Mashhad-i Bayazid Bastami: the work of a family

its towers like Kentish oast-houses After having spent in Mashhad the days around Christmas, on the entry dated 9th of January 1934, we find Byron further West: in Bastam. There, the first monument Byron encounters and notes down in his travelogue is the Mashhad-i Bayazid Bastami. January 1934 corresponds to the month of Ramadan. In…

The Musalla of Mashhad and inscription authorship.

a ruined arch In the entry dated 24th of December 1933 Byron mentions a number of monuments of Mashhad, that he missed during his first visit to the city: the Imamzada Khvajah Rabi’, the Masjid-i Shah, and the Musalla of the city. It is not the first time Byron mentions a musalla: roughly one month before,…

The Masjid-i Shah of Mashhad: a fairly atypical mosque

“a ruined mosque in the bazaar“ When Byron is in Mashhad in December 1933, it seems that his whole days are spent at the small and peaceful shrine of Khvajah Rabi’, as he himself writes under the entry dated 24th December 1933. In fact, he also visited another monument in those days: the Masjid-i Shah….

Waiting for 2018: the books of the future

At the end of the year, I like looking back at what I missed (and should not have), but also checking what to expect next. This is why I’ve decided to devote a post to the forthcoming publications about Islamic art and architecture that will be published in 2018, or at least in the first months…

2017: the books you shouldn’t have missed

End of the year: time to look back and see what you have done this 2017. Among the many things, it’s also good to think about the books that have been published and that you should not have missed. And if you have, it’s not a big deal: there is always time to buy a…

The Imamzada of Khvajah Rabi’ by Byron, Yate, and Pope

It suits my mood. After having gone as far East as Herat, Afghanistan, around Christmas 1933 we find Robert Byron once again in Mashhad, where he had already been in the first half of November 1933. Between late November and mid-December 1933, Robert Byron tried to move further East, to Turkestan, but bad weather and…

The Friday Mosque of Herat: photos of changes

For seven centuries the people of Herat have prayed in it. They still do so, and its history is their history. On the 25th of November 1933, after nearly two months into his journey in Iran and Afghanistan, Robert Byron finally visited his first Friday Mosque: the Masjid-i Jami’ of Herat. And it happened apparently…

Actual visit or narrative device: Byron at the Qal’a Ikhtiyar al-Din

It was interesting to discover, from personal experience, how spies find their vocation “Herat citadel has a long and stormy story”, Nancy Hatch Dupree wrote in 1977 in her Historical Guide to Afghanistan. And in fact, the story of the Qal’a Ikhtiyar al-Din is strictly connected with the turbulent history of Herat itself. Alexander the Great…

What remains of the Madrasa of Gawhar Shad

The origin of this baffles me. On the 23rd of November 1933, while visiting the Musalla Complex and its monuments, we can imagine Robert Byron lingering a while in front of a solitary minaret. In his own travelogue, he records that he was quite perplexed. He then wrote: “Next, on the east of the mausoleum, stands…