karun

Major Herbert Sawyer was an Indian Army officer who, in 1890, carried out a geographical-military reconnaissance in West Persia, including a mapping of the Bakhtiari territories.  Even though a detailed version of his map was publicly available in 1894 (click here and scroll down); copies in the India Office collection (now in the British Library) …

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Ladies in Bakhtiariland – and the Constitutional Revolution

Dr Elisabeth Macbean Ross (author of the renowned ‘A Lady Doctor in Bakhtiariland’) was the physician for the “Bibis or great ladies, wives, sisters and mothers of the leading [Bakhtiari] Khans” for around four years from 1910.  She usually visited each of the many “Gha[l]ehs or castles” for several weeks, and there “enjoyed the almost …

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Safavid water fountains in Isfahan

The Masjid-e Jame in Isfahan was not the only congregational mosque in Buyid Isfahan: the Jurjir mosque was constructed sometime shortly before 985CE for the vizier Ibn Abbad, a Mutazilite scholar who transformed the court of the ruler Abu Mansur Moayyed-al-Dawla into a transnational literary centre. Only a fragment of the façade of the latter …

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Washing up – and the Ardabil collection

Some of you may already have noticed that UNESCO inscribed the Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil on its World Heritage list on 31 July 2010.  In the citation, it was described as a “rare ensemble of medieval Islamic architecture”; incorporating a route to reach the shrine of Sheikh Safi “divided into …

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