Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shah Abbasi Caravanserai of Neyshabur

I'm proud to say that I am half Neyshaburi. It's the home of the poet, mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer, Omar Khayyam, poet and mystic, Farid Al-Din Attar, and painter, Kamal-ol-molk, all of whom today still have an important place in literature and art. In college, while I struggled to read Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges' work, little did I know that it's said that his work was greatly influenced by Attar's Conference of the Birds. Neyshabur is even referenced in Borges' La Forma de la Espada (The Form of the Sword) which is a short story included in the Ficciones collection.

Neyshabur was once one of the ten largest cities in the world. It began to lose power, however, after the Mongol invasion in the 13th century in which Genghis Khan's daughter ordered the death of the entire city because her husband was killed there. A devastating earthquake furthermore weakened the city. 

I spend the majority of my visits to Iran in the summers in this ancient capital and cultural center. We would stroll along the mausoleums of the aforementioned poets and writers. Further down the road, history readily poured out of the ground as ancient pieces of broken pottery were still plentiful and researchers marked off their excavation sites of skeletons and other artifacts from the earthquake.

Neyshabur also held a strategic position along the Silk Road, so it's no wonder that it would have a caravanserai. Caravanserais were essentially inns where road travelers and their animals could rest after a day's travel. The buildings were square with an open courtyard. Along each side of the walls were the "rooms" known as eyvan. Shah Abbasi Caravanserai in Neyshabur is now a museum of sorts with each of the 24 eyvan being used as shops that display and sell artwork, carpet weaving, turquoise carving (which Neyshabur is famous for), pottery, antiques, traditional clothes, making traditional instruments and handicrafts, and it even has a teahouse. 

Traditional instrument shop

Koozeh- used to store water


antique shop

With this abundance of history, it should come as no surprise that Borges is quoted as having said:

If you wanted to travel to only one city in the world, I have no doubt that the city of Nishapur. I think the secret is all in the same universe.


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