Episode 3: Shiraz, the Perfume of Orange Blossoms


Hello, you’re listening to Padena. In Padena we picture Iran through music, literature and travelogues. This episode “Shiraz, the perfume of orange blossoms.”

🎵 Afto Jeng composed by Bijan Samandar

Introduction of the episode

The third episode of padena brings the smell of orange blossoms in spring. Tells about the most alluring pieces of Persian poetry and music, and pictures of divine gardens that Shiraz is home to them. In this episode, we will tell how the Persian literature and poetry intertwined with Shiraz, also about the sweet lyric poems of Shiraz named Vassunak. And we’re going through an augmented image from the best of ancient Persian architecture. Then travel in time to the most international radical art festival once was held in Shiraz. Traverse to discover the 2500-year-old capital of the ancient Persian Empire with Chris. Then return to Shiraz to wander with Anthony before meeting with the coolest and untroubled Iranians as Shirazis are.

Persian Food Tours sponsored this episode of Padena in honour of Shiraz. Persian Food Tours offers food adventures in Iran. From exploring the culinary scene of cities to cooking classes and sharing the secrets of the Persian kitchen. Check out their tasty tours at Persianfoodtours.com.

Vassunak, the folkloric melody of Shiraz

🎵 Jingo Jing Vassunak by Hamed Faghihi

Vassunak is a folkloric song of Shiraz and more widely Fars province. Vassunaks are the wedding melodies, long lyrics indicating all the stages of wedding ceremonies through very detailed traditions, tastes, expectations and different impressions of both bride and groom side. Composers of vassunaks are anonymous. The most renowned vassunak called Jingo jing, has been performed by many singers.

You’re listening to the version without instrumental accompaniment, by Hamed Faghihi.

Spring in Shiraz

Why the name Shiraz always rings out the bells of spring?

I wanna tell you about a customized component describes Shiraz the best. From the north to the south, and west to the east in Iran, Bahar Narenj or bitter orange blossom reminds all Iranians of Shiraz. In Ordibehesht, the second month of spring in the Iranian solar calendar, bitter orange blossoms scatter every street and park and the vernal mood attains its pinnacle in Shiraz.

Listen to a narration from the book tour from Bengal to Persia by William Francklin on Shiraz weather and spring mood. Francklin was an oriental scholar who travelled to Persia in the late 18th century and spent eight months residing with a Shirazi family to communicate and study profound aspects of native people.

On the background you’ll be listening to Bahar e Shiraz by Ali Zand Vakili.

🎵 Bahar e Shiraz by Ali Zand Vakili

The climate of Shiraz is one of the most agreeable in the world. You seldom feel the extremes of heat and cold. During the spring, the face of the country appears uncommonly beautiful. The flowers, of which they have a great variety, and of the brightest hues, the rose, the sweet basil, and the myrtle, all here contribute to refresh and perfume the natural mildness of the air.

The nightingale of the garden and the goldfinch, by their melodious sings at this delightful season of the year, add satisfaction to the mind and inspire it with the most pleasing ideas. Here the beauties of nature are depicted in their fullest extent. With such advantages, added to the suitability of the air, how can one be wondered at, that the inhabitants of Shiraz should so confidently assert the preeminence of their own city to any other in the world?

🎵 Hoosham bebar by Mohsen Namjoo

The unique style of singing and the mixture of music from east and west has made Namjoo an iconic persona in contemporary world music.

Saadi Shirazi, the Master of Speech

Persian literature boasts a thirteenth-century poet who was born and buried in the city of nightingales and wine, Saadi Shirazi. He spent thirty years in travel when the Mongols invaded Shiraz.

From Anatolia to the Central Asia, Saadi passed thrilling adventures. He fought against the crusaders, spent seven years as a slave and lived in isolated refugee camps. He met with Sufis, encountered with Brahmans, and exchanged views with preachers, thieves and pilgrims before coming back to Shiraz. That’s why in Iran, Saadi is not only the pen name for the Iranian Shirazi poet but also an attribute assigned to someone who travels a lot.

After thirty years of travelling, Saadi came back home.

🎵 You’re listening Nobahari by Mohsen Namjoo

In the same year of his return, he composed Bustan (the orchard) (ôrCHərd) in verse that revolves around moral virtues and justice. Bustan is declared as one of the 100 greatest books of all the time by The Gurdian. A year after Bustan, he wrote Golestan (the Rose Garden). It is combining lyrics and short stories with interesting plots.

In 2005 a large Persian carpet installed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York. A poem from Saadi Shirazi was inscribed on this hand-woven carpet that calls for breaking down all barriers between human beings. Bani Adam meaning Children of Adam is a famous poem from masterpiece Golestan of Saadi.

Human beings are members of a whole,

In the creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy will remain.

If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain!

Coldplay, the British rock band used Bani Adam in a song with the Persian script title, featured on their 2019 album, Everyday Life. you’re hearing Bani Adam on the background music.

🎵 Bani Adam instrumental song by rock British band Cold play

Persian Gardens, paradise garden

🎵 Balal Balal by Rastak band

you listened to a Shirazi folklore song named Balal Balal by Rastak music band. Rastak focuses on Iran’s folklore music and reviving regional melodies throughout the country.

What’s the world’s oldest work of literature about? Eternal life!

Gilgamesh wanted to learn the secret of eternal life. So as the first man in history, he travelled to find the Garden of Gods or Paradise. Do you know where can the garden possibly be? Somewhere at the head of the Persian Gulf in the time of Sumerian civilisation.

I’m telling the story of Gilgamesh epic because the roots of Persian Gardens come from the paradise Garden that king Gilgamesh reached. People who lived at the head of the Persian Gulf left earthy gardens that materialised this paradise. Persians used to call these gardens Pardis. Now we know the root of the word paradise comes from Pardis, the Persian style of garden design.

One hundred thirty (130) kilometres to the northeast of Shiraz, one of Iran’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Pasargadae garden bears the earliest known example of the Persian garden in the 6th century Before Current Era. Moreover, In the city of Shiraz Eram Garden is a UNESCO-listed Iranian Garden.

Persian Hammam, the Iranian heritage of hygiene

If the Persian Garden is a single style of garden design, then the Persian bath, along with its age-old rituals is a brand of public hygiene in the history of the world. Iranian traditional bathhouses have never been a place only for personal bathing; they have played the role of a social forum, a place for communication and recreation. Hammams also were wellness centres for doing traditional medical treatments like massage, bloodletting and cupping therapy.

But where have been the earliest bathhouses in the world? 

The ruins of the earliest bathhouses date back to more than 4000 years ago and are found in Ziggurat Chogha Zanbil, the ancient Elamite complex, in southwest Iran.

Now let’s get back to Shiraz and its renowned bathhouse few steps away from the Grand Bazar. 

Imagine the bathhouses at the beginning of the 19th century in Iran, do you know how Shirazis used to cleanse and do epilation? Hear it from Edward Scott Waring’s book A tour to Shiraz on the folklore melody Hammomi by Morteza Ahmadi.

🎵 Hamoomi folklore song by Mohreteza Ahmadi

The baths in Persia are very magnificent. They are in everyday use by every description of persons and often afford a large fund of merriment to the unmarried persons who frequent them.

Baths or Hammams as said in Persian, are open to the women as well as the men; five days for men, and only two days for women.

The first room you enter is the place where you undress, smoke, talk, and hear the news of the day. The next room is the bath, whose floor is marble stone. And which is heated using the flues, which communicate with the fire that boils the water.

The operation of bathing takes up nearly an hour and dyeing the beard, the hands, and feet as long a time. All the Persians dye their beards black, although it is naturally of that colour.

The Persians, from a principle of cleanliness, either shave or burn away all the hair on their bodies. The composition they use for this purpose is a certain proportion of quick lime and orpiment (or Zarnizh) mixed together.

It is a very dangerous mixture, for if you do not wash it away, the hair begins to fall. The fragrant earth of roses is commonly used in the Persian baths. As many persons are in the bath at one time, you pass part of your time in talking and smoking, and sometimes sleeping. The Persians delight in using the bath, and have a saying that “No man should visit a foreign country, where there is not a magistrate, physician, and a bath.”

When Anthony finds Shiraz full of life

🎵 Yarom gol e Shiraz, Abbas Montajem Shirazi

Listen to the narration of Anthony telling about how visiting Shiraz just for seeing Persepolis turned out to be a discovery of an alive city as Shiraz is.  On the background, you will hear the song Yarom Gole Shiraz by the native Shirazi singer and actor, Abbas Montajem Shirazi.

Our first stop was a quirky family café where the owner gave us some photo albums of her family from the twentieth century. The people in the photos looked like they were living in a different country in a very different time.

Next stop was the Castle of Karim Khan. The sunset in the courtyard reflected the sun in a way that we’d never seen before. The orange trees and the water fountain made it serene and blissful far from the noise and crowded streets nearby. The main building is currently being renovated, but the greatness of the past still shows. After the castle, we went for a walk and admired the Vakil Mosque from the outside as it was too late to go in, but were really taken by the number of people on the street, both families and groups of friends making the most of the cooler August evening while watching the sunset in a communal atmosphere full of life.

The next day we had an early start to go to Persepolis. That was the main reason behind our visit to Shiraz, and it didn’t disappoint. Back in Shiraz mid-afternoon, we decided to go to the Bazaar and do our last-minute souvenir shopping.

The bazaar was a maze of distinctive shops like nowhere else on earth full with people shopping and shopkeepers proud to show off their goods.

For the second night in Shiraz, we had a drink and a bite to eat at the Joulep café at an outdoor terrace in a busy square next to the bazaar surrounded by groups of young people enjoying a night out, just like anywhere on a Friday night.  Our flight next morning was so early we regretted not having time to enjoy the night in Shiraz a bit longer. We went to Shiraz mainly for the Persepolis experience, and we found a city full of life, vibrant and with many sites worth visiting. We left with love in our hearts for a people and country like no other. Iran, we will be back.

Shiraz Arts Festival, The most avant-garde in the 70s Iran

In the list of the most avant-garde festivals in the world, once The Shiraz summer Arts Festival was glittering. This annual festival happened from 1967 to 1977 in a variety of locations in Shiraz and Persepolis complex. Artists from all over the world were gathering in one place for a supreme cultural exchange. Farah Diba, the former empress of Iran, was the founder of the Arts Festival of Shiraz.

🎵 Archived Persian classical singing by Parisa and Mohammad Reza Shajarian

The Shiraz Arts Festival always included traditional music from around the world. You’re listening to the performance of Parisa, the Persian classical singer and vocalist and Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Iran’s supreme master of sing.

To know what happened to the festival and why some of the artists ceased further involvement with the festival, listen to the excerpt from the article The Shiraz Arts Festival: Western Avant-Garde Arts in 1970s Iran.

Robert Gluck, Pianist, composer and historian, surveyed the art festival of shiraz impartially in this article.

In the decade prior to the Islamic revolution, the Shiraz Arts Festival provided a showcase for Renowned musicians, dancers and filmmakers from abroad. They performed alongside their Persian peers at the annual Shiraz Festival. Young Iranian artists were inspired by the festival to expand their horizons to integrate contemporary techniques and aesthetics.

With the political conflicts getting difficult in Iran by the mid-seventies this had become one of the most controversial cultural events in the country. Although Empress was determined to preserve Iran’s past, her contemporary tastes were often too avant-garde and cosmopolitan.

Ultimately artists also experienced conflicts with the political situation in Iran. Iannis Xenakis, Greek-French music theorist, and performance director wrote to the Festival Deputy Director-General:

“You know how attached I am to Iran, her history, her people. You know my joy when I realized projects in your festival, are open to everyone. But, faced with the inhuman and unnecessary police repression that the Shah government are inflicting on Iran’s youth, I am incapable of lending any moral guarantee, since it is a matter of artistic creation. Therefore, I refuse to participate in the festival.”

Persepolis, the richest city under the sun

More than 2000 years ago Alexander the Great invaded the capital of the Persian Empire that once was the centre of the whole known world. The flames he blazed on Persepolis, became the light of a new era in the history of Iran. Today Persepolis is a UNESCO World Heritage and the cherry on top of all mysteries about ancient Persia.

Chris is fond of travelling and writing in his weblog unusualtraveller.com about the least known places. See the legacy of Persia through his eyes througIvan’s narration.

Once the Persepolis was rediscovered, archaeologists also discovered thousands of remaining written records carved in hand size rocks. They depict bills showing the city of Persepolis was paying their craftsman in gold and precious metal, to keep them satisfied and devoted. It seemed the incentives did their magic, and the remaining artwork continues to stun.

To enter Persepolis, you have to walk through the Gate of all Nations. Two statues of human-headed bulls guard the entrance. Once you step onto the vast plain, you start feeling deeply humbled. The remaining of the 2500 years old city burst in front of your eyes, expanding in all directions. It was just then when I started to genuinely understand why this city was called The Richest City Under the Sun.

The photographers’ heaven, Nasir al-Molk

Shiraz was the capital of Iran for a short period during the Zand dynasty. In the middle of the 18th century, Karim Khan, the founder of the Zand dynasty claimed Shiraz his throne and commissioned many fine buildings including the best bazaar at the time in Persia, Vakil Bazar.

Furthermore, the photographer’s heaven locates not so far from the bazaar in the old neighbouring. Travel bloggers and social media influencers post dazzling pictures of the pink mosque and write articles to introduce it as a must-see in Iran. Come to see how the sunrise can invert a mosque into a garden called Nasir al-Molk. 

A random door leads into a hall. Parallel domes are tiled with flower pots and symmetrical shapes upon your head. When the morning light comes through the stained-glass windows of the hall, it’s time for the magic to happen. At the moment, Persian carpets illuminate with a kaleidoscope of patterned flecks of sunlight. Gradually tiled walls shower with colours and soon, you pinch yourself to believe this beauty really exists. Help your sight, welcome to the Qajar beauty, Nasir al-Molk Mosque.

🎵 Alā yā ayyoha-s-sāqī by Shahram Nazeri

Alā yā ayyoha-s-sāqī, the mystic ghazal poem composed by Hafez Shirazi, sung by Shahram Nazeri, master of Persian classical music. The Christian Science Monitor has called Nazeri “Iran’s Pavarotti”. He has held the record for the highest-selling album of Persian classical and Sufi music in history. 

If a book of poetry is to be found in a Persian house, Divan, the collection of Hafez’ poems, is most likely to be. Hafez Shirazi is the most celebrated of Persian poets who lived during the 14th century. Iranians read the lyrics of Hafez as a rite in special national celebrations such Nowruz, the Persian New Year or Chaharshanbe Suri, the Fire Festival. They randomly draw from the ghazals and seek direction of the poetry for fortune telling named Faal-e-Hafez.

Many Iranian composers have composed pieces inspired by Hafez poems.

In the following I’ll read a part from travel blog againstthecompass.com on the poetry mood of Shiraz by Joan Torres, a Spanish travel blogger writes about off the beaten places he discovers.

I was very surprised that, in Iran, people have a real passion for poetry, including the young generation. I remember that, on a few occasions, when people found out that I was from Spain, they told me: WOW, I really like García Lorca

In case you don’t know, García Lorca is a famous Spanish poet and the surprising thing was that they told me various facts which I had no idea about.

Anyways, Hafez is, perhaps, the most important Persian poet ever, a man who mainly talked about love and wine but also religious hypocrisy. Hafezieh, where Hafez is buried in his birth town is like a pilgrimage site for Iranians. Go there at sunset time.

🎵 Gar-Zulfe Parayshanat by Ahmad Zahir

You listened to the Afghan song Gar-Zulfe Parayshanat, based on Hafez lyric poem by Ahmad Zahir, regarded as the “Greatest Afghan Singer of all time. Zahir died in a car accident on his 33rd birthday, though, many believe he was murdered for his political stance (stans). His tomb (to͞om) was destroyed by the Taliban, but later his fans rebuilt it. Next, Nameh, a pinnacle of loving ghazals from Hazfez, with the sing and music of Mohsen Namjoo. and then Goodbye.

🎵 Nameh by Mohsen Namjoo

One Comment

  1. 3 September 2021

    it’s fantastic. thank you

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