07/05/1866 – No veils in Siadoun, nice liquor in Kasbin, and a few more days of rest

“Even though the Prophet prohibited the use of spirits, many Persians unscrupulously break the law and – in the evenings, behind closed doors and with the blinds closed – they sometimes drink without measure all sorts of wines and even finish these unauthorized rituals with a couple of dry shots of a spirit called Arack.”

(“Voyages…”, Volume II, page 243)

Telling from Tinco’s own description, little seems to have changed in Iran today! But, back in the 19th century, when Tinco was traveling there, people were producing alcohol pretty much in the open, produced from the excellent grapes from Qazvin (written Kasbin by Tinco) – the city where Tinco arrived three days ago, May 4th 1866.

We don’t know whether Tinco was a real connoisseur, but he does have an opinion about the quality of wine. He ranks his personal preferences in a simple fashion:

  • Tehran wines are mediocre
  • Tabriz wines are good
  • Hamadan wines are very good, but…
  • the wines from Chiraz are the best.

Having said that, the grapes from Qazvin are famous and they are transported throughout Persia to produce a highly popular liquor. Let’s assume though, that wine is not what kept Tinco for four days in Qazvin.

Remember that he left Kirva on May 3th at night, almost fully recovered from his very bad flu and exhaustion. Early in the morning on the next day, he made a brief stop at the chapar khaneh of Siadoun (modern Takestan); he was really surprised to see that the majority of women there were not veiled! Throughout his travels across Persia, Tinco noticed that veiled women were the norm, and usually describes the veil as a white piece of cloth with two holes for the eyes. Sometimes he would see women working on fields who would shed their veils. But, the sight of so many unveiled women in Siadoun really came as a surprise. Unfortunately, Tinco does not give us an explanation.

Qazvin - Imamzada Hussayn Mosque - photography by Antoin Sevrugui ca. 1890
Imamzadeh Hossein Mosque – Qazvin – Photography ca. 1890 by Antoin Sevruguin.

He has been in Qazvin since May 4th, where he arrived in the evening. For a period of sixty three years, in the 16th century, Qazvin had been the capital of the Persian empire under the Safavid dynasty, and notably under shah Tahmasp I (1514-1576). To reflect on the geographical reality of that time… Tehran was just a tiny village of no significance, and Isfahan would only become a major center in the 17th century. Qazvin thus became the capital after the Safavids moved there, coming from Tabriz. During his stay, Tinco visited the mosque and the royal palace of Tahmasp.

Qazvin caravanserai - drawing by Eugène Flandin ca. 1840
Qazvin caravanserai, drawing by Eugène Flandin ca. 1840.

When he arrived at Qazvin, Tinco was happy to see that his trusted Armenian servant Tatous had traveled back safely from Tehran. When ill in Kirva, he had sent Tatous with a message for the head of the French legation in the capital, the comte de Massignac. Obviously, the latter had been very willing to oblige and had sent a Persian doctor to Tinco.

When they reunited at Qazvin, Tinco had no immediate need for a doctor, but the young Persian doctor proved the be a most agreeable person who would be a fine companion on the road to Tehran. In fact, Dr. Mirza Cheikh Djellal had had the privilege to study at the Faculté de médecine in Paris, and Tinco had a great time conversing – in French – about both Paris and the customs in Persia. The doctor’s only health recommendation to Tinco was to take additional rest. Which is why Tinco and his group only left Qazvin on May 8th, to commence the last leg of his travel towards Tehran.

He had been in Persia for over a month now, since he crossed the Azerbaijani-Persian border at Jolfa, on April 6th.


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