The Friday Mosque of Varamin

‘From a distance, it resembles a ruined abbey’ The Friday Mosque of Varamin is the last monument Byron includes in his account under the 10th October 1933. Byron starts his brief description of the monument comparing it with the Tintern Abbey, in Wales. The only difference, according to Byron, the fact that the mosque ‘has…

The Mosque al-Nuri in Mosul: what was lost

It is a pity that you get the chance to talk about certain monuments only after that they are destroyed. Until yesterday, the general public did not know anything about the Mosque of Nur al-Din, and its minaret. ISIS has destroyed, once again, Middle Eastern heritage: the destruction of the Mosque of Nur al-Din has been…

Gunbad-i ‘Ala al-Din

‘This one […] was tenanted by an opium fiend who looked up from cooking his lunch to tell us that it was his home and 3000 years old.’ On the 10th of October 1933, Byron records in his travel journal three monuments: two tomb towers, and one mosque. The first tomb tower he mentions is…

Tughril Tower

‘a fluted grave-tower […] whose lower part is Seljuk’ In his entry, dated October 10th 1933, Byron briefly mentions two funerary towers: the first, the Tughril Tower in Rayy, the second, a tomb tower in Varamin. The Tughril Tower, located in Rayy, is indeed a monumental construction built around 1140. It is weird Byron does…

Gunbad-i ‘Alaviyyan

“This at last wipes the taste of the Alhambra and the Taj Mahal out of one’s mouth, where Mohammedan art is concerned. I came to Persia to get rid of that taste.” The very first monument that Byron describes after arriving in Persia, is the Gunbad-i ‘Alaviyyan. The visit is recorded in his journal on…

The Monuments on the Road to Oxiana

Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana is certainly one of the best-known and most-read travelogues: ‘perhaps the best travel book of the 20th century’, it’s book no. 40 in the list of the 100 best nonfiction books of The Guardian. The book is a marvelous and addictive account of the 10-month-long journey of Robert Byron across the…

Damghan: the minaret of the Friday Mosque (V/XI century)

The minaret of Damghan is something that I have always liked. It is not only because it is Seldjuk, and because it is the only part of the mosque that was not replaced during the Qajar period. It is for two main reasons. The first: the inscription in the lower epigraphic band contains the Light…

The Nilometer and the deliberate choice of Qur’anic texts

The Nilometer proves to be important in two ways: on the one hand it is technologically interesting, being an instrument built for the measurements of the Nile. On the epigraphic point of view, it is one of the rare monuments about which we have an historical account clearly stating how the Qur’anic inscriptions in it…