HOME & GARDEN: Through the keyhole

Our new house is almost a shrine to ancient Persia with so much memorabilia adorning walls and shelves, but everything has a story.

There’s a beautiful ruby red Persian rug from the city of Hamadan in the hallway, ornate teapots and glasses sit atop our units in the kitchen and the cupboards are brimming with every kind of spice imaginable. And that’s only the beginning.

We have a postcard depicting the love story of Layla and Majnun taped to the fridge freezer, which is also plastered with pictures of places we have been and there’s a special 3D poster in a frame on our staircase. In the nursery, we’ve framed prints of Cyrus The Great and a number tree in Farsi. While in the living room, we have a handmade wooden clock from Isfahan. In our conservatory, there’s also a collection of Persian ornaments from a bygone era.

The love story of Layla and Majnun was known in Persia as early as the 9th Century. I was handed this during a visit to the tomb of the Persian poet, Hafez, in Shiraz, Persia

To the average onlooker, all these pieces are worthless and perhaps a little bit weird. To me, every item is priceless and holds its own unique story. Here’s why:

Take for example our 100% wool Persian rug. In my dad’s eyes, it’s a “nice runner” at best. To me, it brings back memories of walking around Tehran’s grand bazaar. The sights, the sounds and the smell of saffron wafting in the air. Its real story however is in how this beautiful handmade knotted rug came into existence. The love and pride that has gone into making it before it arrived in the UK. You see, each village in Persia makes unique rugs with colourful, charming and primitive motifs. Each geometric pattern is individual for each village and characterise the rugs. There’s a saying that a Persian rug gets better with age and they are truly heirloom pieces.

Now while touching open letters to sons, daughters, grandchildren etc are all the rage on social media, here at Of Saffron & Cyrus, we like to do things a little bit differently. That’s why we have lovingly framed our 3D poster (pictured top), which translated is advice from a father to his son that dates back to 500BC.

I’ve talked before about the symbol in the middle of this picture in a previous post, but there’s more than meets the eye to it and its words. I’m going to give you my own translation of what the words mean (roughly speaking) below. We positioned it on our staircase because we remind ourselves of the hard-earned wisdom when we wake and before we go to sleep.

The picture depicts the figure of an old man, representing wisdom of age. There are two wings either side of him in the picture, which have three sets of feathers. These main feathers indicate three symbols of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, which also represent the notion of flight.

The lower part of the Faravahar consists of three parts, representing bad reflection, bad words and bad deeds which causes misery and misfortune for human beings. There are two loops at the two sides of the Faravahar, which represent positive forces and negative forces.

The former is directed toward the face and the latter is located at the back. This also indicates that we have to proceed toward the good and turn away from bad. The ring in the centre symbolises the eternity of universe and soul. As a circle, it has no beginning and no end. One of the hands points upwards, indicating that there is only one direction to choose in life and that is forward.

The other hand holds a ring and some interpreters consider that as the ring of covenant and used in wedding ceremonies representing loyalty and faithfulness. This means when a true Persian gives a promise, it is like a ring and it cannot be broken.

The words (very loosely) translated mean:

  • The importance of having good communication and a good network of people around you at all times
  • Think first, before answering anyone
  • Don’t sit next to a liar in a group
  • Always be honest to give you more strength
  • Don’t be selfish and full of yourself and say me, me me because a human is like a balloon, when they are deflated, they have nothing
  • Help others if you have money
  • Be down to Earth and have lots of friends
  • Try to be the best you can be to have a good life
  • Always be innocent and then you’ll be more relaxed and not scared of anything
  • Don’t hurt anyone
  • Never swear whether for truth or lie
  • Never be sour or miserable or make fun of others
  • Never make your soul dirty with anger
  • Never ever fool someone or trap them to cause you upset
  • Don’t take pleasure from hurting anyone
  • Never sit in a group with people lower than yourself
  • Having a good conscience is a way to Heaven
  • Always be together with people and be close to them
  • If it’s the past, forget about it. If you haven’t achieved things in the past, don’t get upset and hurt yourself
  • Always rise early morning
  • Be spiritual if you want to be clean and headed in the right direction
  • If you don’t want to be sworn at, don’t swear at anyone else
  • Respect all people and all religions if you don’t want to get hurt
  • You choose your life and your wife, never let someone else choose for you
  • Check everybody and everything and make sure it’s all correct
  • Don’t have two faces and talk bad about people
  • Give good orders if you want to get a good response.

The Faravahar pictured at Persepolis in Shiraz. I was honoured to visit the remnants of this fabulous ancient city, once described as the richest city under the sun

The Faravahar and two columns which represent those inside the 100-column hall at Persepolis. Although the originals were made of black marble. We picked them up during our visit to Persepolis

I have revealed how the Faravahar represents Good Words, Good Thoughts and Good Deeds, but what I haven’t spoken about is how my interest in history started. And that lies with my family.

They were avid travellers and would take me all over the world as a child. They never once sat by the poolside or on the beach. Instead they would wake me up at 4am in the morning and take me on tours of ancient cities, such as Rome, Pompeii and Venice in Italy for starters. As I was taken out of school for these particular holidays, I would always write about my travels and report back to school about them. I learned so much more about the world than if I’d been stuck in a classroom.

So given my thirst for knowledge at such a young age, I still find ancient history fascinating. There is nowhere quite like the remnants of the great city of Persepolis (despite it being seized and burned by Alexander and his army just two centuries after it was built).

Persepolis was the largest Empire the world had ever seen and it was King Cyrus in 550BC who laid the foundations of it, built on a model of tolerance and respect. Cyrus was also famous throughout the ancient world for his love of gardening. His gardens were called Pairadaeza and subsequently the English word paradise has its roots in the old Persian word.

A arty picture of the Cyrus Cylinder. The cylinder is currently in the possession of the British Museum. The decrees Cyrus made on human rights were inscribed in the Akkadian language on a baked-clay cylinder. It represents the first recorded Declaration of Human Rights. The numbers tree in the background in Farsi

After Cyrus, Darius I became the third king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. He ruled between 522 and 486BC. He was a strong and wise ruler and tolerant toward other cultures. He promoted learning, agriculture, forestation, and the construction of highways.

A small statue of Darius The Great who built the majestic structures at Persepolis. Above him is a picture of the Tomb of Hafez. All bought on visits to Persia.

The lion and bull in combat below is taken from a limestone frieze (pictured below) from the stairway facing one of the palaces at Persepolis. The lion is seen in Persepolis as the symbol of power and heroic triumph. The bull is also a symbol of power in ancient Persia and is seen throughout Persepolis on top of columns and guarding gates. Although it is also thought that this represents a symbol of seasonal change (i.e., the lion as symbol of summer, defeats the bull a symbol of winter). That’s how I like to think of it too since we bought this during Persian New Year.

Our ornamental version of the Persepolis frieze, below. We bought this during new year in Persia at Persepolis

We bought this piece during a visit to a museum in Tehran when I was six weeks pregnant. It was a scorching hot day and it represents the glory of the sun, inspired by a tile dating back to the 13th Century

Each item in our home unlocks hidden stories and unwritten memories. I hope as we age we will remember stories of the past, our time exploring history and relay everything to Cyrus, so he can begin his own exciting journey…although it looks like he’s already started his!


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