Hazhir Teimourian

What the Persians Did For Us

Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran


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 is one of those nice linguistic ironies that English should have attempted to make sex respectable by clothing… ,
    • 'He was to my mind the father of the idea that journalism – yes, even journalism – can have a moral dimension to it… ,
    • RT : Feeling old, as exhumes a piece I wrote 37 years ago. But a joy to see Kathy O’S there too. Here’s why:… ,
    • 'Enough of his character remains just out of reach for Barnes to relish the challenge of imagining him.' Patrick M… ,
    • RT : I did a thing about the new Penguin Book Of Oulipo for this month’s Literary Review: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,
    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,