Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Samarra : A Pair of Beaded Sandals

To me it was a great shock to see the remaining of the Al Askary shrine (or as we pronounce it in Farsi Asgary shrine). The shrine of Imam Hadi was the great attraction for Shias. My grand parents from both sides of the family visited the city (Samarra) and this shrine. They traveled to different cities in Iraq (Najaf, Samarra and Karbala) and they particularly went to Samarra to visit and worship the shrines of Ali al-Hadi and al-Hasan al-Askari, the 10th and 11th Shia Imams, and the site where the 12th Imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, disappeared near a well. I don’t think the shrines had great architectural importance but it has spiritual importance for many Shia Muslims.

I still remember the souvenir my grandmother brought me from Samara: a pair of shiny beaded sandals.
Here I gathered a brief architectural history of Samarra :

Samarra lies on the east bank of the Tigris River. In 836: Caliph al-Mu'tasim buys the land of a Christian monastery, and builds a military camp in it. He gives it the name "surra man ra'a" (he who sees it, rejoices), a pun based upon the nearby town of Samarra.
It is turned into the new residence of the Caliph, after he is pressured to move from Baghdad. This made it the capital of the entire Muslim world for 56 years which by now extended from Spain in the west to India in the east.
one of the most prominent remains of this past is the famous Great Friday Mosque from 852 with the unique spiral minaret being the largest mosque of its time.
This mosque itself is predominantly in ruins, with only the outer walls standing. An ambitious restoration process began in the late 1990's, aiming at rebuilding the columns and eventually the roof. The spiral minaret is a separate structure from the main congregation hall, 27 meters north of the main hall. It is 52 meters high, and 33 meters in diameter. It is easily entered by a staircase spiraling up on the outside of the round walls. It is believed by many that the minaret was built about 15 years before the main structure.
In south of Samarra one can find a duplicate of the Great Friday Mosque, the Abu Duluf Mosque. The main hall is almost as big, 215 times 138 meters, but the minaret, once again spiral is only 19 meters high. When in 892 the Caliph moved back to Baghdad, Samarra lost most of its importance.

The Great Mosque, Samarra,Iraq.

Samarra holds the tomb of two imams, the 10th, Ali al-Hadi and the 11th, Hassan al-Askari. They are placed in the same sanctuary, a structure that closely resembles the ones of Karbala and Najaf. In addition to the two imams, there are two other tombs of prominent female Muslims.
The second shrine of Samarra is meant to indicate where the 12th imam went into concealment. The shrine is quite different from the other Shia shrines of Iraq, as it doesn't have a golden dome (in 1905 the golden dome of the sanctuary of the 10th and 11th imams completed) but one covered with blue tiles. Underneath the dome there is a cellar, said to be the last place the 12th imam dwelled.
In February 22 of 2006 the shrine and mosque of the two imams, Ali al-Hadi and Hassan al-Askari, were destroyed in a bomb explosion.

The Ruins of the dome of Imam Al Askary Shrine, Samarra, Iraq.

* Take a look at these interesting posts by Millinerd (Feb. 22 & 23) and My Other Fellow (Feb. 23)

Thursday, February 23, 2006


On Tuesday night we went to a dance performance by Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance group. The performance had three parts: Gnawa choreographed by Nacho Duato, was a ballet for pair of six men and women set to music pieces from “Ma’ bud Allah”, “Carrauri” and “windows” to worship love. Strokes Through The Tail, choreographed by Marguerite Donlon, was a humorous and amusing dance inspired by Mozart’s Symphony No.40. Minus 16, Ohad Naharin, (Revival) by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin was the last part in which dancers break the stage’s limits and involve the audience in their performance by the familiar ranges of music from Dean Martin to Cha-Cha, mambo, techno and traditional Israeli music. I liked the last two parts more, for their over all creative arrangement, costume, light and set design.

I think I owe my interest in dance to my dear aunt, Aki, who put my cousin and me in a ballet class when we were as little as 5 and I owe my moody and nerves approach toward dancing to “the dance class being illegal then in my country”. Since I have had these different and often mixed feelings about dancing, I always wanted to see a dance performance on a stage with a wish to settle my mind about it. Well it didn’t help this time.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

I love the way you look at me when you are mad at me. I love your hands when they move in the air while you are imagining Geodesic Curves (of course you would say you are visualizing them because they are more real than you and me, but I still think you are imagining them since I can’t understand them). I love you when you are trying to hide your kind eyes behind your tightened frown. I love that you don’t buy new shoes -when you obviously need one- because your old shoes don’t have any holes in them yet. I love the walk we took last night in the snow to go to a play - Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten- which was canceled because of the snow.

No matter how I put the words together it is not good enough and I can’t say how much I love you. Azizakam; You are around me wherever I go even if you are not there. If there is a way in which I can salute my love for you it is not by words but perhaps by these:

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blizzard 2006

First, there was a little bird on our balcony.

A little after, the snow started.

And then came the night and it was still snowing.

In the morning we had more snow.

& more snow

& more snow

& that was the exceptional 26" Blizzard of 2006.

I took the photos near our house in Princeton, NJ.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

New York Museums

I am planning to visit some exhibitions, which will be on view in New York museums. These exhibitions are interesting and exciting in one way or another. I put their information here. This list is in my preferred order and not in the date order, so please check the dates before planning anything.

In MOMA: Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking form February 26 to May 22, 2006. An ever-increasing number of artists, such as Mona Hatoum, Shirin Neshat, and Shahzia Sikander, have come from the Islamic world to live in Europe and the United States. “Without Boundary” brings together some of these major contemporary voices. The exhibition features the work of artists of diverse backgrounds—Algerian, Egyptian, Indian, Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Pakistani, Palestinian, and Turkish—across a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, video, animation, photography, carpet and textile, and comic strips.

In Guggenheim Zaha Hadid from June 2 to August 23, 2006 she is a contemporary architect who is changing the limits of architecture. Here paintings drawings and designs will be shown in this exhibition.

In Whitney museum of American Art the Biennial 2006: Day for Night is on view from March 2 to May 28. The 2006 Whitney Biennial will examine contemporary art making in America at a moment of profound global change. The exhibition, titled Day for Night after Francois Truffaut's 1973 film, conjures a mood of dark intensity, shifting between beauty and degradation, doubt and conformity.

In MOMA: Edvard Munch, The Modern Life of the Soul from February 19 to May 8 2006.

I have the links for the museumes under my Favorites in Tameshk’s sidebar.

Mona Hatoum, Measures of Distance, videotape,1988.

The Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art,
Cincinnati, United States by Zaha Hadid Architects.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Since November, when I came to live in Princeton, I wanted to write about the city and the university of Princeton. It happens that I have more time and more motivation to write about it now, especially after the difficulty of finding a proper Beauty Salon, meaning skilled and with reasonable price.

Princeton is a glossy European-format expensive American city. Paying extra for everything shouldn’t be a surprise since you are in PRINCETON. You feel lucky when the service you get is as worthy as the money you pay. Restaurants around here are not good at all and no matter how many times I repeat this, it does not change the fact. The outcome of living in Princeton is either to pass away with long hairs or pay a high price and become a PrincetonIAN. I am in the conversion time right now; neither I have died nor I have become PrincetonIAN.

There are things that I like about Princeton: Above all is the cleanness of the city that I like; you don’t need to check were you put your steps, tables and benches; they are all clean. The public library is the shiniest of all public libraries that I’ve seen in New Haven, New York and Stony Brook (Setauket Public Library is fairly clean but not shiny). There is also Princeton University Art Museum, which is a quiet and nice place. The city ambiance and architecture makes you wonder about the history of the place. Princeton University is the fourth-oldest institution to conduct higher education in the United States. Princeton was founded in 1746 by the “New Light” (evangelical) Presbyterians in Elizabeth, NJ; it was originally intended to train ministers. In 1756 the college moved to Princeton and the name was officially changed from The College of New Jersey to Princeton University at 1896 under John Witherspoon.

Witherspoon is also the name of a street full of expensive stores, and the shiny public library; so goes on Princeton's tradition.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Clean House vs. Clean Country or
How did a Monkey become President? *

Things that can make you more tired than what you already are: First having a discussion with your partner (in my case the husband) about cleaning the house; then going to an overcrowded swimming pool and sharing a lane with two screaming kids while their mother tries to teach them how to swim; and last but not least after a slightly nice dinner in a much cleaner home watching Charlie Rose on channel thirteen and realizing that the program is a depressing Discussion About Iran.

I wanted Tameshk to be about Art History more than anything else. But how could I ignore hearing bad news about and from my country, Iran, day after day. It is devastating and nostalgically upsetting to see how a Fundamentalist group, from nowhere, in less then a year can ruin all the achievements of the former Reformist government. I can only hope that people around the world would realize that the current government by no means represents people’s beliefs in Iran.

This is a picture of the Monkey Chain in Sackler gallery at Smithsonian, DC

* The title was suggested by my Husband after cleaning the house for 2 hours.