My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Iran: A Persian Odyssey - a full day in Esfahan

the breathtaking Naqsh-e Jashan Square Isfahan
Surely the most beautiful city in the world? 
Our first full day in Esfahan or Isfahan.
inside the Vank Cathedral
First we go across the river to the Armenian quarter and see the All Saviours’ or Vank Armenian Cathedral (Vank means monastery or convent in Armenian) dedicated to St Joseph of Arimathea. After the Ottoman War of 1603-05 Armenian immigrants settled here in search of a new life under the Safavid King Shah Abbas I and established this Cathedral, one of the first churches in Esfahan. Construction began around 1606, and was completed with major alterations to design between 1655 and 1664. 

The wall and ceiling paintings are fabulous, described well here 

Edict to protect rights of Armenian
Inside the Vank Cathedral
The adjoining museum is equally superb and both totally absorbed our attention – in the museum we marvelled at the ancient documents, including the 1606 edict of Shah Abbas I establishing New Jolfa and prohibiting interference with, or the persecution of, Armenians and their property and affairs in the district.

Christian Gospel written on parchment 1329 
There are hundreds of handwritten books stored here and we saw beautifully illustrated bibles and Korans, the first book printed in Iran with an old printing press also on display, a variety of objects related to Armenian community in Isfahan such as Safavid costumes, tapestries, paintings, (including Mt Ararat and the Armenian Church on the island in Lake Van, both of which were seen on my pilgrimage to SE Turkey ) embroidery, and other ethnological displays related to Armenian culture and religion, a very moving wall display of the Armenian Genocide, the world's smallest prayer book, in 7 languages, casks for Holy Relics, and all needed quite a while to truly appreciate. 

A visit to a real Iranian coffee shop next was a great treat - especially as we all had a huge chocolate cake to share!
drawing a miniature freehand

window display of camel bone miniatures
Our next stop, suitably refreshed, is to a miniatures workshop – the expert who displays his wares to us here has 40 years’ experience and gives us some information on the different materials in use – ivory (now forbidden of course), camel bone (next best – retains colour for 100 – 200 years), plastic (not so good!), and cow bone which cracks quickly. Therefore when buying these miniatures, we are warned, beware the material used and make sure we know what we are buying to avoid later disappointment. The special pens he uses are made of cat hair, and colours used are mostly natural, for example from pistachios, walnuts and pomegranates.

We walk through the bazaar to lunch – at the Partikan Hotel - and this is very good indeed. They make a special dish for me, I think it is butternut squash in a sweet sour thick sauce with the usual salad but all very freshly prepared. The meat looked like haggis but was rated highly by the meat eaters – there is jelly, water melon and cream custard for a sweet finish to the meal. It is all very good with slick service and rated highly by us all.

inside the Masjed-e Imam

inside the double dome of the Masjed-e Imam
At the Masjed-e Imam Ali treats us to more of his moving singing beneath the epicentre of the double dome structure of the great prayer hall - there is a great echo here - and explains the theory behind the construction. The inner dome is weight bearing - at its apex there is a 14 metre gap between the inner and outer dome, the latter with a more bulbous external profile which stands 54 m high. The courtyard is offset 45 degrees from the main entrance so that it can face Mecca without spoiling the appearance of the entrance on the main square. 
In a further courtyard behind the building we enjoy a question and answer session with a Mullah.
opportunity for discussions with a Mullah

block printing in Esfahan

various traditional blocks for the printing
So onward through the bazaar - to a linen shop and a demonstration of linen block-printing– where we watch the process and I buy a very pretty cushion cover.

At the Romano restaurant in the evening we enjoy the usual soup, followed by a very good, fresh and plentiful salad, and the main course was lion fish from the Persian Gulf, with a sesame chicken and prawns. It was beautifully presented, as was my veggie dish which was moulded vegetables and very tasty. All good quality but huge portions. The bread was very good, the service friendly. There was fruit to finish – like a smooth skinned orange. We were not entirely sure what it was. 

attractive veggie choice at the Romano Restaurant

Lion fish at Romano Restaurant

No comments:

Post a Comment