Kashan…A jewel of a city in the semi-arid center of Iran. I went back to Iran after 20 years. I visited several historical houses in Kashan and enjoyed my first visit to this region. This is one of them, built around 1880 with exquisite mirror and stained-glass work:
A much smaller example is the hotel we stayed in; this amazing boutique hotel (below), the “Manouchehri House“, revived from its ruin by the good taste of its owner, Saba Manouchehri, her super talented designer, Shanhnaz Nader Esphanahi, and Akbar Helli the traditional architect and master repairer of historic houses. Going from this (picture not mine):
This is the view from my room:
A first floor room with three beds for my parents and myself. Even the bed covers (designed by Shahnaz Nader Esfahani) are custom made for the hotel and purely Iranian:
Still jet-lagged, I could’t sleep well the first night and I saw the sun rise after having stared in delight for a couple of hours at the moonlit garden:
We had to take advantage of our short trip and a knowledgeable guide so we hurried to the breakfast area,
and tried to remember to take a look at these cute garden sculptures upon our return to the hotel!
We had our Persian tea and out the door:
Our first stop was at the Tabatabaei House. This splendid house was built in the 1840s for the affluent Tabatabaei family. It was designed by Master Ali Maryam. It has 40 rooms and more than 200 doors:
It is the same house that you see at the beginning of the blog post. I was amazed at this majestic balcony and its ceiling that looks like a traditional Persian rug (below).
Kashan is world famous for its beautiful rug weaving tradition,
and I can very well imagine Mr. Tabatabaei asking his architect to create a rug on his ceiling like the rug he must have had at his feet:
It doesn’t happen often for me to be overwhelmed by what I see and hesitate about what to shoot but I was taking pictures left and right and no time to take notes… 😉
But I remembered to take a picture of myself!
The colors on these pictures have not been processed — the golden glow that you see everywhere is real:
The intricate stucco work on the walls is even more beautiful in the midday golden light:
The persians are historically known in the art of plastering:
The stained glass is omnipresent in all of these old houses,
Some are exquisite!
We decided to go to the bazaar for lunch. Iran, the pistachio capital of the world is a heaven for nut lovers:
I found this guy’s expression in front of the sheep’s heads hilarious! The local Chelo-Kabab, the only thing that Shahs and Mullahs equally love and agree upon, didn’t disappoint us. Chelo-Kabab is the national dish of Iran consisting of steamed basmati rice and lamb kabab.
After lunch we headed to the Fin Garden. A Unesco world heritage site, it is a historical Persian Garden that symbolizes the earthly paradise. Designed for Shah Abbas I and completed in 1590, it is the oldest garden in Iran still in existence.
Water runs through it (it houses Kashan’s Fin Bath) and beautiful trees and flowers and water sources everywhere have a heavenly effect on people.
Flowers are everywhere on the ceilings and walls (above) and outside like the omnipresent pomegranate and roses:
Kashan is like Grasse in France, the capital of rose essence, Gol-Aab:
and some more ceilings:
and more gorgeous frescos:
I loved this image of this tired chador clad lady:
The next day took us to a famous bath or hammam: Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse. I want to take you first to the roof—very typical of the ones in this region, it lets the sunlight in. You will see these roof domes again from inside.
Thes multiple domes contain convex glasses to provide sufficient lighting to the bathhouse while concealing it from the outside:
The bathhouse is a traditional Iranian bathhouse from the 16th century. It has two main parts: Sarbineh (the dressing hall) and Garmkhaneh (the hot bathing hall). The following image is of Sarbineh with its octagonal pool and its 8 columns.
The interior of the bathhouse is decorated with turquoise and gold tile work, brickwork and amazing plasterwork:
Me being a Roohani (religious in Persian and a common last name like Smith) and the new president being a Roohani, you would think this dude could be my dad or an uncle:
My dad—Morteza Rouhani— a retired pediatrician and not a mollah (here with our kind guide, Abbas Ghamkhar), was tired of following my mother and me around . Everybody asks me but my father has no connection to the Iranian President!
Another great tea (I call it paradise in a glass) and we were ready to head to another historical house.
The same person who built the Tabatabaei’s House later built this one, the Boroujerdis House for Mr. Tabatabaei’s newly married daughter. It is considered a true masterpiece of Persian traditional residential architecture. It has a funny story:
The groom not being from Kashan, was not accepted first as a good suitor (he was in the tea making business) and to show his wealth in spite of not being one of the Kashan nobility, he asks the same architect to build his home with samovars and teapots in the exterior wall carvings! I was laughing taking these pictures:
There are great plaster and stucco works of fruits and flowers and wall paintings by the royal painter Kamal-ol-molk, and three 40 meter tall windcatchers which help cool the house to unusually cool temperatures.
A windcatcher (below) is a traditional Persian architectural element to create natural ventilation in buildings:
and this is what’s happening inside the dome, magnificent ceiling,
after magnificent ceiling…
I wished I could have made a better travel log about this mystical place:
One last image from the other side of Tabatabaei House—after all we started the blog with it:
Ok one more:
We went back to Tehran, tired but happy. Guess what we drank the minute we got home?
I will keep a great memory of this beautiful city—home to my favorite poet, Sohrab Sepehri. This swallow kept us company at our hotel, the Manouchehri House:
A poem of Sepehri in English:
“I am a native of Kashan
Time is not so bad to me
I own a loaf of bread, a bit of intelligence, a tiny amount of taste!
I possess a mother better than the leaf
Friends, better than the running brook
I am a Muslim
The rose is my Mecca
The spring my prayer-carpet
The light, my prayer stone
The field my prostrate place
I take ablution with the heartbeat of windows…”
“Je viens de la contrée de Kashan.
Ma vie somme toute n’est pas trop difficile.
J’ai de quoi vivre, un brin d’intelligence, un minuscule talent.
J’ai une mère plus douce que les feuilles de l’arbre.
Des amis plus limpides que l’eau courante.
Et un Dieu présent quelque part, tout proche:
Parmi les feuilles de giroflées,
Au pied de ce pin élevé,
Sur la face consciente des eaux,
Dans les lois du monde végétal.
Je suis musulman.
J’ai comme direction de la Mecque une rose.
Comme napperon de prière une source.
Comme sceau de prière la lumière.
La plaine est le tapis de ma prière.
Je fais mes ablutions aux vibrantes fenêtres de la lumière.”
and in Persian:
روزگارم بد نيست.
تكه ناني دارم ، خرده هوشي، سر سوزن ذوقي.
مادري دارم ، بهتر از برگ درخت.
دوستاني ، بهتر از آب روان.
قبله ام يك گل سرخ.
جانمازم چشمه، مهرم نور.
دشت سجاده من.
من وضو با تپش پنجره ها مي گيرم.
It’s the first day of spring and the Persian new Year of 1392 starts with Noruz (No: new, Ruz: day):
We are celebrating in Paris with a newly converted Venus,
I have extensively written about the Noruz (or Nowruz, Norooz) before in my blog, so if you’ve been with me in the past 4/5 years, you must know all about the items that go on the Noruz spread.
The famous “haft seen” of 7 S’s:
My fish, Samad (his name has nothing to do with the S’s… ;)), has been with us since two Noruz’s ago and he is happy to play his role this year with the famous Haji Firouz , the politically incorrect Persian messenger of the New Year:
Haji Firouz’s face is covered in soot and he is wearing bright red clothes and hat. People consider it only as a face paint and there is no racial implication.
Do you remember Samad on my previous year’s Noruz card?
One of the S’s is Sekkeh or coin; the last Shah of Iran is overthrown even in my Haft Seen…
It was raining in Paris on the first day of spring:
but I didn’t care because a bunch of hyacinths can bring the spring to your room.
Happy Noruz and,
happy 1392 to all of my Persian friends!
Some links to my previous Nowruz posts worth your time (I promise):
Nowruz 1390 here
Nowruz 1389 here
Nowruz 1388 here
My most visited blog post (and most used images without my permission) Haft seen here
Just decided to add this photo of myself (3 months old) on my mom’s lap having my first Noruz and not terribly impressed…
This is one of the most beautiful renditions of my Persian name, Dordaneh (a unique pearl—dor: pearl, daneh: one, unique):
It was created for me some years ago by Nasrollah Afjei, the Iranian master painter calligrapher. I visited his most recent works at the Gallerie Nicolas Flamel in Paris some time ago; I felt a great sense of admiration and satisfaction in front of his beautiful canvases like this one:
The following is one of his more recent ones from the “Siah Mashgh” series; as young students in Iran, we all had to practice our calligraphy with special pens and the exercises were called Siah Mashgh or the black homework because of the extra black ink!
Even though Persian and Arabic use the same alphabet (Persian has 4 more letters than Arabic which has 28), the writing is way more beautiful and lends itself better to calligraphy. “Nas’taliq” is the most popular contemporary Persian calligraphy style.
The Persian script is exclusively written cursively: the majority of letters in a word connect to each other. A characteristic feature of this script, possibly tracing back to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that much to the chagrin of foreigners vowels are underrepresented! It’s a bit like shorthand with consonants but mostly omitted vowels.
“In comparison to Europe and North America calligraphy is a far more popular and practiced form of art in Iran and in most other countries around this area. You can spot at least one piece of calligraphy hung on the walls of most Iranian households.”
Since the script is cursive, the appearance of a letter changes depending on its position: isolated, beginning (joined on the left), middle (joined on both sides), and end (joined on the right) of a word.
Afjei is a genius in morphing them into a beautiful image that is part painting and part calligraphy…
I am wondering how Mister Afjei would create his masterpieces had he to work with the old Persian Cuneiform!
For those of you who can still read Persian, here is the poem that Nasrollah Afjei painted/calligraphed for me from the 14th century Persian poet, Shah Nematollah Vali. The main verse where you find my name roughly means “each one of us has a beautiful unique pearl”:
و لیکن هر یکی از ما نکو دردانه ای داریم
اگر رندی و می نوشی بیا میخانه ای داریم
و گر تو عشق می بازی نکو جانانه ای داریم
اگر از عقل می پرسی ندارد نزد ما قدری
وگر مجنون همی جوئی دل دیوانه ای داریم
درین خلوتسرای دل نشسته دلبری با ما
هزاران جان فدای او که خوش میخانه ای داریم
تو گر گنجی همی جوئی در آ در کنج دل با ما
که گنج ما بود معمور و در ویرانه ای داریم
همه غرقیم و سرگردان درین دریای بی پایان
ولیکن هر یکی از ما نکو دُردانه ای داریم
چنین جائی که ما داریم به نزد او چه خواهد بود
برای شمع عشق او عجب پروانه ای داریم
Visit this great site for some amazing calligraphy here.
My friend Anahita Ghabaian, the owner of Silk Road Gallery, invited me to go and see her great photo collection at the Grand Palais. I went and discovered the most beautiful women of the world! I didn’t know many of the newcomers to the scene like Paolo Roversi:
The above photo reminds me of my friend, Maureen.
I liked his other-worldly portraits where even the nudes were not in your face!
A jewel of a photo for me was Brancusi’s Eileen on the bench of his studio; I have appreciated his sculptures for ever and his “sleeping muse” kept me company for years.
The highlight for me was the Silk Gallery’s Persian Women; I met the super talented Shadi Ghadirian with her new collection of Miss Butterfly (Shahparak khanom):
A graceful and delicate butterfly/woman gets trapped in the web of a spider…
I knew her for her “Ghajar” and “Like Everyday” collections:
The late Bahman Jalali’s “image of imagination” was watching me quietly from the wall:
Iranian photographers’ works are regularly presented to museums and other institutions everywhere thanks to the Silk Road Gallery ; I like Rana Javadi’s Termeh clad woman:
There was a gorgeous sun setting on Grand Palais that made everything glow in the golden hour; perfect for taking pictures!
After Iran I went to Africa starting from Egypt and Youssef Nabil’s taunting girls:
then to Morocco and Lalla Essaydi’s “I want to be Shirin Neshat when I grow up” image; there is something about the written text that fascinates me:
The great surprise were the other Africans like this beautiful portrait, by Soungalo Malé, of this girl in her sunday suit in 1960; she looks at you with modesty but elegance:
I fell in love with this vintage photo of Ian Berry’s African Collection; a small print that made me smile:
The energy of the place made me forget my aching feet so I plowed on…
I was happy to see Sissi Farassat’s Andrea, swimming in a sea of sequins:
I love fashion photography and I wasn’t disappointed! Cathleen Naundorf’s Dior 2007 collection made me want to color it pink:
Kate Moss was omnipresent but I liked Annie Leibovitz’s protrait of hers (bellow); she is best friends with the camera and many of her portraits were shouting from multiple galleries!
I saw Leibovitz’s pilgrimage photos too and I loved them all; here is the one I like to include here with all its majesty:
I like big cities and skyscrapers so I easily connected with Gail Albert Halaban’s “Dance studio” from her Out my window NY city collection. Put that on your wall and the whole world changes…
The sun was shining when I went in the Grand Palais,
and I came out when it was growing dark; the site of the Petit Palais in the Parisian “blue hour” was indeed majestic:
Visit the Silk Road Gallery here
This is my blog’s fourth Anniversary issue and what better subject than the amazing Nicolas Bouvier! He traveled from Geneva to the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan in 1953-1954 with his painter friend, Thierry Vernet.
I read his great book, The way of the world, last year; it started a bit slow but once that he got to Iran, I was hooked. This map traces their journey from Europe to Asia where Bouvier starts in Geneva and ends in Afghanistan:
His friend, Vernet, has kept a visual jounal by drawing what they see together and what Bouvier writes:
These images are my interpretation of their work and an homage to this delightful journal. “Ten years in the writing, The Way of the World is a masterpiece which elevates the mundane to the memorable and captures the thrill of two passionate and curious young men discovering both the world and themselves.”
They traveled with a small Fiat Topolino (above and below) that took them through hell and paradise!
What was striking about this little book was the fact that I didn’t have to lower my expectation of excellence: Bouvier writes with the ease of the poet that he is and the attention of an enthusiastic humanist…
He talks about “women buried in their floret tchador”: femmes ensevelies dans leur tchador à fleurettes.
He talks about how “Iran, the old aristocrat, who has experienced everything in life … and forgotten a lot, is allergic to ordinary remedies and needs special treatment. The gifts are not always easy to give when children are five thousand years older than Santa Claus.”
After finishing the book, I got curious about the writer and started the “research”! I compiled many images about this master Iconographer, I watched many of his interviews—from his youth until the last years of his life— and he sounds as fresh at the end as he did in the beginning.
The Swiss television has a great archive on the subject.
I have to admit that the year they spent in Iran was the most interesting to me— even though Serbia, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan had their own exhilarating charm. He even talks about my old school, Jeanne D’Arc of Tehran, in the years before my birth. The next couple of pictures of Bouvier are from their time in Tehran; this one from a modest hotel’s balcony:
He’s typing in the nude in the heat of the Iranian summer:
Most of all I loved the winter they spend in North west of Iran, in Tabriz:
The way he describes the long quiet winter in that city transports the reader to the depth of our common humanity; I laughed when he talks about the smell of hot Persian breads, Sangak and Lavaash in the snow or when he describes the frozen mustaches and beards of men in the freezing cold, the boiling water of samovars and the fact that everybody thinks only about three words: tea, coal and vodka!
Speaking of Persian breads, Bouvier suggests that only a very old country can make luxuries out of most banal routines; this bread has been thirty generations and a few dynasties in the making…
I was overwhelmed with nostalgia reading his beautiful poem about the onset of winter (Zemestan in Persian) in Tabriz:
I couldn’t find it in English so I translated it myself; first the original in French:
Les grenades ouvertes qui saignent
sous une mince et pure couche de neige
le bleu des mosquées sous la neige
les camions rouillés sous la neige
les pintades blanches plus blanches encore
les longs murs roux les voix perdues
qui cheminent sous la neige
et toute la ville jusqu’à l’énorme citadelle
s’envole dans le ciel moucheté
C’est Zemestan, l’hiver
Bleeding open pomegranates
under a thin layer of pure snow
the blue of the mosques in the snow
rusty trucks in the snow
white guinea fowl whiter still
long red walls lost voices
who walk in the snow
and the whole town to the huge citadel
flies in the mottled sky
It’s Zemestan, winter
These images are based on the following books:
I read the “The way of the world” in french (L’Usage du Monde) but it has been lovingly translated by Robyn Marsack; I recommend it to all of you.
Que votre ombre grandisse or May your shadow grow!
Nature can be kind even though it has not been so in the last few days in Japan…I went out to park Montsouris, close to my apartment in Paris to take some pictures from the gentler side of Nature.
Everything was so beautiful I almost forgot the Japanese meltdown (nuclear and else…) for a few minutes; the purple crocus made me nostalgic:
I was born in Khorasan, the world’s most important saffron producing region, and the yellow pistils of this modest bulb flower is what becomes the most expensive spice in the world: zaferan or saffron.
Now back to the park where the most flamboyant were the primaveras (primulas):
I ask the eternal question: is anything more effortlessly beautiful than a flower?
I have to wait for the tulips to come out one of these days:
nature weaves beautiful rugs:
The pink blossoms over a stream were so pretty:
This one was earlier today at Saint Germain:
but right outside my place, the pansies were going crazy:
I took the picture with a big smile on my face—I love pansies—and later today I made this dress out of these gorgeous flowers:
To see my previous posts about the persian New Year and to see some beautiful poetry:
Last year’s Green Nowruz go here
Nowruz 1388 go here
Haft seen, haft sheen and everything in between go here
“Pourquoi les hommes ne savent-ils pas
Que la capucine n’est pas un hasard…” Sepehri
HAPPY NEW YEAR, NOWRUZ PIROUZ!
On the eve of he international women’s day, I would like to go back to the superb Parvin Etessami’s poem about the Persian women ‘s emancipation from Hejab in 1936. She died 70 years ago at the age of 34.
زن در ایران، پیش از این گویی که ایرانی نبود
پیشهاش، جز تیرهروزی و پریشانی نبود
زندگی و مرگش اندر کنج عزلت میگذشت
زن چه بود آن روزها، گر زآن که زندانی نبود
کس چو زن اندر سیاهی قرنها منزل نکرد
کس چو زن در معبد سالوس، قربانی نبود
در عدالتخانه انصاف زن شاهد نداشت
در دبستان فضیلت زن دبستانی نبود
دادخواهیهای زن میماند عمری بیجواب
آشکارا بود این بیداد؛ پنهانی نبود
بس کسان را جامه و چوب شبانی بود، لیک
در نهاد جمله گرگی بود؛ چوپانی نبود
از برای زن به میدان فراخ زندگی
سرنوشت و قسمتی جز تنگمیدانی نبود
نور دانش را ز چشم زن نهان میداشتند
این ندانستن، ز پستی و گرانجانی نبود
زن کجا بافنده میشد، بی نخ و دوک هنر
خرمن و حاصل نبود، آنجا که دهقانی نبود
میوههای دکهٔ دانش فراوان بود، لیک
بهر زن هرگز نصیبی زین فراوانی نبود
در قفس میآرمید و در قفس میداد جان
در گلستان نام ازین مرغ گلستانی نبود
بهر زن تقلید تیه فتنه و چاه بلاست
زیرک آن زن، کو رهش این راه ظلمانی نبود
آب و رنگ از علم میبایست، شرط برتری
با زمرد یاره و لعل بدخشانی نبود
جلوهٔ صد پرنیان، چون یک قبای ساده نیست
عزت از شایستگی بود از هوسرانی نبود
ارزش پوشانده کفش و جامه را ارزنده کرد
قدر و پستی، با گرانی و به ارزانی نبود
سادگی و پاکی و پرهیز یک یک گوهرند
گوهر تابنده تنها گوهر کانی نبود
از زر و زیور چه سود آنجا که نادان است زن
زیور و زر، پردهپوش عیب نادانی نبود
عیبها را جامهٔ پرهیز پوشاندهست و بس
جامهٔ عجب و هوی بهتر ز عریانی نبود
زن، سبکساری نبیند تا گرانسنگ است و بس
پاک را آسیبی از آلوده دامانی نبود
زن چون گنجور است و عفت گنج و حرص و آز دزد
وای اگر آگه ز آیین نگهبانی نبود
اهرمن بر سفرهٔ تقوی نمیشد میهمان
زآن که میدانست کآنجا جای مهمانی نبود
پا به راه راست باید داشت، کاندر راه کج
توشهای و رهنوردی، جز پشیمانی نبود
چشم و دل را پرده میبایست اما از عفاف
چادر پوسیده، بنیاد مسلمانی نبود
It is hard for me to translate this beautiful poem to you but I read it with deep respect for this great poet who died so young. The image is the Persian woman’s face shaped like the map of Iran and in a chador…
To see the most beautiful Persian women go here.
First day of Spring 2010 is the beginning of the Persian New Year of 1389—Happy Nowruz everybody!
In previous years, I have talked a lot about Haft Seen (seven S’s on the new year’s spread) and the calendar; for this year, I decided to tell you which of the seven really symbolize Nowruz for me. One is Sabzeh or wheat sprouts (above) and the other is Sonbol, the hyacinth (below):
I am still in Los Angeles and the Wilshire Corridor is awash in Nowruz banners like this one:
As a child, I remember listening to the Iranian singer, Pouran Shapouri, sing Eyd oumad bahaar oumad…
Vigen’s song, Shokoufeh (blossom), was another of my favorites as the harbinger of Nowruz.
يكي دو روز ديگر از پگاه
چو چشم باز ميكني
زمانه زير و رو
زمينه پرنگار مي شود
زمين شكاف ميخورد
به دشت سبزه ميزند
هر آن چه مانده بود زير خاك
هر آنچه خفته بود زير برف
جوان و شسته رفته آشكار ميشود
اميد نوبهار من
لبي به خنده باز كن
ببين چگونه از گلي
خزان باغ ما بهار ميشود
Sabzeh shows up in the new year celebrations in many countries:
Let’s not forget my favorite, the goldfish:
Goldfish in a bowl represents life and the end of the month of Esfand (pisces).
for more on the traditions of Nowrouz: NoRuz, Norouz, haft-seen, haft-sheen, etc…
a great slide show of Nowruz gold fish farms