12/06/1866 – From the heat of Tehran to the lushness (and politics) of Tajrish

It’s really getting too hot in Tehran and Tinco is doing what everybody else does – he moves to the countryside.

In 1866, Tinco Lycklama was the first Dutchman since a long time to travel Persia – and to write about it. In fact, in the wake of the Crimean War (1853-56) and the complicated geopolitics in the region, Tinco was the only European “tourist” to do so for a quarter of a century.

The 1858 map of Tehran by August Krziz - with the royal Arg compound highlighted in blue and the bazaar highlighted in yellow
The 1858 map of Tehran by August Krziz – with the royal “Arg” compound highlighted in blue and the bazaar highlighted in yellow (click map to enlarge)

A month ago, Tinco Lycklama arrived in Tehran (see post). He took a few weeks (just like we did) to understand the city and get acquainted with the people that mattered. Tinco was traveling with credentials from the French government and stayed as a guest at the house of Emile Charles Bernay – a clerk at the chancery of the French legation. He accepted Bernay’s hospitality only for a few days, and then rented a decent house near the city’s bazaar. Indeed, he needed more space – not only for himself but also for his horses and his men. Tinco had hired two additional servants (which made a total of five) because – as Tinco says – he needed to “conform to the habits of European life in Persia”. Let’s assume that this means that he wanted to command respect.

Later, we’ll tell a few more things about the Tehran of 1866. Right now, Tinco needs to move on as it is really getting too hot. In the summer, Tehran’s temperatures are sweltering. Tinco tells us that more than half of the city’s population (about 100,000 people at that time) moves to the suburbs to escape the suffocating heat. The elites took refuge around Tajrish, a village some 15 kilometers north of town. Which is what Tinco did as well. Located some 400 meters higher in altitude, Tajrish was dry and mild – the perfect climate for our Dutch traveler.

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Today, Tajrish is just a neighbourhood, but it was a distinct area back then. It had its own bazaar, and it also houses a Shi’a holy shrine – the Imāmzādeh Sāleh. In addition, it was on the road towards Niavaran, the summer palace of the Qajars. Basically, the foreign diplomats couldn’t get closer to the Shah than Tajrish. (However, in the summer of 1866, the Shah was mostly at his military encampment at Shahrestanak, together with his political and military entourage).

Tinco rented a wonderful house with gardens, next to the house of Amedée Querry – the French chancellor (see note below). On the illustration above, we give the approximate location of Tinco’s house. By his own description, the house was located on the edge of the Darband river, which streams down the Alborz mountains. From his garden, Tinco would cross the Darband and get onto what is called today Shariati street (click here for an interactive map). Back then, this same road connected Tajrish to both Niavaran and the city of Tehran.

By chance (?), Tinco has arrived at an interesting time – politically speaking. Indeed, in a couple of days, Naser al-Din Shah will appoint a new cabinet of ministers (click here for a preview). For over a year, the Shah had been running the empire with just a handful of trusted advisors. Now, he is about to install a pretty stable government for the long run, and he is setting the stage for reforms and modernization.

Tinco developed some interesting relationships with key players in the Shah’s cabinet. In Tajrish, he also engaged daily with all the diplomats. Only the French, the British, the Russians and the Ottomans had formal legations in Persia. Tinco knew all of them – and his relationships were very personal. We’ll have a closer look at the people he acquainted later on (click here for an overview of the corps diplomatique – research in progress).

As we saw, Tinco traveled with French credentials (which seem to have been arranged in cooperation with the Dutch foreign ministry in The Hague prior to his departure from Paris). His closest and most intimate friendship was, however, with Charles Alison, the British minister plenipotentiary. On the other hand, when he goes and meet Naser al-Din Shah in September 1866, he is introduced by Ivan Zinoviev, the first secretary at the Russian legation. Tinco mentions little or none about the Ottoman legation, but when he travels around Baghdad in 1867, he does so with the highest level of protection from Turkish officials.

“Je ne perdrai jamais le souvenir des trois mois que j’ai passé dans ce véritable paradis terrestre, lisant, faisant la sieste, écrivant, me promenant surtout, et n’omettant dans mes excursions aucun des sites qui font de ce pied de l’Elbourz une des plus ravissantes choses du monde.” (see the quote in Tinco’s “Voyage…”)

Reading, sleeping, writing, visiting – Tinco indeed sounds like a perfect tourist. With the difference that he also acquainted the powers-that-were and was a welcome guest at all the parties that the foreigners in Tehran and Tajrish organized. And parties they had, as there was little else to do in Tehran, says Tinco.

 


Note

 

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3 thoughts on “12/06/1866 – From the heat of Tehran to the lushness (and politics) of Tajrish

  1. Veel geluk en succes toegewenst bij het verdere onderzoek naar het leven en werk van onze dorpsgenoot uit de 19de eeuw. Wekelijks wordt Tinco tijdens historische rondleidingen door Beetsterzwaag genoemd en vertellen we over zijn achtergrond, staand voor het huis waarin zijn museum van 1870-1872 is ondergebracht geweest. Jullie hebben begrepen dat er interessante en vermakelijk verhalen zijn te vertellen over deze onderbelichte verzamelaar en ijdele en trotse wereldreiziger. We horen graag meer!

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