Blowing someone else’s huge metal trumpet

Every day at dawn and dusk (and whenever a sick pilgrim gets healed), kettle-drums are beaten and long metal trumpets are blown in Mashhad. The 1910 photo here shows the naqqāra-ḵāna: the name used for the ensemble of musicians as well as the place where the performance takes place. Click here (and then on ‘live …

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Horse-racing on wheels?

All the European visitors to Persia were fascinated by polo. Pinçon (travelling with the Sherleys in 1599) wrote about how: “The King of Persia and his nobles take exercise by playing pall-mall on horseback, which is a game of great difficulty: their horses are so well trained at this that they run after the balls …

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Amusing Shah Abbas

The Shah didn’t always act like a great warrior, major world leader, and major patron of architecture. Here he is, according to the Chronicle of the Carmelites – acting much more like a very annoying small boy: “One Friday therefore, on the 17th July [1609], while [Fathers Benignus and Redemptus] were in the Maidan near …

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Cycling across Persia in the 1890s

In 1896, three British men set off on “the longest bicycle ride ever attempted, just 19,237 miles over continuous new ground” – including a ride through Persia. John Foster Fraser’s account of the two year trip is full of colonial-style anecdotes (many of which are a little too close to racism for many modern readers). …

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For sale: the most beautiful house in Asia

I’m fascinated by the renowned polymath Shaykh Bahaie – and an earlier posting on the blog has already showcased his amazing camel-powered oil mill, and mentioned his one-candle-powered hamam. Now his house in Isfahan is apparently up for sale. The house website explains that the building was nominated for the UNESCO prize of “most beautiful …

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Comets!

On the 10th of November 1618, some servants who were up very early in the morning reported to Figueroa, the Spanish Ambassador, that they had seen “une grande meteor au ciel”.  When another valet and some Armenians also saw something the next night, the Ambassador decided to wait up and observe for himself.  Sitting outside …

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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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