National Geographic : 1975 Jan
they brought the Islamic faith. The Persians adopted the religion, but later split off in a sect known as Shia. "The effect on Persian art was drastic, some say disastrous," he continued. "Under the Islamic ban on portraits of living creatures, Persian artists were forced to abandon many of their age-old themes." He smiled. "That is, the Arabs thought they abandoned them. "The artistic tradition of disguising human forms grew up and lasted well into the 17th century, when this mosque was built by the ruler known as Shah Abbas. Now look at the tiled fresco up there opposite the blue dome. After a while you'll see the Shah himself." I followed his glance, and presently made out the suggestion of a Persian nobleman. The figure was ingeniously camouflaged with scrollwork and floral designs; without help I would never have noticed it. "That was the whole point," my friend said with a nod. "And, one might add, part of the magic of Persian art." 32 "Sisters" Create a Masterpiece i For a blend of magic and unparalleled art, few can match Fatameh Emami and her col leagues. For the past three and a half years Fatameh and 31 other highly skilled women weavers have been at work on perhaps the world's largest Persian carpet, a 35-foot square masterpiece of brilliant colors inter woven in traditional Isfahan design. I saw the carpet, then about half completed, at the Isfahan School of Fine Arts. In a cav ernous room all its own it hung from a giant loom of steel tubing, with more than a score of women at work on its lower edge. Fatameh welcomed me to the studio and explained that the 32 weavers handle the job in shifts. Fatameh's art is nearly as old as Persia it 1, self, yet it continues to enrich Iran. More than $17,000,000 worth of handwoven carpets a year goes to the United States alone. The vari ety is enormous, for nearly every district has its traditional patterns. There can be as many as 500 knots to the square inch. At 41 Fatameh has spent nearly a quarter Downhill hieroglyphs tell the story of skiers at Mount Dizin, north of Tehran. The four-year-old resort attracts many from the ranks of Iran's growing middle class. The Shah, an avid skier, more often enjoys the slopes at St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps.