Saturday, June 7, 2014

Neyshabur's Cultural Corner

My mom's hometown of Neyshābur is usually not on most travelers' itinerary even though it has plenty of sites to see. It's a small town and like most other cities in Iran, completely overshadowed by its big brothers Shiraz and Esfahan, not to mention that it's off to the east and perhaps somewhat out of the way. But aside from one of the oldest bazaars in Iran, the massive Simorgh sculpture, the Caravanserai, turquoise mines, and wooden mosque, this former capital city has an entire cultural corner of some of the most famous names in Persian literature. In fact for the first time, I noticed a billboard on the Mashhad-Neyshabur highway that said, "Welcome to Neyshabur, city of the jeweled pen holders." 

Welcome sign

First is the mausoleum of the poet Omar Khayyam


A short walk down the road from Khayyām is poet Attār known for his Conference of the Birds. And next to him is painter Kamal ol Molk whose wax figure was in Milad Tower in Tehran. I grew up always hearing about Kamal ol Molk, but I had never seen any of his paintings until I visited Golestan Palace in Tehran. There was obviously no photography allowed, but his paintings were quite the treat!


Bust of Attar. On the left, you can make out Simorgh on the side of his head.

Inside Attar's mausoleum
From "Conference of the Birds"

View of Attar from Kamal ol Molk

View of Kamal ol Molk from Attar

Kamal ol Molk
Another, perhaps lesser known contemporary poet, is Yaghmā whose mausoleum is located between Khayyam and Attar and sadly seemed abandoned and not nearly as taken care of as the others. Yaghma was an illiterate bricklayer who starting reciting poetry around the age of 30 when he also started to learn reading and writing. Like most other poets, his mausoleum is decorated with his poetry. 

Across from Khayyam is the beautiful mosque, Imamzadeh Mahruq. As a schoolgirl, my mom said that it was common to go here the night before a major exam and say a prayer. 

Mosque of Imamzadeh Mahruq

Allah in kufic script

Allah, Mohammad, Ali in kufic script

The last stop in this cultural corner, next to the camel and horse riding, is Shādyākh. This unearthed ancient city was destroyed by an earthquake about 700 years ago. As you walk around it, you can see 3 encased skeletons. I remember walking around this area as a kid and finding endless pieces of broken pottery just pouring out of the ground. It was also in this area that I first saw these seemingly bottomless holes in the ground which my father explained to me was the ancient qanat water system


Understandably, most people don't make it to the Khorāsān province, especially on their first visit to Iran, and therefore miss Neyshabur, Mashhad, Tus (home of Ferdowsi) and others, but if you are in the east, Neyshabur is well worth at least a day trip! 


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