Blogging is an ideal platform for the modern-day travel writer but it’s instructive to be reminded of the literary skills of some of the earlier practitioners of the art form. One of the most acclaimed was Robert Byron (no relation of Lord Byron) whose 1937 travelogue The Road to Oxiana detailed his travels through the Middle East and Persia – modern-day Iran- to Afghanistan.
Oxiana refers to the region around the Amu Barya River which flows along the northern border of Afghanistan, known in Greek as Oxus. The purpose of the journey was for Byron, a renowned expert in the region’s architectural treasures, to view the subjects of his studies first hand. The resulting Road to Oxiana has been lauded as a modernist classic and described as being to travel writing “what Ulysses was to the novel”.
A weekend newspaper book feature recalled the Byron classic, especially his description of the exquisite 11th century Jameh Masjed, or Friday Mosque, one of Iran’s many World Heritage-listed treasures. It is renowned for its elegant and meticulous architecture and engineering which cleverly combines aesthetics with cutting-edge construction: “..each element, like the muscles of a trained athlete, performs its function with winged precision..”.
The article reminded of a video recording I had made during our visit of a lyrical Koranic prayer infused into every stone of the mosque’s soaring dome and chambers by its brilliant acoustics. Robert Byron couldn’t embed video links in his works so I’ll take advantage of current technology to go that extra step.
I have already lauded the treasures of Isfahan, including the mosque, in my post (https://solesister3a.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/jewel-in-the-crown/).