Sharing photographs and strawberries with the Qajars in Kermanshah

Tinco Lycklama is having a most interesting time in Kermanshah, as the special guest of Seyid Djouab. The Ottoman consul is a most entertaining host and takes Tinco along for wonderful horserides around the city, exploring the ancient monuments of Kermanshah – which was once a capital of the Persian Empire. Tinco also meets the Qajar rulers of Kermanshah, and discovers their keen interest in photography – and strawberries.

At the time of Tinco’s visit, the governor of Kermanshah was Emam Qoli Mirza (1814-1875), a Qajar prince with the title of Emad ed-Dauleh who occupied this position since 1852. He was an uncle of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, the Persian “King of Kings”, whom Tinco met in a private audience in 1866, in Tehran. Emam Qoli Mirza was a son of Mohammad Ali Mirza Dowlatshah (1789-1821), who had been governor himself and who was a son of the second Qajar King, Fath-Ali Shah (1772-1834). The Qajars in Kermanshah formed the prominent Dowlatshahi branch of the dynasty.


Emam Qoli Mirza courteously offered several gifts – including a waterpipe and family portraits. These belonged to Tinco’s most prized objects in his museum in his native Beetsterzwaag (NL), and later in Cannes (F). This was not the only time that Tinco met the governor. In 1873, Emam Qoli Mirza became Minister of Justice and travelled along with Naser al-Din Shah on his first visit to Europe. Tinco joined them during their Paris stay, in July 1873.

Emam Qoli Mirza (1814-1875, governor of Kermanshah B-W
Emam Qoli Mirza (1814-1875), Persian Minister of Justice (1873-75)

The governor had several sons. One of them was Murtaza Quli Mirza, Mansur us-Sultana (who died in 1905). In 1894-95, he became deputy Governor-General of Kurdistan. Murtaza Quli Mirza owned a very beautiful private park just outside Kermanshah, and he took Tinco there for a ride. He also introduced Tinco to Persian strawberries. Though Persia has a relatively large production of strawberries today, they were an extreme and exquisite rarity a hundred and fifty years ago.

It was another son of Emam Qoli Mirza who grabbed Tinco’s attention even more. The governor’s oldest son, Ali Quli MirzaSarim ud-Daula (who died in 1872), had been a deputy governor of the Luristan province, and governor of the Kubai tribe of Kurds. But, besides that, he was also an avid photographer.

The Qajars had a fascination for photography, and they were extremely well equipped for that time. They shipped photographic material from Europe and built enormous collections of photographs (only few of them are digitally available, unfortunately).

When Prince Ali Quli Mirza invited Tinco to join him at his Kermanshah palace, he had asked him to come dressed in the Arab costume he had bought in Baghdad (news travelled fast, even about clothes). The reason was that he wanted to take pictures of Tinco, which he did. Whereas he kept several pictures for himself, Ali Quli Mirza also gave Tinco copies of his own portrait, plus those of a few of the prince’s family members.
Unfortunately, we have no trace of these pictures. There is a solid chance that they could be found in the well-preserved photo collections of the Golestan palace in Tehran. Who knows, perhaps one day?

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