Trip to the beginnings
Part 1 –on the way to soltaniyeh
When I was young I was always fascinated by pictures of takht-e soleyman in book in our house. I don’t know why but perhaps it was a feeling of mystery, dissoluteness I really don’t know but it attracted me. Nowadays some people claim takht-e soleyman to be one of the earth’s chakras ?
Later on I came to know a lot about the history and strange geological phenomena’s at work at takht-e soleyman. the small ever flowing stream flowing from the lake in the middle of takht-e soleyman, the scared fire temples of Sassanid period (500AD), prison of solemn as it is called today, only about 6 kilometers from takht-e soleyman, locking like a volcano, a place of worship about 1000 years older than takht-i suleiman, unexcavated dwelling places within a radius of 20 kilometers of takht-i suleiman that go back to 3000 – 4000 BC, and……. .But in spite of all this mystery about this place it took me about 55 years to get there.
About a year ago after a trip to Saint Khalid nabi in Turkmen Sahara in north eastern Iran, that I started talking to others about going to takht-i suleiman but it was really during the past two months that I really decided to go. A friend brought his care and I supplied the petrol. We also decided to visit the soltaniyeh a very large beautiful mosque with eight minarets built during the Mongol period that is on the route to takht-i suleiman.
We set out from our house, in middle of Tehran, about 6.30am on a Tuesday morning (88/4/25 – 11 July 2009) to avoid the terrible early morning traffic and soon we were on the Karaj highway
The day and the road were just fine. The highway to Karaj about 40 kilometers had full but easy flowing traffic even at this early morning. After Karaj we had the 4 lane Karaj – Qazvin highway all to ourselves as there were very little traffic. at 7.00 am we got to the pay tolls for Karaj- Qazvin highway.
Qazvin was the location of a former capital of the Persian Empire and contains over 2000 architectural and archeological sites. It is a provincial capital today but it has been an important cultural center throughout history.
Archeological findings in the Qazvin plain reveal urban agricultural settlements for at least nine millennia. The name “Qazvin” or “Kasbin” is derived from Cas, an ancient tribe which lived south of the Caspian Sea about two thousand years ago. The Caspian Sea itself in fact derives its name from the same origin.
The city today known as Qazvin is thought to have been founded by, King of Persia in 250 CE. Shapur II
Qazvin contains several archeological excavations dating back 9000 years. There are also 23 castles from the Ismaili Assassins nearby, and in the middle of the city lie the ruins of Meimoon Ghal’eh, one of several Sassanid edifices in the area.
The straight 4 lane 140 kilometer highway to Qazvin had very little traffic at this time of day and we easily average 110 kilometer / hour. The view of the plains on both side changes from monotones gray to golden fields almost running all the way to the distant mountains that where difficult to see in the early morning haze.
We did not enter the city of Qazvin and took the bypass taking us to Abhar. Abhar enjoys a mountainous climate with cold and snowy winters and moderate
Summers, the famous river of “Abhar Rood” flows across this city. The Abhar region, which is called “Abhar Chiai” (Abhar River) by natives, is one of the oldest regions of Iran. The name of this city is derived from Pahlavi script “Oher” which means the place of controlling water flows. The location of the ancient abhar city is known as “Taphe Ghaleh” located on the right bank of Abhar River dating back to early 4th millennium BC.
The important historical and religious sights of Abhar are as follows:
Sultanieh Royal Citadel,
Historical hills of Said Abad-Keresf,
Dasht Kasan caves,
Chalbi Oghli historical aggregate,
Lame’Moques of Abhar and Ghorveh,
Pirahmad Zahrnoosh and Molla Hossein Kashi mausoleums,
Several Imamzadeh (Islamic shrines),
On the Abhar freeway scenery changed from golden to gray flat plains with mountains clearly visible in the distance
The road was well sign posted and we had no trouble finding soltaniyeh exist about 40 kilometers after abhar.
We got there at about 10.00 am. To our north a vast flat plane stretching all the way to the distant mountains doted here and there with a row of threes.
And to our south a flat plain dotted with several threes in the middle of which the ghost of soltaniyeh mosque or what is left of it could be seen.
We left the highway and entered a 6 kilometer local road that took us to the small sleepy town of soltaniyeh, even at 10.00 am, typical of most small Iranian towns. Passing the flat pastures to the north of soltaniyeh one could see small herds of horses roaming about.
Once in the city, looking at people going about their daily routines, it appeared as if the once mighty mosque of soltaniyeh was lost to the citizens of the town
To them the once mighty soltaniyeh is just a tourist attraction; everybody is busy making a living.
The mosque or what is left of it is still impressive and magnificent. The mosque is really a mausoleum, mausoleum of Oljaytu – one of the Mongol emperors of the Mongol dynasty who conquered Iran in 14 century and ruled it for about 200 + years – constructed in 1302–12 in the city of Soltaniyeh, the capital of the Ilkhanid dynasty, which was founded by the Mongols.
Situated in the province of Zanjan, Soltaniyeh is one of the outstanding examples of Persian architecture under the Ilkhanid and perhaps a key monument in the development of Islamic architecture. The octagonal building is crowned with a 50 meter tall dome which was once covered in turquoise-blue faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets. Its importance in the Muslim world may be compared to that of Brunelleschi‘s cupola for the Christian architecture. The Dome of Soltaniyeh paved the way for more daring Iranian-style cupola constructions in Muslim world, such as the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi and Taj Mahal. Much of exterior decoration has been lost, but the interior retains superb mosaics, faience, and murals.
The estimated 200 ton dome stands 49 meters (161 ft) high.
On the exterior one still can find traces of magnificent tile work that has eroded or most probably stolen and sold on the antique market.
The interior is a vast hall reminding me very much of a cathedral rather than Iranian style mosques.
In the interior lots of magnificent decorative tile works have survived,
Some of the window designs –a window is quite unusual in a mosque – again remind me of churches rather than mosques. The mausoleum has a basement, but from what we saw it was quite simple and small.