No image available: imagining Termez

All the same, I should like to have seen the ruins of Termez Byron’s plan was to cross the Oxus river. The river, known by the Latin name Oxus, is also called the Amu Darya and is one of the major rivers of Central Asia. Byron has thus far traveled around Afghanistan and Iran, keeping…

A brief visit to the Masjid-i Mawlana of Tayabad

which had a beautiful stucco inscription backed by turquoise glaze In the entry dated 12th May 1934, Byron records that the previous day, thus on the 11th of May 1934, he visited the Mawlana at Taybad. His visit seems quite brief: he was in a hurry since a storm was coming that could stop him…

The Square Kufic of the Pir-i Bakran Shrine

After years running this blog, I realized I have not devoted even one single article to a Square Kufic inscription. Which sounds weird, considering the name of this blog. In any case, the time has come. A reader, JJ (I don’t know the full name, thus, let’s call him/her JJ), sent me a couple of…

The inscriptions of the Friday Mosque of Na’in in context

one of the oldest in Persia Byron, after having been in Yazd, on his way back to Isfahan stops in Na’in and Ardestan, in both cities he visits the Friday mosques. He records both his visits under the entry dated 31st March 1934. The first Friday Mosque he describes is the one in Na’in: “I…

The tombstone for Anna: the symbol of a Medieval melting pot

Medieval Sicily has always fascinated me. Not long ago I wrote the review for a short web series, Indictus, that loosely tells the story of the Norman conquest of Islamic Sicily. After the review was published, I got in touch with the director and the screenwriter and we started working on a small project (in Italian) whose…

Analysing a foundation inscription: the Luftallah Mosque

no idea that abstract pattern was capable of so profound a splendour “The Shaykh Luftallah mosque is viewed by historians and visitors as one of the most important architectural projects built on Isfahan’s maidan, prominent for its location, scale, design, and ornament”. This is how the long entry Archnet devotes to the Luftallah mosque ends….

Four mihrabs within a mihrab

When I was preparing the article about the Friday Mosque of Shiraz and the Qur’anic inscriptions that are written on its walls, I came across the photo of a quite particular alabaster slab that used to be kept in the mosque. The slab is made of alabaster and its design is that of a two-dimensional mihrab….

Naqsh-i Rustam in Islamic Iran: the construction of an identity

All they ask is attention, and they get it, like a child or Hitler Robert Byron has never shown much interest in pre-Islamic Persian art. Similarly, when he arrived in Naqsh-i Rustam, on the 1st of March 1934, he was not at all impressed by the remains of the Persian civilizations. In his travelogue, he certainly recognizes…

Friday Mosque of Shiraz and its Qur’anic inscriptions

It is not a happy combination On the 17th of February 1934, Byron visits Shiraz and its monuments. In particular, he records the Friday Mosque of the city, also known as Masjid-i ‘Atiq. As often, Byron is not at all enthusiast of the building, particularly of its decoration. As a whole, Shiraz does not make…