Gawhar Shad Mosque

Even from a quarter of a mile away I could see the difference in quality of its colour from that of the other courts The Mosque of Gawhar Shad is one of the monuments that will accompany Byron throughout his whole journey in Iran and Afghanistan. It is part of the Shrine of Imam Reza…

Imam Reza Shrine

A gold dome flashed, a blue dome loomed, out of the cold autumnal haze The Imam Reza Shrine is by far the most important and most articulated monument of Mashhad, and probably Iran. It is also one of the biggest religious complexes in the world, with a total area of about 598,657 m2. So big that…

Qadamgah Shrine

The sun struck the tiles, which glittered blue and pink and yellow against the dark foliage and lowering sky One of the least known monuments that Robert Byron visited during his journey is for sure the shrine in Qadamgah. Byron arrived there on the 16th of November 1933 and took a photo of the small shrine….

The Minaret of Khusrawgird

So this is the Golden Road. Eight centuries ago, the minaret of Khosrugird watched the traffic as it watches us. “What strikes the researcher, is the very scant information that one can find about the minaret.” This is what I wrote on a post-it while searching the web and the books for more information on…

Vikings and Square Kufic?

On the 3rd of October, the University of Uppsala published an article that was to generate much discussion on the social media. The title of the article was pretty sensationalistic, as it claimed that the words Allah and ‘Ali were written in Square Kufic on woven bands of silk in burial costumes found in Viking Age…

Tarik Khana Mosque

its round squat pillars recall an English village church of the Norman period The last monument Robert Byron visits in Damghan on the 13th of November 1933 is the Tarik Khana Mosque, that he compares to an English village church. Byron loves comparing Iranian buildings to more familiar architectural forms: it already happened, for instance,…

Gunbad-i Pir-i ‘Alamdar

inscribed and dated as built in the eleventh century On the 13th of November 1933, while taking a photo of the Gundab-i Pir-i ‘Alamdar in Damghan, Robert Byron probably did not realize he was in front of the oldest monument of Damghan. He recorded this tomb tower together with the Gunbad-i Chihil Dukhtaran, devoting to…

Gunbad-i Chihil Dukhtaran

  constructed of fine but loosely mortared café-au-lait brick On the 13th of November 1933, Robert Byron visited a bunch of monuments in the area of Damghan. One of these is the Gunbad-i Chihil Dukhtaran, that he records in his travelogue together with the other tomb tower he sees, the Gunbad-i Pir-i ‘Alamdar. Reading the…

The Minaret of Semnan

I heard of an old minaret, which I found before the police found me. We cannot say that Robert Byron visited the Friday Mosque of Semnan. It is more correct to say that he passed by and took a photo, at least as long as we trust what’s written in his travelogue. Also, he does not…

Gunbad-i Surkh

  Such classic, cubic perfection, so lyrical and yet so strong, reveals a new architectural world to the European. In Maragha, on the 17th of October 1933, Byron visits three monuments: the observatory, a cave with altars (not better identified), and, last but certainly not the least, the Gunbad-i Surkh. Robert Byron’s fascination for tomb…

Rasatkhana: the Observatory of Maragha

the Rasatkhana, which means ‘star-house’ or observatory; but none had ever seen it On the 17th of October 1933, Robert Byron visited the Rasatkhana, or better, the place where the Rasatkhana used to be. His visit was brief, presumably, since nothing of the once famous observatory remains. Apparently, he did not take even one photo….

The Making of the Islamic Heritage

Every time I start a book review I ask myself why I bought the book. In this case, I think I had been intrigued by the name, and I decided to ‘buy’ it once I realized it could be downloaded for free (legally), without me chasing the publisher to have a review copy. The full…