National Geographic : 1958 Jul
Veiled Women Stroll a Baghdad Garden Mercedes Douglas (left) and Mary Watkins bought these all-concealing chaderis in Af ghanistan, but had no oppor tunity to model them until they reached the Iraqi capital. © National Geographic Society Unlike Tehran, Isfahan has little mark of the West. There are streets of shops, but the main bazaar is covered with vaulted roofs. Every house, no matter how small, has a walled gar den, and every garden has a rose. The city has a col lection of mosques and shrines it would take weeks to explore (p. 36). The magnificent Friday Mosque dates from the 11th century. The Royal Square boasts the palace of Shah Abbas, the Mosque of the Shah, and the Mosque of Sheikh Lutfullah, with the most delicate and colorful tilework in all Asia. Its dome has a soft green-yellow hue; at dusk it fairly glows. Musicians Salute the Setting Sun But the one spot in Isfahan that we never tired of visiting was the bazaar (page 37). Atop its main entrance rises the Nakkar Khaneh-the Drum House. From it musi cians play at sunset, "drumming down the sun." Under the vaulted roofs of the bazaar itself tiny windows let in dust-flecked shafts of light. Streets just wide enough for animal transport trailed off at angles, leading to courtyards that served as freight depots for the unloading of camels and donkeys. Coppersmiths and brassworkers labored so noisily that we could not hear one another talk. In quieter spots merchants sat behind burlap sacks opened to show spices and dried fruits. Blindfolded camels plodded in circles, turning cottonseed oil presses. Apart from the sounds are the odors. We of the West have shut up all our odors in tin cans; the East has preserved them for the nostrils. Spices, tobacco, sweets, camel dung, donkeys, and people all fill the bazaar with a pungent odor. This smell comes back in memory more frequently than the sights them selves. We stopped at a rug factory in a corner of the bazaar. One or two women supervised the looms, but the work was done chiefly by young girls from 5 to 16. The looms were vertical. The girls sat on boards, working upward from the bottom edge of the rug. Their fingers moved as fast as spindles, and their faces were pressed to the loom as they tied the tiny knots with lightning speed. Malnutrition, disease, and darkness take their toll; a girl who starts at 5 years of age is often blind when she reaches 21. After visiting old friends and meeting new ones in Isfahan, we flew back to Tehran and visited the Shah at his summer palace in Shemiran (page 27). His role is to guide Iran in a period of transition, to safeguard it from Communist infiltration. It is a difficult task. Iran and Russia have a common 1,300 mile border far removed from outside help.* The Shah talked of his state visit to the U.S.S.R. in 1956. * See "Journey into Troubled Iran," by George W. Long, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, October, 1951.