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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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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The valiant hawk

This week I want to show you the Gonbad-i Bāz – an octagonal tower perched atop a conical mountain near Natanz, and an unusual survival of a non-religious Safavid-era building. Although Kleiss suggests that this domed tower is a royal pavilion for hunting the “numerous deer” in the area; most other writers, and all the …

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Hunting with Cheetahs

Following on the earlier tales of Musulman and Kafir lions on Bakhtiari land, I want to share an amazing short film. Cheetah were traditionally used in the Safavid era for hunting, as you can see in this (apologies!) very poor quality image of a cheetah being carried on the back of a hunter’s horse (from …

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‘A sea of precious stones’

I’ve already talked about the Uzbeks returning a looted diamond to Shah Abbas, and the jewels Abbas gifted to Jahangir. Here’s another posting on jewels – this time in the current Iranian collection. When I visited this several years ago, I was lucky enough to be shown round by the Director himself.  Pressing my nose …

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Safavid infrastructure projects: water for Shiraz

As well as giving me the graffiti photos from Qasr-i Bahram, Mariam Emamy also showed me well over a hundred photos taken around the holy city of Qom in 1979. I was thrilled to recognise the photographer: the renowned Kamran Adle helped me walk the Bakhtiari migration. Sadly, the planned book about Qom has never …

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Graffiti from 1592 at Qasr-i Bahram

Mariam Emamy recently and kindly showed me three photos of graffiti at the gorgeous white-stone building of Qasr-i Bahram. Local experts say that Qasr-i Bahram – which has also been called Abbasabad and Siyahkuh (in all sorts of spellings over the years) – was constructed as a hunting lodge for Shah Abbas; and there is …

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