Watching Samira Ahmed’s Art of Persia television series on BBC Four has been an utter delight. Not just to learn more about the history of Persia and the incredible impact the empire has had on the world and today, but it has taken me back to so many pleasant memories of Iran. I look back at visiting some of the monuments featured in the television series.
The goal posts stand alone now, but some 400 years ago, they were used in polo matches. Now the only horses that can be seen are ones transporting new travellers and young families around the square – fountains trickling in the background in the evening light illuminating Naqsh-e Jahan Square’s features. The vast space itself – stretching at 512 metres long and 163 metres long – is also home to grand mosques. The Masjed-e Shah and Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfallah built under Shah the Great I’s rule are Islamic architectural triumphs. The evening is the best time to drift around the square to witness the majestic lights bounce off their dazzling array of tiles – and to sit and enjoy the view with a glass of bubbling chai, black tea, in hand.
The ancient desert city of Yazd is filled with trickling winding lanes, towering minarets and soaring badgirs, wind towers. In the depths of this ancient city lies ancient rituals. In the depths of the old town , just off Amir Chakhmakh Complex, you can find the an ancient gym, the Saheb A Zaman Zurkhaneh (zurkhaneh is translated as a house of strength). Inside men and young boys throw themselves into a deep pit and carry out weight-training rituals to the thumping beat of a drum and a man singing the best of Hafez poetry. The leader’s voice belts and pelts out for all of Yazd to hear.
I trace my hand over the cracked ruins. Fine reliefs which depict tribal processions can be seen, their eyes fixating on me. Persepolis was once home to the Achaemenid Empire – and the ruins showcase a glimpse of its glory. And it was also there that Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (once the Shah of Iran) had held the most expensive party in 1971 to celebrate his glory along with the country’s 2,500th anniversary, leading to much discontent. Now the only trace of the party are the remains of a luxury tent outside the entrance through the pine trees.