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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Ancient earth forts

Shortly after I returned home from tracing Shah Abbas’ thousand kilometre walk from Isfahan to Mashhad, I found this extraordinary (1907) photo of the citadel in Lasjird (40km west of Semnan), converted as it had been into an elevated, fortified village. Lasjird was the only place specifically mentioned as having a fortress in an unpublished …

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A day in the life of . . Shah Abbas

John Cartwright, always called ‘The Preacher’ despite never having been recorded as doing any preaching, is one of the lesser known travellers in the Persia of Shah Abbas.  Usefully for me, finding out about Isfahan and Shah Abbas at or before the time the 1000km walk started in 1601, Cartwright left England in April 1600.  …

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Jaffer Kuli Khan . . Ja’far Quli Khan . . Jafar Gholi Khan . . Jaf’r Quli Khan

Recently I introduced you to Sattara Khanum, and her husband Jaffer Kuli Khan (Sitara and Ja’far Quli Khan in Lorimer’s translated Duraki/Behdarwand poem). The puzzle in the posting this week is a salutary lesson in careful reading of transliterated names and also, perhaps, in not believing everything that even the most renowned authors write  – …

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A sublime bridge: the Si o Se Pol

When I very first came to Isfahan, years ago and on an overnight bus from Shiraz, the early morning darkness of cold suburbs and dull office blocks was suddenly transformed into a softly-illuminated miracle of supreme architectural beauty as we clattered over the splendid 33-span bridge constructed by Allahverdi Khan.  I remember gazing out, sleepily …

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Sattara Khanum – and her velvet tresses

This week – something special for my Bakhtiari subscribers.  An extra welcome to you all! My posting on Bakhtiari poetry recitations mentioned how the people and places in one of the poems on this website (on the battle of the Duraki and Behdarwand) are, according to their translator DLR Lorimer, traceable in Henry Layard’s book …

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The ‘festival of lights’: 1595

In 1595, three years before Shah Abbas formally designated Isfahan as his capital city, he spent a mind-blowing 22 thousand tumans on an eye-popping ‘festival of lights’ in the city. Fifteeen thousand footsoldiers were gathered from nearby regions, equipped with regalia and banners, and presented to the Shah just outside Isfahan – in the village of Daulatabad – …

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