Saturday, 29 November 2008

Nightingales and Roses

In November 2006, I attended a conference in Shiraz. I met also my Esfahanian colleagues and friends there, and quickly the question arose, which city was actually nicer, Esfahan or Shiraz. Well, Esfahan is known as “nesf-e jahan”, literally “Half of the World”. I have featured the grandeur of the Safavid capital’s main square, the Naqsh-e Jahan, the parks and palaces, and the mysterious remains of the Seljuq capital, now Esfahan’s Old City, many times. Indeed, Esfahan is one of my favorite cities where I could imagine even to live for some time.

It was of course a typical taroof, when I answered that anxious question: “If Esfahan is nesf-e jahan then Shiraz is certainly the other Half!” The former capital of the Zand dynasty with its surprisingly enlightened vakil (ruler) Karim Khan (d. 1779). The city of the great poets Sa’adi (b. 1184 CE) and Hafez (b. 1310 or 1337), who in fact inspired Goethe for his Westöstlicher Diwan. The city of nightingales and roses, paradise gardens and luxurious mansions.

Although at about 1500 meters altitude, the climate is almost Mediterranean, and outside the city you may still find extensive vineyards, nowadays, of course, only for the grapes.

I was received in the morning after my arrival in the hotel lobby by a beautiful former student from Ajman University who had, before entering her final exams in Iran, to study for another year in Shiraz. “To make things easier, my name is Kathy”, she introduced herself. My so amazingly considerate host, Shiraz University, had assigned Katajun exclusively to me in order to show me all sights in the city. We met her friends and then more or less skipped the conference and had a great time in Shiraz, visiting the gardens, holy places, museums and Shiraz’s wonderful old bazaar. To find, however, a restaurant where something else was served than the ever favored kebab, turned out to be a challenge, as usual in Iran.

Thursday, 20 November 2008


Temperatures in Yazd may rise in summer way beyond 40 centigrades, I was advised by my Iranian friend Shahram, our computer engineer at the Faculty, when I told him that I was planning to visit the city. Same as in Kuwait, but no air-condition!

Well, there is even a stunning skyline in Yazd comprising hundreds of wind towers, or badgirs. As a typical desert city, air-conditioning has been essential since ancient times, and Yazd is, with its more than 3000 years of history according to UNESCO, one of the oldest cities in the world. The towers are made in a way that even the slightest breeze of air will be cooled down and directed to the living rooms below. Badgirs can be seen in all cities of the Persian Gulf coast, on both sides, Persian and Arabic. Even Kuwait sports some nice examples. In Sharq Market, stylized wind towers comprise an interesting element of its beautiful architecture.

In a badgir, air is cooled down above a pool of water while the hot air is redirected upwards through different channels, as in a chimney. There are awful examples of combinations of badgirs in Yazd, and that assembly close to the takiyeh of Amir Chakhmaq with its four towers is quite famous.

The takiyeh is in fact Yazd’s most famous sight. Built in the early 19th century during Iran’s Qajar period, it has a three-storey façade with wonderful sunken alcoves which are illuminated at night. There is a small bazaar and a huge nakhl, a wooden scaffold representing the coffin of Imam Husayn in the Ashura processions which are watched by the people of Yazd who then are sitting on the takiyeh. The nakhl will be covered by black cloth hiding the men inside who carry the scaffold in the procession.

Some boys from the city of Yazd noticed that I had a camera. First a bit shy, they suddenly wanted to kid around. That’s the way kids are.

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Last Sunrise for Some Time

The picture above was taken last year from the terrace of the new Dental School. This year, there is a lot more snow and mainly overcast. Winter has a strong and grim grip on the country.

On the picture below (yesterday, 10 am) you may see that, on top of the mountains (about 1000 meters above sea level) the sun is still shining. The center of the picture is occupied by the University Hospital, the northernmost, of course.