Friday, 11 January 2008

Sultan Oljaitu Khodabandeh Mausoleum

Our first exposure to the wonderful turquoise faience tiles of Iran was at the Mausoleum of the Mongal Sultan Oljaitu Khodabandeh in the small town of Sultaniyeh about 40km froom Zanjan in the north of the country.
The large blue dome stands out in the landcape ( despite the scaffolding) - not surprising as its dome is one of the largest in the world at 48 metres high and 25 metres diameter. It is the earliest existing example of the double -shelled dome in Iran ( c. 1306). The mausoleum is built of brick, octagonal in shape with remains of 8 minarets, more reminiscent of buildings of central Asia than nearby Azerbaijan.

The inside was full of scaffolding ( restoration just started in the interior) and as not allowed to use flash, photography was a bit limited. Beautiful sections of tileing and plasterwork could be glimpsed.

We climbed up steep steps to higher levels. The gallery vaults were particularly finely decorated with painted mouldings executed during the period after Oljaitu's conversion to Shi'ism. Many of the patterns and motifs stem from China ( perhaps derived from Central Asian or Mongolian costumes - we're really on the Silk Road here)

At the highest level, could step out gingerly onto a rooftop and look up to the faience on the outside of the building and on the dome - breathtaking

Also from the gallery and rooftop had great views over the snowy landscape below. The orange bus is ours!

On a roundabout on the outskirts of Sultaniyeh we asked to stop the bus so we could take photos of the amazing orange electric palm tree! Everywhere we went in Iran on roundabouts and road central reservations at night there were brilliantly lit trees- mainly palm trees or trees with cherry blossom - so convincing ( at least from a distance ) that one of our party had to be convinced that it wasn't a real tree smothered in strings of LED lights. I suspect that they are made in China - I want one!

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