FEB 18th

Argo, the Taj Mahal and Ancient Persia

The Oscars are this weekend and Argo is my choice for Best Picture. It’s not just because I can’t stop looking at Ben Affleck’s fantastic beard. Argo is a great movie.

I won’t give it away for those who haven’t seen it but it’s basically about the attempt to rescue hostages from Iran. I actually remember that time, although I was too young to remember or absorb the details.

Argo is a teeth clencher. On the edge of your seat, stuffing your face with popcorn, heart beating-can’t believe it was directed by the former BF of JLO kind of movie. Kudos to Ben Affleck for acting AND directing. Quite frankly I think he got shafted by the academy for not being nominated for Best Director.


argo - Google Search 2013-02-17 15-43-22

via Google images

Because most of what I think about is related to design or architecture I started mulling on Iran and the architecture of Ancient Persia.

Google Image Result for http:karenswhimsy.compublic-domain-imagesancient-persiaimagesancient-persia-2.jpg 2013-02-17 16-04-23

Tomb of Zobeide via Karen‘s Whimsy

As a topic, Ancient Persia is too broad but what I find incredibly fascinating is that during the height of Persian rule (550 BC- 330 BC), the Persian Empire included more than 8 million kilometers and spanned 3 continents. From Egypt to Turkey to Israel and parts of Saudi Arabia- Persian rule even gave Greece a reason to sweat and went to war with them as well.

Google Image Result for http:theophilogue.files.wordpress.com200905persianempire03.jpg 2013-02-17 16-09-20

Map of Persian Empire via Google Images

Alexander the Great put a stop to Persia’s greatness when he conquered the Persians in 332 BC. He burned Persepolis which was considered the best example of Persia’s ancient grand architecture.


Persepolis via National Geographic

Muslim influence on Persian architecture is seen after the Islamic conquest in the 7th Century and might be what most people think of when they see the beautiful bridges, gardens and mosques in Iran.

The main elements of this kind of architecture include-

Arabesque: This is the repeating of geometric forms usually in mosaic. Symbolizes infinity.

Tomb of Hafez

Tomb of Hafez- Shiraz, Iran via Google images

via Google images

Amy Vermillion Interiors Blog Lotfollah-Mosque

Lotfollah Mosque via Firooz Zadeh

Amy Vermillion Interiors Blog

via Firooz Zadeh

Domes: Usually on a Mosque but also on shrines.


Ishfahan via Beyond Aesthetics

Kharghan Tombs via Iran Review

Pointed Arch- Can be seen in almost any Islamic architecture: doorways, bridges, and ornamental detail

Google Image Result for http:www.destinationiran.comwp-contentuploads201003Iranian-Architecture-01.jpg 2013-02-17 15-25-41Khajou Bridge via Destination Iran

All sizes  Shalimar Gardens  Flickr - Photo Sharing! 2013-02-17 15-22-00Shalimar Gardens via @Faisal.Saeed

iran-kashan-Fin Garden  Flickr - Photo Sharing! 2013-02-17 15-16-30

Fin Gardens via ali reza parsi

Minarets or Towers: At times minarets had lit torches are were used as watch towers. Mostly seen on Mosques today and an be used to issue the call to prayer.

Iranian architecture elements  Flickr - Photo Sharing! 2013-02-17 17-06-29

Qom via German Vogel

minarets in persian architecture - Google Search 2013-02-17 17-09-51

via Skyscraper City

Lastly, the element of water in the form of fountains and basins in gardens is important. It represents ablution and purification in Islam. The Persian gardens are quite beautiful and I would love to visit them.

botanic garden of eram - Google Search 2013-02-17 15-29-11

via KikiRiki

The Persian Garden story  Arts of Islam 2013-02-17 17-21-02

via Islamic Arts

Which place includes ALL of the Islamic elements? I’ll give you a hint….It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But wait, isn’t the Taj in India? It is indeed. Which shows you how this style of architecture traveled.

Taj Mahal via Google Images

The Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture. It combines Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architecture and is breathtaking.

Arabesques, domes, pointed arches, minarets and water.

So back to Argo….

The Iran of Argo (1979-80) looks different than ancient Persia but elements of Persian design can be seen in the scene below. There is a tension throughout the film that for me echoes the tension throughout the region–then and now. With such a storied and at times volatile past it seems to make sense.

argo01.jpg 1,600×1,006 pixels 2013-02-17 15-48-33

Mr. V and I will be having our annual Oscar party…just the two of us. we get some great take in and fill out our ballots. I am voting and rooting for Argo. Every year we bet and most of the time we forget who won and what was at stake. Maybe this year I’ll win and I’ll remember I wanted a day at the spa.

What are you doing for the Oscars?


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10 Responses to Argo, the Taj Mahal and Ancient Persia

  1. Ellen says:

    Love love love the blues!!…..smiles

  2. Geoffrey says:

    This is your most spectacular blog to date! Realy amazing images, reminding us that there are totally different ways of looking at the world… and worshipping….. The muslims were great then. One wonders if some new and different design-view will be born … and from what nation or faith….. in the near future. It seems to be time.

  3. Amy says:

    Glad you like it. It makes me wistful for faraway travel again.

  4. Louise says:

    a lovely glimpse at the beauty of Persian design. I see the designs of hand knotted rugs reflected in the images. An interesting note about all Islamic art and architecture: in every piece there will be a flaw. As they believe Allah is the only thing truly pure, it would be an affront to him to attempt perfection. love the post!

    • Amy says:

      Now that’s something I didn’t know. Something to,look for in all of those beautiful rugs!
      Thanks for stopping by!

    • rustom says:

      Sorry to butt in but Louise, Allah has very little to do with ancent or Persia.It is akin to linking jewish survival with a nazi god! This because due to misconception , the term persian is mainly misrepresented with allah or islam…Persian carpet mainly depicted zoroastrianism and one of the world’s lovely carpet depicts history and pre historical or mythological zoroastrian figures.

      I write this not to open a debate but since the topic headline in ‘Ancient Persia” bring to notice the actual designs v/s notions that have crept in due to demographical changes, facts such as the sasanians and the achmenians maintained or tried and maintain pristine beauty in their art and stating that their god ” Ahura Mazda’ is happy when man is happy and doing righteousness against not being architecturally beautiful or leaving a flaw due to allah, a non persian but an arabic or islamist attitude
      Im sure some of us may have heard the term” Shahnameh”..in lose translation it means story of the kings, and it is all about the persian empire before it fell into islamic hands…..and written by firdasi ..who had supposedly converted yet wrote the epic which is studied in unis like harward , stanford and ancient iraninan students including late Prof Mary Bocye, Prof Russel , prof Boyd etc
      The shahnameh recently went from museum to museum including the British museum, the smitsonian the fritzgerald museum in germany in 2010….and ironicaly was showcases as an islamic structure just because in the museum of Qatar it is kept as such.

      Scholars are now suggesting that the author of shahnameh had intricately woven many facts under one branch or subject as 1) he supposed the readers would arbitary know of certain facts and link in and 2) to not disturb the already islamic rule which made the original persians slaves.
      In the words of Late Prof Mary Boyce describes these complementary phenomena based on an historical analysis, and her personal observations living in the (central Iranian) Yezd area during the 1960s:

      “”“Either a few Moslems settled on the outskirts of a Zoroastrian village, or one or two Zoroastrian families adopted Islam. Once the dominant faith had made a breach, it pressed in remorselessly, like a rising tide. More Moslems came, and soon a small mosque was built, which attracted yet others. As long as Zoroastrians remained in the majority, their lives were tolerable; but once the Moslems became the more numerous, a petty but pervasive harassment was apt to develop. This was partly verbal, with taunts about fire-worship, and comments on how few Zoroastrians there were in the world, and how many Moslems, who must therefore posses the truth; and also on how many material advantages lay with Islam. The harassment was often also physical; boys fought, and gangs of youth waylaid and bullied individual Zoroastrians.

      They also diverted themselves by climbing into the local tower of silence and desecrating it, and they might even break into the fire-temple and seek to pollute or extinguish the sacred flame. Those with criminal leanings found too that a religious minority provided tempting opportunities for theft, pilfering from the open fields, and sometimes rape and arson. Those Zoroastrians who resisted all these pressures often preferred therefore in the end to sell out and move to some other place where their co-religionists were still relatively numerous, and they could live at peace; and so another village was lot to the old faith.

      Several of the leading families in Sharifabad and forebears who were driven away by intense Moslem pressure from Abshahi, once a very devout and orthodox village on the southern outskirts of Yazd; and a shorter migration had been made by the family of the centenarian ‘Hajji’ Khodabakhsh, who had himself been born in the 1850s and was still alert and vigorous in 1964. His family, who were very pious, had left their home in Ahmedabad (just to the north of Turkabad) when he was a small boy, and had come to settle in Sharifabad to escape persecution and the threats to their orthodox way of life. Other Zoroastrians held out there for a few decades longer, but by the end of the century Ahmedabad was wholly Moslem, as Abshahi become in 1961.

      [Boyce's footnote:
      The last Zoroastrian family left Abshahi in 1961, after the rape and subsequent suicide of one of their daughters.] It was noticeable that the villages which were left to the Zoroastrians were in the main those with poor supplies of water, where farming conditions were hard.”

      One can look at the ‘Shapur’s plate or even the code of universal conduct written by Cyrus the great who wanted to work magnificently and from it thousands of years later came out the human charter as we see it in our U.N. The same clay tablet is at smitsonian as I write.

      I hope my points are taken in the right spirit..as we do not only architecture in justice but also history as linking allah to ancient Persia is akin to linking the nazis to the jewish state.

  5. rustom says:

    Since you talk of Ancient Persia and height of the Persian rule following which you mention the era 550 BC- 330 BC, and then about Persian empire stretching its vastness

    Well in that , I feel there is a contradiction or lets say half truth. If one is talking of the Original Persian Empire and the era mentioned by you, it would mean the Achemnid era, who were basically Zoroastrians. Now when one talks of the Persian empire stretching and its grandeur, then the era should be starting from the Achmenid Era of King Kurush whose angelsed name is Cyrus the gReat all the way to the sasanian empire..i.e roughly 550 AD, after which the Persian Zoroastrian empire which was the largest secular empire fell down due to the Arab holocaust…due to and after Byzantines thirst to extinguish the zoroastrian flame.
    The Ancient Persian grandeur visible now is mainly of the Sasanian Era, where this dynasty was actually responsible for taking back their empire back to the map of their ancestors, the Achemnids after the destruction of Alexander gustasag or : idiot’ as the Original Persian called him as he set alight Persepoliis thrice and also a huge libraray and causing destruction to the avestan or old avestan language and texts of the ancient Persians i.e zoroastrians. ( Alexander is refered to as an Idiot because Zoroastrian or Persian history was flourishing in victory and conquering but never destructing especially any other faith but based on secularism).

    A lot of mosques and other structures are converted from ancient sasanian and parthian structures mainly their Atash Kadeh or Ogiaries or ” Fire Temples”. In fact as one travels thru the old persian empire, starting from Armenia that was the first to break away , one can find the ogiaries turn into churches. Iran today has a lot of rock carving again left overs from the sasanian times.. Sasanian art has been showcassed in many museums across the world in forms of silver and ware, carvings, jewelry, tiling or mosiac and mintage, yet the list goes endless

    I just in my humble opinion felt that whilst talking of original or ancient Persians, leaving behind the Sassanian dynasty would do great in justice because not only did the Sasanians re do what had been un done by Alexander and thru synergising art and technology, the Persian grandeur was enhanced.