Ancient Persian Art

Today I would like to talk about Ancient Persian Art. If you are unfamiliar with this subject then you are in for a treat. Persian Art has one of the oldest and richest histories in the world. In fact, it goes as far back as almost 3,000 years ago.

A Painting showing Persian warriors charging in battle.

Persian Art hasn’t been stagnant either, it has evolved and changed many times over the years into what it is today. Back in around 3,000 BCE, Persian art was mostly influenced by the Sumerian Early Pottery and other art forms. Then, a few thousand years later, Bronze art started to be made and with it, absolutely beautiful sculptures. These pieces have all been found in mainly Teppe Hasanlu, Iran and the surrounding area.

 

At the same time, other pieces were made in many different forms. From rock reliefs on Persepolis to sculptures that have stood the test of time. Some of the coolest art of this period has definitely got to be the rock reliefs. The biggest ones are 15 feet high and carved in stone on the side of caves, mountains or walls of ancient cities.  

A painting depicting ancient Persian hunters.

 

We now have the Parthian period which lasted until 200 CE. This combined Hellenic (greek) and Persian styles which were created in the Achaemenids Period. The best examples of Achaemenids art is in Palmyra, Syria. Unfortunately, ISIS has intentionally destroyed some of it but much is still intact.  

We next have the Sassanid Period which built on much of what was done in the Achaemenids Period. It expanded on how Persian Art was created and how it was innovated. Many of the iconic pre-islamic paintings and works come from this era and are beautiful.

A handcrafted box depicting a small skirmish in ancient Persia.

 

We now come to the Islamic Era. This is when much of the Persian Style was cast aside for the Arab Art style. This has influenced the way Persian Art was made to this day and permanently altered the path of their artwork. Much of this Islamic Art has persisted to this day, especially with the Iranian government encouraging Islamic themed art.

 

From creating Pottery 3,000 years ago, it spawned one of the most beautiful artistic cultures in the world, with countless paintings, sculptures and incredible artists.  Comment below what your favorite era was!

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The Iranian Election

Now this is a little different than what I normally post, but I think that it’s important none the less. In this post I will talk about the presidential election that took place in Iran last week. This was a very important election that pitted Hassan Rouhani against Ebrahim Raisi. Rouhani is a moderate and a reformist and ran for re-election after his last term ended. Raisi is a hard-line conservative who is backed by Ayatollah Khamenei. There are a few other candidates but they were not the main contenders.

Let us talk about Hassan Rouhani first.

He is a 69 year old cleric and a moderate. He won the election in 2013 by a landslide and is running for re-election. He negotiated the Iranian Nuclear Deal and has improved global relations with Iran and started to open up the country. He has been targeted by conservatives and hard-liners for his soft approach to the US and for his tolerance regarding Western Culture. He has also been criticized for saying that the Nuclear Deal would improve Iran’s economy, when it actually had virtually no effect.

Now for Ebrahim Raisi.

He is a 56 year old cleric who is a hard-line Conservative. It is believed that he is backed by the Ayatollah and has been part of his religious committee and is considered a successor for Khamenei. He has been exposed as one of the authorities who was responsible for the execution of 80,000 leftists in the 1980’s and has been condemned by human rights groups around the world.

There is one more person who I would like to mention, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

He is the mayor of Tehran and is a hard-line Conservative. In the 1980’s he was a Revolutionary Guard Commander and Police Chief. Qalibaf has also been condemned by human rights groups for suppressing protests and for beating demonstrators back in his Revolutionary Guard days. He is also responsible for a high-rise building collapsing and killing 20 fire fighters. He dropped out of the race and has endorsed Raisi.

The election took place on May 19th and Hassan Rouhani won with 57% of the vote, while Raisi got 38%. I am very exited about how Rouhani will continue to break down the isolation that Iran has been in since 1979, as I would love to visit some day.

Persian Culture in Central Asia

Central Asia right now has two different cultures that are influencing it, Russian/Slavic in the North and Persian in the South.  I find this all very interesting and so I would like to share with you how it cam to be this way.

Back thousands of years ago, Ancient Persia controlled the territory needed to go from east to west.  This is meaningful because along with trading items, you are also trading aspects of culture, and much of thistrading was done in Central Asia.  This also allowed them to spread much of their culture and allowed many people around the world to adopt it.

You also have to remember that once the Mongols broke up, the Persian Region was under control of the Golden Horde, who were Persian and controlled most, if not all of Central Asia.

Then you must look at the cultural and linguistic influence.  Turkic culture in Central Asia is very similar from Persian Culture and borrows many aspect of it.  Their language is also very close to Farsi.  In Ottoman-Turkish, there was about 88% similarity with Farsi and Arabic.  Persian Culture also influenced their traditional music and their Arts.

Now the competing influence has been Slavic culture for the past few hundred years.  In the 1860’s Russian acquired most of Central Asia through military campaigns and held on to them tightly.  They had been, officially, part of the Russian Empire in 1887 after a failed conquest of Afghanistan.  They then changed hands to the Soviet Union in the 1920’s and were given greater autonomy.  Although they were a bit more separated, they were still under the heel of the Soviets.  They had to make their official language Russian and convert all of their alphabets to the Cyrillic one.  This Period of Russian and Slavic influence was not long enough to leave and massive mark on the region, but it defiantly changed a few things.   For example, their, mostly Turkic languages has had a minor Russian Influence, but many people who were born during Soviet Times and now are fluent or have a working knowledge of Russian.

After  the USSR dissolved, the Central Asian countries are trying to connect with their Persian and Turkic roots after years of Slavic influence and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

Persian Food: The History

Last week I talked about how much I love Persian Food, but it was not always the same as it is today.  The Persian Food we all know and love has gone through some major changes through the ages.

Back in the ancient times of Persia, their cuisine was mostly just wheat, millet, and barley.  This was how people at for a long time, but once the Islamic Empires conquered Persia, their food went through some major change. They started to eat less wheat and eat much more barley.  They also started to include different spices like saffron, garlic, onions, and chickpeas.  They also eat many types of fruits and vegetables.  Many people ate a few things before the Caliphate took over.  In fact, one of the main reasons quinoa, apples, pears, muskmelons, watermelons, pomegranates, grapes, peaches, and mulberries made its way to Europe and the west is because of Persian Traders during this time.

After the Caliphates left, they took their government, but left a permanent mark on Iran.  They left their religion and many things, but they also left their food and cuisine culture.  It is a common theme that in Persia, that the conquerors often changed the food culture for a short time, and then it would slowly fade away, leaving only a few remnants.  This was the same for the Mongols and most other forces.

Religion also had a pretty major impact on their food, particularity Zoroastrianism.  Other than the major religious influences this has had, it changes the cuisine in Iran forever.  Just like other religions, they had forbidden foods.

Persian Food

So we have covered a lot of different aspects of Persian Culture in the past. Today though, we are going to talk about something that Persian Culture is known for around the world and one of the main aspects that has gave it popularity.  We are going to talk about Persian Food.

I think that Persian Food is some of the most delicious food in the world.  When ever I get a chance to eat some, it always brightens up my day.  So I would just like to lay out a few different foods that I think are absolutely delicious.

The food also represents their history very well.  They had a very strong cuisine before they were invaded, but since then, their food has evolved after each change to them.

The first food item is going to be Fesenjan.  This is a pomegranate walnut stew combines pomegranate and chicken or duck to create a wonderful masterpiece.  Just add ground walnuts, pomegranate paste, onions, saffron, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and you have yourself a delectable stew.

Next we have Bademjan.  This is an eggplant and tomato stew that has a sheen of oil and a hint of turmeric.  It even has that characteristic Persian style of cooking for so long that the oil rises up. It also has lemon and unripe grape juice along with lamb.  What you get in the end is a thick, tart stew that is almost always eaten with rice, which is always delicious.

Now we have one of my favorites, Albaloo polo.  This is rice and sour cherries that is usually served with or on top of a kebab or chicken. Even though this is more of a side, it was my favorite thing as a kid and I just have such great memories from going to the Persian restaurant and getting Albaloo polo.

I will be talking a lot about Persian Food in the next few posts because I feel that it is a very important point of Persian Culture and it is one of the main things that it is known for.

 

Is Persian Culture the Only Culture In Iran?

I bet many people who think of Iran tend to think of Persian, but it is actually a very diverse country filled with many different cultures and racial groups.

In Iran the racial groups go like this,

Persians 61%
Azerbaijanis 16%
Kurds 10%
Lurs (incl. Bakhtiari people) 6%
Turkmens (and other Turks in Iran) 2%
Arabs 2%
Baloch 2%
Others (mainly Talysh, Armenians, Georgians, Circassians, Assyrians, Mandeans, and Tats) 1%

Here is a map of Iran that shows the different ethnic groups.

All of these cultures have influenced each other throughout history and are very interesting on their own.  Some are very close to Persian culture, like Kurdish culture in Iran, but some are very diverse and interesting, like Azerbaijani culture.
Now the next question is, how did Persian Culture influence all of this?
Well, many of these cultures are similar to Persian because they cam about in the same region, like its relationship with Kurdish Culture.  In fact, they celebrate Norwuz, their language is fairly similar to Farsi, and they share the same love for rug-making as Persians.  But what about cultures that were not similar to Persian?

A group of Kurdish people doing a traditional dance.

Here is a very quick crash-coarse in the Baloch culture.  The Balochi people are largely nomadic and they stretch from Pakistan, to Afghanistan, and then into Southern Iran.  They have been nomadic for a very long time but have been forced to urbanize in Pakistan.  They have their own sect of Islam called Zikri or Mahdavism that many other Muslims in India and Pakistan also practice.  They do not celebrate Norwuz, but their language is also very similar to Farsi.

A Balochi painting.

So how has Persian Culture influenced this culture.  I mean the Baloch are from Syria but migrated, while the Persians are from modern day Iran, but dont discount Iran and Persia.  With a large population of the Baloch people living in Iran, they have adopted a few quirks to their friends in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  For example, the Balochi in Iran speak Farsi along with Balochi and again, enjoy our love of Rug-making.  (Although that specific trait was not founded in Persian Culture)
There are so many different types of people in Iran, it makes you wonder how all of those people came to this one region of the world that we call Iran.

Persian Influence in Los Angeles

I have mentioned in the past about the Persian migration into LA, and I would love to tell y’all about this amazing place!

A restaurant in Westwood.

About 300,000 Iranian Americans live in  Southern California, which is the largest amount in the World outside of Iran, but most live in a neighborhood of Los Angeles called Westwood, or cutely names, Tehrangeles.  This area is absolutely flooded with Persian Culture, even many signs are in Farsi!

Image result for tehrangeles

A Kebab Restaurant with a sign in Farsi.

One of the main reasons behind this massive immigration was the Islamic Revolution.  A major reasons that Iranians and flocked to this area was because the landscape and environment is similar to Iran and reminded many of home.

This mass immigration is such a short time has changed a lot of Los Angeles.  For example, because many Persian went out to eat later, restaurants started to extend their hours to accommodate this. There have also been a massive amount of Persian restaurants in this area and all around Los Angeles.  These restaurants are often created to remind their fellow Persian of their homeland and to keep their culture alive.  There is another food related change to Los Angeles that was brought about by Persians, Persian Ice Cream.

Persian Ice Cream has become very, very popular in LA and most people there have at least tried it.  This Ice Cream traditional uses more organic and healthy alternatives than American ice Cream, and is also flavored with rosewater to give it an interesting taste and smell.

There is an area in Westwood that has been designated by the city of Los Angeles as “Persian Square”.  It is called this because everything around there are Persian Restaurants.  From Cafes, Ice Cream Shops, to Cafe’s, its all Persian.Image result for persian square westwood

This part of LA was created so that Persian people could experience their culture outside of their country.  It was started by immigrants and people new to American Life.  Now it has turned into a cultural hub where a most Persians in Southern California live.  There are many successful people there who where born in the US and never left, but also got to experience their culture through all of the immersion that is in that area.  It is also amazing because it is bigger than most other immigrate populations of the city, like Little Japan, or even Chinatown.

It is truly an amazing place and I highly recommend that you go and check it out!

!خدا حافظ (Goodbye!)

 

Persian New Year

The Persian New Year was on 21st of March, and I though you all should know what and how it is celebrated.

It is called Nowruz and is celebrated in Iran, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and many other places in central Asia.\

This is a celebration of the new year on the Persian Calendar and it is not just a one day celebration.  In Iran the festivities start a week before, and in Georgia they start a month before.

There are many more things but I will get into that into the next post!

Persian Music

Persian Music is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful music in the world.  I  personally really enjoy the tribal music because it is raw Persian culture with very few influences, although it is fairly difficult to find.  Persian music has an interesting history and is a very unique sounding art form.

Lets start at the beginning, shall we.

All the way back in 800BCE, Persians started making music.  We do not know much about this music, as the notes were never written down and all we have are the instruments, but we can guess what it sounded like.  A few hundred years later and we have a pretty good understanding of what they played, as they did record some of this music.  The most famous example is Royal Modes.  This has over 350 melodies for each day of the year.  It was created by Khosrau II.

Now the Islamic Age.  What you normal here as “Traditional Persian or Iranian Music” is mostly after this period and was created during this time period as it was much easier to record.  Baghdad was the Center for Persian Music during that time and many of the famous “Arab” Musicians turned out to actually be Persians. Some famous Persian Musicians from this time are Farabi, Ibn Sina, Razi, Ormavi, Zazal, and Ziryab.

This is a Kamanche, a traditional persian instrument.

After this Islamic Age, in the Thirteenth Century, Persian-Arab Music Theory developed.  This was a major step for Persian Music as it had finally been researched and studied.  This means that in this time, people experimented with music like never before.

And then the Mongols invaded.

Mongols besieging Alamut

I have not really talked about this in the past as they kind of let Iran do their own thing, but it definitely affected their music.  Before the invasion, the musical center for Persian Music was in Baghdad, but after, it shifted back into the areas of modern day Iran.  This also made Persian music diverge from Arabic, Tajik and Turkish music.  It solidified the uniqueness of Persian Music.

After the Mongols had left, Persian Music declined.  It was only preform for peasants but the culture of Persian Music was carried on by the Sufis.

In the 19th Century Persian Music went through a massive change, Westernization.  People in Persia were exposed to to whole new types of music, such as overtures, marches, and waltzes.  Slowly the traditional Persian Music went away and was replaced with western music.  By the end of the 19th Century, a music school in Tehran taught only western instruments and music theory.

The first Persian Orchestra was founded in 1925.  Composers in Persia began to study abroad and started to compose nationalistic and modernist styles.  By the mid 1970’s, the Orchestra consisted on 100 performers was much more prominent in Iran.  Radios had also gotten more popular with the average citizens and with it, western styles of music such as pop, rock, jazz, and other genres of music.  The effect this had was that the traditional Persian Instruments and tune would play in combination with western instruments and tunes.  Before the 1979 Revolution, some of the biggest stars in Iran were Delkash, Hassan Kassai, Mahasti, Hengameh Akhaven, and many others.

Hassan Kassai

After the Islamic Revolution, music change. The government banned all western music.  The Tehran Orchestra was dissolved and no music was permitted on the radio.  Many of the musicians fled to Los Angles and had become a hub for Iranian Pop.

The Iranian Government has now lifted the ban on western Music.  Music is taught in private and state run universities.  Music is definitely coming back in Iran and I am exited to see where it goes.

 

Comment below who your favorite Persian artist is or what your favorite era is!

!خدا حافظ (Goodbye!)