Hazhir Teimourian

What the Persians Did For Us

Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran

By

Picador 525pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

‘This at last wipes the taste of the Alhambra and the Taj Mahal out of one’s mouth, where Mohammadan art is concerned. I came to Persia to get rid of that taste.’ So wrote Robert Byron in 1933 of a little-known building in Hamadan, the site of the ancient Median city of Ecbatana, in western Iran. In case some of you have mislaid your old copy of his masterpiece, The Road to Oxiana, let me quote here the beginning of the passage to show why he was so spellbound:

At Hamadan, we eschewed the tombs of Esther and Avicenna, but visited the Gumbad-i-Alavian (dome of the Shias), a Seljuq mausoleum of the twelfth century, whose uncoloured stucco panels, puffed and punctured into a riot of vegetable exuberance, are yet as formal and rich as Versailles – perhaps richer considering their economy of means; for when splendour is got by a chisel and a lump of plaster instead of the wealth of the world, it is splendour of design alone.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,