26/11/1866 – Tinco leaves Persia, but first he sends a letter to The Hague.

Tinco Lycklama is boarding the Penine, an English steamer that will take him from Bandar Bushehr across the Persian Gulf to the mouths of the Tigris river. He spent nearly eight months in Persia. Next year, he will travel back to Tehran. But, for now, his mind is set on discovering Mesopotamia – the modern Iraq.

Vue du port de Bandar Bushehr, 1841 – by Eugène Flandin (Collection: INHA)

Tinco arrived at Bandat Bushehr on November 17. There wasn’t much to see in this harbour town. In fact, it was a most unhealthy place. It was hot – even in November – and because of the humidity of the surrounding marshlands and the very poor sewer systems, it was full of nasty insects and had a permanent, terrible smell. Not a good place for our young Frisian gentleman!

Actually, Tinco arrived in poor health and had early signs of typhoid. That was the main reason why he delayed his departure for Iraq. Fortunately, with a solid dose of quinine (never leave home without it) and the concoctions of an Armenian doctor, he recovered pretty well.

He had in his pocket a fine recommendation from his close friend Charles Alison, the British minister plenipotentiaty in Tehran. His first visit was to the British resident at Bandar Bushehr, colonel Lewis Pelly (1825-1892 – later Lieutenant general and a Member of Parliament in London). Pelly turned out to be as amiable and helpful as Alison was, and Tinco enjoyed the hearty welcome.

Lewis Pelly (1825-1892), British resident at Bandar Bushehr

Whereas the Russians had a dominant diplomatic presence in Tehran and northern Persia, Bandar Bushehr and the coast line around the Gulf were British ‘territory’. In fact, ten years earlier, Bandar Bushehr was briefly occupied by the British during a military conflict with Persia. Their presence was not just commercial but heavily political and military.

For Tinco, there really was no good reason to spend too much time at Bandat Bushehr. However, it was the occasion for him to appreciate how important this city still was as one of the major ports of Persia and an important stop on the shipping routes towards the Far East. In the past, the Dutch East Indies Company had a significant presence in this town, and the remaining ruins of Fort Riché were a reminder of that. However, the Dutch currently didn’t have any diplomatic presence at Bandar Bushehr – nor anywhere else in Persia, for that matter.

Perhaps Tinco played a role in changing that. During his stay at Bandar Bushher, he made the acquaintance of captain Meyer, who was delivering a cargo of sugar from Batavia (Java). Meyer told Tinco about the difficulties in trading with Persia. For instance, the Dutch imports were taxed higher than those from other nations, and there was no Dutch political presence to influence any change.

Back in Tehran, Tinco had discussed with Naser al-Din Shah the old connections between Holland and Persia, and both regretted the absence of formal relationships today. After talking to captain Meyer, Tinco decided to write to the appropriate minister at The Hague and ask the government to consider establishing some presence at Bandar Bushehr. Fifteen months later, his wish came true.

Julius van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1819-1894) – Dutch Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs, 01/06/1866 – 04/06/1868

Coincidence? Though we haven’t yet identified the archival records to back it up, it is quite possible that Tinco Lyckama addressed his letter to the Dutch premier, Julius van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1819-1894), who was also the minister for Foreign Affairs. Shortly after, the Dutch government offered to Dr. Johann Schlimmer (1819-1881) the position of Dutch honorary consul general in Persia.

Readers will remember that Tinco stayed with Johann Schlimmer during his visit to Isfahan. Schlimmer was a very respected Dutch doctor who had been an instructor at the Dar ul-Funun polytechnic at Tehran. Schlimmer himself had been an advocate for the establishment of formal trade relations. But, he refused the post. Instead, Richard Keun became the first Dutch consul at Bandar Bushehr, in February 1868. The latter was the son of a merchant family that was well established at Izmir, in the Ottoman empire.

It seems that Keun sometimes mixed official duties with personal interests, and Dr. Schlimmer was appointed a few years later to have some supervisory role over Keun. However, in general, the Dutch relationship with Persia remained quite low profile, despite the state visit of Naser al-Din Shah to The Netherlands in 1889. Perhaps Tinco should have played a more active role?

steamer-on-shatt-al-arabToday, November 26, Tinco picks up his luggage and, in the company of two servants, he heads for the beaches where small boars are waiting for him to take him to the Penine – anchored a few miles off-shore. On his way, he meets a sad funeral procession. They are carrying Ali Beg, Tinco’s loyal servant throughout his stay in Persia. Whereas Tinco had recovered from his illness shortly after arriving at Bandar Bushehr, Ali Beg was less fortunate and had passed away because of typhoid.


On the Penine, Tinco was wondering about the next adventures on his fabulous voyage. In two days, he would reach Basra, on the Shatt al-Arab.

11/11/1866 – Visiting Bishapur and the cave statue of Shapur I

Tinco Lycklama visits the ruins of Bishapur, one of the capitals of the Sassanid Empire (224-651 CE). But, Tinco is particularly attracted by the grotto where, it is said, he could find the rests of a magnificent statue of the Sassanid king Shapur I (c215-270 CE). As you can guess from the pictures, the climb to the cave was quite adventurous. The cave was discovered in 1811 by Major Stone, a member of the expedition led by William Ouseley. He found the statue of Shapur partly smashed and laying on the floor, covered by sand. Orginally, it measured 6.7 meters and was totally carved out of a natural stalactite in the middle of the cave. Tinco Lycklama saw the statue like that, more or less like in the drawing by Eugène Flandin from 1841. Tinco hoped that someone would come soon to excavate this massive statue and restore it to its former glory. Tinco’s wish came true – but only 69 years later, in 1935.

10/11/1866 – On the way south to the Persian Gulf, a little stopover at Shahpur.

Tinco Lycklama’s opus – his Voyage en Russie, en Perse, etc… – was published in 4 volumes. He started writing and publishing them once he settled in Cannes – one volume every year, between 1872-75. The books offer a chronology of his voyage and can thus be read as a travelogue. Tinco also presents each volume as a thematic book. The first two volumes were dedicated to Russia and Persia. We have now arrived at the start of his third volume – containing two thematic ‘books’: “La Babylonie“, and “L’Assyrie“.

Tinco’s third volume coincides with his departure from Persia. In the book about Assyria,he takes us back to Tehran, and then travels through the north of Iraq, via places like Erbil and Mosul. But most of the third volume is dedicated to Babylonia, the region between and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. He spends the winter in Bagdad, and takes us on some very interesting excursions such as a visit to the ancient Babylon, where he also proceeds with excavations (the first Dutchman – and one of the first Europeans – to do so).

For now, Tinco is still in Persia. He left Shiraz on November 7, and is progressing towards the port city of Bender Bushir (from where he will cross the Persian Gulf). Though he is eager to discover new lands and to enter the Ottoman empire (to which current Iraw belonged), his journey is not a straight line, as there are some interesting things to see along the way.

View of Kazerun, by Eugène Flandin in “Perse Moderne” (1841) – Collection INHA

After stopovers at Khane Zenian and Mian Kotel, he arrived last night at Kazerun. This is an old city that predates the islamic era. Like other travellers, such as Arthur de Gobineau, Tinco appreciates the original beauty of the city but observes as well that it is in total ruins. Whereas Shiraz was a city of cypresses, Kazerun was a city of palms, but its pre-medieval buildings had lost their lustre.  Tinco Lycklama offers us an interesting historical background about Kazerun, which is something that previous travellers had not done in their own travel accounts.

Instead of travelling straight south to Bandar Bushir, Tinco deviates to the north, towards the village of Shahpur. Tomorrow, Tinco wants to visit the old Bishapur, one of the capitals of the Sassanid dynsasty, which came to a fall with the start of Persia’s islamic era in 651 CE. Actually, the roads that Tinco was travelling were the old roads that linked the city of Estakhr (also a Sassanid capital, on the edge of Persepolis) with Shahpur.

Approaching the ruins of Bishapur

At Shahpur, Tinco is received by Mirza Ghulam Hoceim, the local mayor. It is one of his friendliest encounters in Persia, as the Mirza does everything to please Tinco and generously invites him to spend the night at his house. We haven’t been able to locate it (if it subsists at all), but it consisted of two towers that remained from an old ruined castle.

Tomorrow, Tinco will visit the ruins of the old Sassanid capital, and the caves with the impressive statue of Shapur I. As a good host, Mirza Ghulam Hoceim will accompany Tinco and, for safety, they take an escort of ten soldiers along. You can’t be too prudent.



26/10/1866 – Meshed Morghab, just another stopover on Tinco’s way south.

After spending thirteen days at Isfahan, the old capital of Persia under the Abassid dynasty, Tinco hit the road on October 21 and rushed southwards. Over the past five days, he travelled over 300 kilometers through arid terrain and across mountainous plateaus, staying at dusty little places like Mahyar, Maqsud Beyk, Shurjestan, and Surmaq.

He should have spent some time at Izad Khvast (often spelled Yezdegast in the past), because the place is remarkable for its landmarks stretching the whole islamic era until the Qajar period (the town is marked for the UNESCO World Heritage list). But Tinco was in a hurry, and he admits that it was a pity to have thrown just a glance at it.

This morning, Tinco left Dehbid – which was just a desolate courrier stop back then. The day was tough, as  he had to cross some very difficult mountain passes. But, he knew where he was heading, and it was definitely worth the effort. Tonight, he sleeps at Meshed Morghab, a little village in a valley that holds a few treasures that he was keen to discover the next day.

The ruins of the caravanserai at Kirgoun – on the road between Dehbid and Meshed Morghab.

08/10/1866 – Tinco arrives in Isfahan and will connect with its golden age

Tinco Lycklama had at least two good reasons for spending a fortnight at Isfahan. For one, it was considered the most beautiful city of Persia. And, secondly, its golden age coincides with the Dutch one. The Dutch East India Company was Persia’s most important commercial partner in the 17th century.

Isfahan has occupied a significant position throughout Persia’s history, strategically located on major trading routes. Under Abbas the Great (1571-1629) and the Safavid dynasty, Isfahan became once again the capital of Persia. A few Dutch travellers such as Herbert de Jager, Jan Struys and Cornelis de Bruijn left us some unique accounts about how Persia and Isfahan looked like in those days. Tinco is the first Dutchman to pick up again with this 17th century tradition, and he retraces the old capital in their footsteps.

It took Tinco just six days to travel the 450 kilometers that separate Tehran from Isfahan. He was in a hurry! That is a pity, because there were many interesting things to see on his way south. He left Tehran on October 2, and reached the Shi’a holy city of Qom on the 4th. He spent the night there but his visit was only summarily. On October 6th, he passes by Kashan and tells us that, regretfully, the lack of time prevented him from exploring the town in detail. Kashan’s past dates from pre-historic times, at least 7,000 years ago.

Tinco thus arrived in haste at Isfahan. But, here, he would take his time. Over the next two weeks, we will explore some of Tinco’s observations and connect them with some background on the relations between the Dutch and the Persians in the 17th century. And more!

Caravanserai of Madar-e Shah, Isfahan – drawn in 1841 by Pascal Coste

Interestingly, we can identify the place where Tinco stayed during his time in Isfahan. It is the caravanserai of Mader-e Shah, and sections of it subsist today. The Madar-e Shah (Mother of the Shah) complex housed a famous madrasa (islamic religious school). The caravanserai (an inn for travellers) was built against it and adopted the same architectural style. We have included some images here, including a drawing by French architect Pascal Coste of 1841, and, closer to Tinco’s stay, a photo from 1858 by Luigi Pesce, showing how the madrasa really looked like back then.

Madrasa of Madar-e Shah, Isfahan – photography from 1858 by Luigi Pesce

The caravanserai was ideally located for Tinco’s visits. It was adjacent to the huge Naqsh-e Jahan, the royal square on the edge of the city’s cavernous bazar. From there, it was just a few steps to the royal palace – the fabulous Chehel Sotoon.

After a week in the saddle, Tinco was happy to enjoy the luxuries offered by this bustling, elegant old capital.

02/10/1866 – Leaving Tehran

Tinco Lycklama stayed nearly five months in Tehran. He says that was enough to see what had to be seen. Over the past weeks, we covered some key moments, encounters, and observations from Tinco’s writings. We will get back to that next year, when Tinco returns to the Persian capital for another month. In the meantime, he will have seen more cities in Persia and met more people in power – and we expect Tinco’s story to become ever more interesting through the broad variety of his experience.

Over the next two months, Tinco is discovering southern Persia. He then crosses the Persian Gulf and travels the Tigris into old Mesopotamia – current Iraq. He will spend over five months in Baghdad (then under Ottoman rule); during this extensive stay, he will also do many excursions to explore ancient sites such as Babylon, where he will do some modest archaeological work of his own. Next, he will return to Persia and visit his friends in Tehran – and also spend some money on objects that he will take to Europe for his future museum.

Over the next few weeks, some very important visits are on the agenda. Tinco considered meeting Persepolis as a defining moment in his life. He will get there by October 27, and we’ll do something special on those days – with the kind help of experts at the Oriental Institute in Chicago and the UCLA in California.

GATES TEHRAN - Qasvin Gate 1900
Qazvin Gate, Tehran – where Tinco left for his journey towards Isfahan

But, right now, Tinco is moving towards Isfahan. His friend, the British minister Charles Alison, had arranged the horses for him, and Tinco left in the best of circumstances on his road towards the south. Some of the places he visits would have merited a longer stay, such as the holy city of Qom – but Tinco was somewhat in a haste to reach Isfahan and Persepolis. Also, he was looking forward to exploring Mesopotamia and Baghdad.

Tinco will spend two weeks in Isfahan – and for many good reasons. After all, the city had been the empire’s capital for about two centuries, and was here that the Dutch East-India Company (VOC) installed a major trading post in the 17th century and became the most important western trading partner of the Persians. Tinco was intent on discovering everything that had to be learned about the city’s glorious past.

23/09/1866 – Tinco Lycklama rencontre Naser al-Din Shah Qajar

Lors d’une soirée organisée par la légation Russe à Zergendeh, le premier secrétaire Ivan Zinovieff avait présenté Tinco Lycklama à Yaya Khan – l’aide de camp du chah de Perse, Naser al-Din. Ce dernier, bien au courant de la présence de notre jeune voyageur néerlandais dans la capitale persane, s’était étonné de ne pas avoir reçu une demande d’audience. Il fut alors convenu que Tinco joigne Zinovieff quelques jours plus tard lors d’un rendez-vous fixé pour le 23 septembre 1866. Nous reprenons ci-dessous les mots écrits par Tinco Lycklama au sujet de cette visite.

(Click here to see the English translation – Klik hier voor de Nederlanse vertaling)

La broche Darya-e Noor, portée par Naser al-Din Shah
Extrait du récit de Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt – “Voyage en Russie, au Caucase et en Perse, dans la Mésopotamie, le Kurdistan, la Syrie, la Palestine et la Turquie”, tome II – pages 357-362. Cliquez ici pour visionner ces pages sur Gallica/BnF. Les notes explicatives en bas de page on été ajoutées par nos soins.

Le dimanche, 23 septembre, jour fixé pour l’audience, rendez-vous fut pris, à Zerghendé, pour de là nous rendre, après avoir déjeuné, à Niaveran (1) où le roi venait d’arriver ayant quitté depuis quelques jours son campement de Chirastanek (2). N’ayant point d’uniforme, l’étiquette était pour moi le frac, le pantalon et le gilet noirs, avec cravate blanche et des galoches en maroquin rouge que l’on chausse par-dessus ses bottes et que l’on dépose pour paraître devant le roi. C’est un biais diplomatique qui a été imaginé en 1828, lors de la paix de Turkmanstchaï (3). Auparavant tous les agents diplomatiques étaient obligés de se conformer à l’usage persan qui veut que l’on n’aborde le roi qu’après avoir retiré sa chaussure. Maintenant on retire seulement ses galoches, et l’on garde aux audiences sa chaussure européenne. La Russie a même obtenu, pour son ambassadeur, le privilège de s’asseoir devant le Chah; c’est ce qui est cause que le roi de Perse le reçoit le plus souvent debout, pour l’empêcher d’user d’un privilége qui a fort humilié l’orgueil des Kadjars.

Nous montâmes à cheval à onze heures. Le cortége était nombreux, car, dans ces circonstances, les légations européennes se font toujours accompagner d’une foule de gardes, de goulams, de domestiques, de palefreniers pour garder les chevaux, tous plus ou moins richement habillés. J’y figurais avec une suite seulement de deux domestiques, comme moi à cheval. La distance entre Zerghendé et Niaveran est fort courte; en vingt minutes nous mîmes pied à terre à la porte du parc de la résidence royale. Après quelques pas, on nous introduisit dans une tente destinée à réparer le désordre de notre toilette qui n’avait évidemment que peu souffert pendant notre court trajet. De là, on nous amena dans une autre et plus belle tente où nous attendaient deux maîtres des cérémonies. Avant d’entrer nous dûmes quitter nos galoches, car c’était une tente royale. On nous y offrit, de la part du roi, du café, du thé, des sucreries, des kalians tout allumés et nous passâmes, là, une demi-heure à nous reposer sur de riches coussins, buvant ou plutôt humant thé et café dans de toutes petites tasses montées sur des pieds d’argent, tout en aspirant la fumée du kalian. On vint, enfin, nous annoncer que le Châh était prêt à nous recevoir. Nous sortîmes, en reprenant nos_galoches, et nous suivîmes les maîtres des cérémonies qui, par une galerie couverte, nous firent arriver dans la cour intérieure du palais au pied de l’escalier d’honneur qui, par parenthèse, est magnifique. Nous déposâmes de nouveau nos galoches et nous montâmes, toujours précédés par nos deux introducteurs, après que ceux-ci eurent substitué à leurs hauts bonnets persans, deux espèces de turbans en étoffe blanche et lisse avec des raies rouges tout autour. En haut de l’escalier et sous le péristyle se tenaient plusieurs jeunes Persans, faisant l’office de pages et ayant à la main une canne d’argent. Une double portière s’ouvrit à la gauche du vestibule, et nous entrâmes dans une grande antichambre richement décorée. A peine étions-nous tous entrés qu’un rideau de velours, se relevant en face de nous, nous montra, dans une seconde salle, toute resplendissante de dorures, le roi assis dans un fauteuil en or, auprès d’une fenêtre ouverte à travers laquelle on apercevait, comme en un tableau artistement disposé, le palais de Sultanabad, plus loin, Téhéran, et tout à fait dans le lointain, la brillante coupole de Châh-Abdoul-Azim.

La physionomie de Nasr-ed-Din-Châh, qui accomplissait alors sa trente-sixième année, produit la plus heureuse impression. On y démêle à la fois l’intelligence, la finesse, mais aussi la bonté. Sa mise était fort simple pour un souverain. Il portait une casaque ou redingote boutonnée de velours noir, presque coupée à l’européenne, avec un pantalon de drap noir à sous-pieds, qui passaient sous le bas, sans aucune chaussure aux pieds. Sa tête était coiffée d’un chapeau persan de fourrure noire, mais si diminué en hauteur que ce n’était plus qu’un simple bonnet. Toutefois, le maître de l’Iran se révélait par l’aigrette en rubis et diamants qui surmontait sa coiffure, par le collier d’énormes perles qui lui descendait jusqu’à la ceinture , et par les deux magnifiques agrafes en brillants qui étoilaient sa poitrine et que l’on n’estime pas à moins de quatre millions de francs (4). Ces splendides joyaux proviennent, dit-on, des dépouilles de Dehli et c’est à peu près ce qui reste des immenses trésors rapportés de l’Inde par Nadir-Châh (5).

Après avoir salué une première fois en entrant, nous nous rangeâmes en demi-cercle devant le roi. Là, nouveau et plus profond salut que le Châh nous rendit par un geste de la main, accompagné d’un très-gracieux sourire. Le représentant de la Russie adressa, alors, à Nasr-ed-Dîn une courte harangue, que l’interprète placé près du roi, lui traduisit immédiatement, mais, il me semble, en amplifiant un peu les titres que le ministre avait donnés au souverain de l’Iran qui, pour son peuple, est toujours, comme aux temps de Cyrus, de Chosroès et d’Abbas-le-Grand, le Roi des Rois. M. Zinovieff présenta, ensuite, la lettre de son maître au Châh qui parut la recevoir avec un vif sentiment de satisfaction qu’il traduisit par quelques paroles empreintes de la plus grande cordialité, après que l’un de ses ministres lui eut donné lecture de la missive impériale. Un court colloque s’établit entre le roi et le ministre russe ; ce ne fut qu’un échange de compliments à l’adresse des deux souverains, mêlés de félicitations réciproques sur les intimes relations qui unissaient les deux pays.

Cette conversation terminée, M. Zinovieff, dans les termes les plus obligeants, me présenta au Châh, que je saluai profondément. Nasr-ed-Dîn, prenant la parole, me fit dire, d’abord, du ton le plus affectueux, qu’il avait du plaisir à me voir, comme tous les Européens qui voulaient juger de la Perse par leurs yeux et ne craignaient pas de s’exposer pour cela aux fatigues et aux périls d’un long voyage. Tout en remerciant le prince de l’honneur qu’il me faisait en me permettant de lui offrir mes hommages, je lui répondis que ma curiosité avait reçu sa récompense en voyant la prospérité et la tranquillité dont la Perse jouissait sous son règne, et la grande sécurité avec laquelle les voyageurs circulent de jour et de nuit dans son royaume. Je parlais pour moi, car je sais bien que d’autres voyageurs ont été moins heureux, quoiqu’il ne soit pas difficile de reconnaître un ton habituel d’exagération dans le récit des nombreuses aventures racontées par la plupart de mes devanciers. Ma réponse me parut être singulièrement agréable au Chah. Il reprit, en disant que le nom de la Hollande était bien connu en Perse ; que celle-ci n’avait point oublié la grande factorerie que mes compatriotes avaient possédée à Ispahan, sous le règne d’Abbas-le-Grand, et qu’il regrettait beaucoup que les relations commerciales ne fussent plus les mêmes entre ses Etats et une nation autrefois illustrée par le grand développement de son commerce maritime. Je remerciai le roi, comme je le devais, de ce bon souvenir donné à ma patrie. Nasr-ed-Dîn-Châh me parla ensuite de mon voyage et me demanda si je savais dessiner. Je dus avouer que je n’étais ni peintre ni dessinateur, en exprimant le vif regret que j’en éprouvais à la vue de toutes les belles choses que la Perse m’avait montrées jusqu’ici; mais je dis au roi que je tenais un journal suivi de mes observations et que j’avais le dessein de le publier une fois de retour en Europe. Le roi m’adressa encore quelques questions sur mon voyage, sur la route que j’avais tenue en venant, sur celle que je comptais suivre en m’éloignant de Téhéran. Je le satisfis de mon mieux. Il me demanda enfin où j’avais le projet de voyager en quittant la Perse; je lui répondis que j’allais d’abord à Bagdad, mais que je me proposais de revenir à Téhéran dans le courant de l’année suivante. « Cheili-Choub, » dit-il en accentuant d’un geste final très-gracieux ce mot qui veut dire : « J’en suis enchanté! »

L’audience était terminée. M. Zinovieff prit congé du roi et nous nous retirâmes en observant le même cérémonial, moi naturellement fort satisfait de l’accueil que m’avait fait le roi de Perse, mais surtout du souvenir flatteur qu’il avait accordé à ma nation. J’ai oublié de dire que Nasr-ed-Dîn-Châh, dans cette circonstance, portait des lunettes ; mais je crois que c’était plutôt par contenance que par nécessité et pour faire montre d’une habitude européenne, car il les ôtait et les remettait à chaque instant et semblait jouer avec comme nous ferions d’un binocle ou d’un lorgnon.


Notes explicatives (par nos soins)

(1) Le palais Niavaran, situé contre les collines de Shemiran au nord de Téhéran, a été largement démoli et remplacé par d’autre bâtiments depuis la fin de la dynastie Qajar.

(2) Voyez l’article au sujet de la visite rendue par Tinco au camp d’été de Shahrestanak.

(3) Le traité de Turkmenchay de 1828 mettait fin à la guerre entre la Russie et la Perse et a établi la frontière définitive entre les deux empires sur le fleuve Araxe.

(4) Quatre millions de francs en 1866 pourraient correspondre à quelque douze millions d’euro aujourd’hui, à peu près.

(5) Nader Shah (1698-1747), de la dynastie Afshar, est considéré l’un des chahs les plus puissants dans l’histoire de la Perse. Il a occupé et pillé Delhi, la capital de l’empire Mughal, en 1739.

23/09/1866 – Tinco Lycklama meets Naser al-Din Shah Qajar

At a party organized by the Russian legation at Zergendeh, first secretary Ivan Zinoviev introduced Tinco Lycklama to Yaya Khan, aide-de-camp to the shah of Persia, Naser al-Din. The latter was well aware of the presence of our young Dutch traveller in the Persian capital, but had wondered why Tinco hadn’t asked for a private audience. They convened that Tinco would join Zinoviev a few days later at an official appointment with the Shah set for September 23, 1866. Hereunder follows a translation of Tinco’s own observations during this visit.

(Cliquez ici pour la version française – Klik hier voor de Nederlandse vertaling)

The Darya-e Noor brooch, worn by Naser al-Din Shah
Translation of an extract from the travelogue by Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt – “Voyage en Russie, au Caucase et en Perse, dans la Mésopotamie, le Kurdistan, la Syrie, la Palestine et la Turquie”, volume II – pages 357-362. Click here to view the original French texts on Gallica/BnF. Explanatory footnotes are given by the translator.

On Sunday, September 23, we were to meet at Zergendeh. After breakfast, we would head for the Niavaran palace (1) where the King had arrived a few days earlier after leaving his summer encampment at Shahrestanak (2). I had no uniform, so my dress code commanded a tail-coat, black vest and trousers, and a white tie. I also sported red leather overshoes over my boots. The latter was devised as a clever diplomatic trick at the peace negotiations at Turkmenchay in 1828 (3). Previously, diplomats were expected to honour the Persian custom that requires to approach the King without any shoes on. Using overshoes, you can simply take those off and keep your regular shoes on. The Russians even obtained for their ambassador the privilege of sitting before the Shah; for this reason, the Shah usually receives his visitors standing up, in order to avoid this privilege which has strongly offended the pride of the Qajars.

We mounted our horses at eleven. It was a sizeable procession, as the European legations take along guards, soldiers, servants, grooms – all rather richly dressed – at these occasions. I joined the procession with just two servants, both on horseback like me. It’s only a short distance between Zergendeh and Niavaran ; after a twenty-minute ride we arrived at the gate to the park surrounding the royal residence. After dismounting and walking a few steps, we were led into a tent where we could arrange our clothes, which was quite unnecessary given our short ride. Next, we walked towards another tent – prettier as it was a royal tent. Two masters of ceremony awaited us, and we took off our overshoes before entering. On behalf of the King, we were served coffee, tea, sweets, and waterpipes. We stayed for half an hour, resting on big cushions, drinking or rather tasting tea and coffee from tiny cups mounted on silver feet, inhaling the smoke from the waterpipes. Finally, it was announced that the Shah was ready to receive us. We took our overshoes and followed the masters of ceremony. Via a covered gallery, we passed the interior courtyard of the palace. We arrived at a magnificent staircase where, once again, we took off our overshoes; the masters of ceremony echanged their high Persian hats for white turbans laced with red. We followed up the stairs, and when we arrived at the peristyle we were received by young Persian pages holding silver canes. On the left side of the hall, a double door gave access to a richly decorated antechamber. Barely inside, a velvet curtain was lifted and showed us into another room with fabulous gilted ornaments. There was the King, seated in a golden chair, near an open window that seemed like an artistically arranged scenery, looking towards the palace of Sultanabad, with Tehran in the distance, and even farther we could see the brilliant dome of Shah-Abdol-Azim.

Naser al-Din Shah, 35 years old, gives a happy impression. One remarks instantly his intelligence, his finesse, and also his kindness. He was dressed rather simply for a sovereign. He had a buttoned, black velvet coat on, cut in a style that looks European. Below, he was wearing black stirrup trousers that entered into his socks. He had no shoes on. His small Persian hat made of black fur looked almost like a simple bonnet. However, on top of the hat, the master of Iran was also carrying a feather all made of rubis and diamonds. He also carried a necklace of enormous pearls reaching down to his waist. On his chest, he had two magnificent diamond brooches that are estimated at over four million francs (4). These splendid jewels seem to come from Delhi and belong to the last remaining treasures brought from India by Nader Shah (5).

After an initial greeting upon entering, we formed a semicircle before the King. A more profuse greeting followed, which was acknowledged by a gesture and a most gracious smile from the Shah. The representative of Russia gave a short introduction which was instantly translated by the interpreter standing next to the King. I had the impression that the words somewhat amplified to please the sovereign of Iran who is, in the eyes of his subjects, still the King of Kings – just like in the times of Cyrus, Khosrow, and Abbas the Great. Next, Zinoviev presented a letter from his Emperor to the Shah. One of the Shah’s ministers read the imperial missive to him. The Shah seemed very satisfied and responded with a few cordial words. He and the Russian minister then had a short dialogue, essentially an exchange of mutual compliments between the two sovereigns, self-congratulating for the excellent relationship between the two countries.

After this conversation, Zinoviev presented me to the Shah in the kindest terms. I greeted the Shah profusely. Naser al-Din said affectionately that he was pleased to meet me. He appreciated that Europeans come and see Persia for themselves, without fear of fatigue and despite the perils of such a long voyage. I thanked the prince for the honour to pay my respects. I explained that my curiosity had been satisfied by seeing the prosperity and tranquility that Persia experienced under his rule, including the high degree of security for the travellers that crossed his country by day and by night. I was talking only for myself, as I know that other travellers have not been as lucky, but one can also understand that some writers may somewhat exaggerate their adventures. My answers seemed to please the Shah. He told me that Holland was a very familiar name in Persia, as his country had not forgotten the trading post that my countrymen had operated in Isfahan, under the reign of Abbas the Great. He regretted that the commercial relations between his country and the great seefaring nation were not as they had been. I thanked the King accordingly for this gracious memory of my country. Naser al-Din then questioned me about my voyage and asked if I was a able to sketch. I had to admit that I was no painter nor a draughtsman, and that I regretted this, given all those wonderful things that Persia was showing to me. But, I told the King, I was keeping a diary of my observations and had the intention to publish them upon my return to Europe. The King asked me a few more questions, about the route I had taken, and about my next itinerary upon leaving Tehran. I pleased him as much as I could. He asked me where I was heading after Persia, and I answered that I would first go to Baghdad but that I intended to come back to Tehran the next year. He responded with a most gracious final gesture : “Cheili-Choub”, which means “I am glad to hear that!”

The audience came to an end. Zinoviev saluted the King and we withdrew with the same ceremonial. Obviously, I was very satisfied with the reception by the King of Persia, and especially with the flattering memory he had about my country. I forgot to mention that Naser al-Din Shah was wearing spectacles. I think he used them for posture rather than by necessity; he took them off and placed them back all the time – playing as we would with a pince-nez or a lorgnette.


Footnotes (by the translator)

(1) Most of the Niavaran palace, situated against the Shemiran hills north of Tehran, has been demolished since the end of the Qajar dynasty.

(2) See the article about Tinco’s visit to the Shahrestanak encampment.

(3) The Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828 ended the Russian-Persian war and settled definitely the border between the two empires on the Arras river.

(4) Four million francs in 1866 may be estimated to today’s equivalent of approx. twelve million euro.

(5) Nader Shah (1698-1747), from the house of Afshar, and considered one of the most powerful Shahs in the history of Persia. He occupied and plundered Delhi, capital of the Mughal empire, in 1739.

23/09/1866 – Tinco Lycklama ontmoet Naser al-Din Shah Qajar

Tijdens een feest bij de Russische legatie te Zergendeh, wordt Tinco Lycklama door eerste secretaris Ivan Zinoviev voorgesteld aan Yaya Khan – de “aide de camp” van de shah van Perzië. Deze laatste bleek goed op de hoogte van het verblijf van onze jonge Friese avonturier te Teheran, maar vroeg zich af waarom Tinco nog niet om een audiëntie verzocht had. Ze spraken af dat Tinco enkele dagen later Ziovieviev zou vergezellen ter gelegenheid van een officieel bezoek aan de shah op 23 septembre 1866. Hieronder leveren we een vertaling van Tinco’s eigen schrijven over dit bezoek.

(Click here to see the English translation – Cliquez ici pour la version française)

De Darya-e Noor broche, gedragen door Naser al-Din Shah
Vertaald extract uit het boek van Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt – “Voyage en Russie, au Caucase et en Perse, dans la Mésopotamie, le Kurdistan, la Syrie, la Palestine et la Turquie”, deel II – pagina’s 357-362. Klik hier om het Franse origineel te bekijken op Gallica/BnF. De uitleg onderin deze pagina is van onze hand.

Op de dag van de audiëntie, zondag 23 september, hadden we afspraak te Zergendeh. Na het ontbijt zouden we van daar vertrekken naar het Niavaran paleis (1). De koning was hier enkele dagen geleden toegekomen, na vertrek vanuit zijn  zomerkamp te Shahrestanak (2). Ik had geen uniform, en omwille van de etiquette droeg ik een slipjas, met daaronder een zwarte broek en een colbertjasje, en een witte das. Over mijn laarzen droeg ik ook roodlederen overschoenen. Dit laatste is een diplomatische vondst die dateert van de vrede van Turkmenchay in 1828. Voordien moesten diplomaten conform met Perzisch gebruik hun schoenen uitdoen wanneer ze voor de koning verschenen. Vandaag ontdoet men zich gewoon van die overschoenen en houdt men het normale schoeisel aan. De Russen verkregen zelfs het privilege dat hun ambassadeur voortaan mocht zitten in het bijzijn van de koning. Om die reden, die de trots van de Qajars krenkt, ontvangt de koning van Perzië zijn gasten meestal rechtopstaand om te verhinderen dat van dit privilege gebruik wordt gemaakt.

Om elf uur vertrokken we te paard en vormden een aanzienlijke stoet. De Europese legaties worden bij dergelijke gelegenheden steeds vergezeld door een groot aantal wachten, soldaten, dienaren en paardenmenners – allen behoorlijk deftig uitgedost. Zelf kwam ik met slechts twee dienaren, net als ik te paard. We verlieten Zergendeh en bereikten Niavaran na twintig minuten. We stegen af voor de poort van het park van de koninklijke residentie. Men bracht ons naar een tent waar we onze kleding konden herschikken – wat nauwelijks nodig was na zo’n korte rit. We wandelden vervolgens naar een mooie koninklijke tent. Daar werden we opgewacht door twee ceremoniemeesters, en we deden onze overschoenen uit vooraleer binnen te treden. Namens de koning kregen we thee, koffie, zoetigheden en waterpijpen aangeboden. We moesten een half uur wachten, gezeten op rijkelijke kussens, en genoten van de waterpijpen en van de thee en koffie die ons in kleine kopjes met zilveren voet geserveerd werden. Uiteindelijk werd gemeld dat de shah ons kon ontvangen. We verlieten de tent en trokken onze overschoenen weer aan. De ceremoniemeesters namen ons via een overdekte galerij naar een binnenhof. Aan de voet van een monumentale trap moesten we de overschoenen weer uitdoen. Onze begeleiders zélf vervingen hun hoge Perzische hoeden door witte roodgestreepte tulbanden. We bestegen de trap en werden boven opgewacht door jonge Perzische pages, elk uitgerust met een zilveren stok. Links van de vestibule gaf een dubbele deur toegang tot een mooi versierde wachtkamer. Meteen werd een groot fluwelen gordijn opengetrokken en traden we binnen in een rijkelijk gedecoreerde en vergulde zaal. Daar was de koning, gezeten in een gouden fauteuil, naast een raam dat uitgaf op een schitterend tafereel – een zicht op het paleis van Sultanabad, met daarachter Teheran, en verderop de schitterende koepel van de Shah-Abdol-Azim.

Naser al-Din Shah, amper vijfendertig jaar oud, gaf een blijde indruk. Men ontwaart meteen zijn intelligentie, zijn verfijning en zijn goedheid. Hij was behoorlijk eenvoudig gekleed voor een monarch. Hij droeg een dichtgeknoopte overjas in zwart fluweel, in haast Europese snit. Daaronder droeg hij een zwarte broek met voetbanden tot in de sokken, en geen schoenen. Zijn kleine zwartbonten Perzische hoed leek haast een eenvoudige muts. Daarop droeg de heerser van Iran echter een pluim voorzien van robijnen en diamanten. Rond de nek droeg hij een ketting met grote parels die tot aan zijn heup reikte. Op zijn borst droeg hij twee formidabele broches voorzien van briljanten waarvan men de waarde schat op minstens vier miljoen francs (4). Deze schitterende juwelen zouden afkomstig zijn uit Delhi, de laatste getuigen van de enorme schatten die Nader Shah (5) meebracht uit Indië.

Na het binnenkomen en een eerste groet namen we in een halve cirkel plaats voor de shah. Er volgde dan een uitvoerige begroeting die de shah beantwoordde met een zeer hoffelijk gebaar en een glimlach. De vertegenwoordiger van Rusland gaf vervolgens een korte toespraak die onmiddellijk vertaald werd door de tolk van de koning; de tolk leek me een grote klemtoon te leggen op de titels die de minister richtte tot de monarch van Iran, die door zijn volk nog steeds wordt beschouwd als de koning der koningen – net als in de tijd van Cyrus, Khusro en Abbas de Grote. Zinoviev presenteerde vervolgens de brief van zijn monarch aan de shah. Eén van diens minister gaf lezing van deze keizerlijke brief, en de shah liet met enkele hartelijke antwoorden blijken dat hij zeer voldaan was. Vervolgens wisselden de koning en de Russische minister vooral complimenten uit, met wederzijdse felicitaties over de nauwe relatie tussen beide landen.

Na dit gesprek stelde Zinoviev me met zeer gepaste woorden voor aan de shah. Om te beginnen gaf ik de shah mijn blijk van groot respect. Naser al-Din liet me in uiterst vriendelijke bewoordingen verstaan dat hij me met plezier ontmoette, net als alle Europeanan die met eigen ogen Perzië wilden zien en niet terugschrokken van de uitputting en de gevaren van zo’n lange reis. Ik dankte de prins voor de eer die hij me betoonde, en antwoordde dat mijn nieuwsgierigheid reeds beloond werd door de vaststelling van de welvaart en de rust die Perzië kende onder zijn bewind, evenals van de veiligheid die de reizigers in zijn land genoten, zowel overdag als ‘s nachts. Ik sprak voor mezelf, want ik weet dat andere reizigers minder gelukkig waren, hoewel men in hun verhalen makkelijk enige zin voor overdrijving kon vaststellen. Dit antwoord bleek de shah behoorlijk te behagen. Hij vertelde dat de naam Holland zeer bekend is in Perzië; zijn land herinnerde zich zeer goed de grote factorij die mijn landgenoten te Ispahan opereerden, ten tijde van Abbas de Grote. Hij betreurde trouwens dat de commerciële betrekkingen tussen zijn land en de grote maritieme natie niet meer waren als toen. Ik dankte de koning voor deze mooie hulde aan mijn land. Vervolgens polste Naser al-Din me over mijn reis, en vroeg me of ik kon tekenen. Ik moest toegeven dat ik noch schilder, noch tekenaar was – en dat ik dat zwaar betreurde gelet op alle mooie dingen die Perzië me toonde. Ik vertelde de koning echter dat ik een dagboek van mijn waarnemingen bijhield, en dat ik van plan was deze te publiceren na mijn terugkeer in Europa. De koning stelde me nog enkele vragen, over de route die ik gevolgd had, en over mijn traject na het verlaten van Teheran. Ik trachtte hem te voldoen. Hij vroeg me waar ik na Perzië heenging. Ik antwoordde dat ik naar Bagdad reisde, maar dat ik in de loop van het volgende jaar terug naar Teheran kwam. Waarop hij met een hoffelijk gebaar antwoordde: “Cheili-Choub” – hetgeen wil zeggen: “Dat verheugt me ten zeerste!”.

De audiëntie liep ten einde. Zinoviev nam afscheid van de koning en we trokken ons terug volgens hetzelfde ceremonieel. Ik was natuurlijk uiterst tevreden over het onthaal door de koning van Perzië, en vooral over zijn lofrijke herinnering aan mijn land. Ik vergat daarbij te vertellen dat Naser al-Din een bril droeg, vermoedelijk niet uit noodzaak maar eerder omwille van postuur. Hij speelde ermee, net zoals wij zouden doen met een neusbril of lorgnet.


Uitleg (door de vertaler)

(1) Het Niavaran paleis, gelegen tegen de Shemiran heuvels ten noorden van Teheran, is sinds de Qajar dynastie grotendeels afgebroken en vervangen door nieuwe gebouwen.

(2) Zie het artikel over Tinco’s bezoek aan het zomerverblijf Shahrestanak.

(3) Het verdrag van Turkmenchay van 1828 maakte een einde aan de oorlog tussen Rusland en Perzië en legde de grens tussen beide landen definitief op de loop van de Arras rivier.

(4) Vier miljoen francs in 1866 vertegenwoordigt ruw geschat een twaalf miljoen euro vandaag.

(5) Nader Shah (1698-1747), van de Afshar dynastie, wordt beschouwd als één van de machtigste shahs uit de geschiedenis van Perzië. In 1739 bezette en plunderde hij Delhi, de hoofdstad van het Mughal rijk.

20/09/1866 – A party at the Russian legation gives Tinco his ticket to the Shah

Just like the British, who moved to their Gulhek residence to escape the heat of Tehran, the Russians had their own summer compound in neighbouring Zergendeh. And, like the British, the Russians organized parties to which all Qajar dignitaries and foreigners in the capital were invited. Tinco Lycklama never refused.

Zergendeh, summer residence of the Russian legation to Persia, in 1858 – Photography by Luigi Pesce (Collection : The Metropolitan Museum)

It will require research in the Russian state archives to get a better picture of the people and function of the Russian legation to Persia in the 1860s.

Russia and Persia were two empires at peace. Not much love was lost between them, but since the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828 they had settled their definitive border at the Aras river. War was something of the past. Another conflict, the Crimean War, had kept the Europeans busy in the 1850s and revolved around the reach of the (declining) Ottoman empire. One of the outcomes of that war – the Treaty of Paris of 1856 – had left Russia in a weakened position.

Andrey Feodorovich Budberg (1817-1881)
Andrey Fedorovich Budberg (1817-1881)

Interestingly, Tinco Lycklama was a close friend of the Russian ambassador to France, Andrey Fedorovich Budberg (1817-1881) – alternatively called Baron André de Budberg. In just a single line in the 2,200 pages of his travel account, Tinco tells us that he maintained regular correspondence with his friend Budberg (and such correspondence continued at least until August 1867, when letters from Budberg were awaiting Tinco upon his second visit in Tehran).

Prior to his position in Paris, Budberg had been Russia’s top diplomat to Vienna an Berlin. In the geopolitical situation at that time, these were significant positions. Budberg arrived in Paris in 1862, and held the post of ambassador until 1868. This coincides perfectly with Tinco’s years of study in Paris, and the grand tour though the Orient that followed. Budberg was a very  close ally of the Russian Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich Romanov (1827-1892) – a brother of Tsar Alexander II and chairman of the Council of Ministers for sixteen years from 1865 onwards.

Nikolay de Giers (1820-1895)

Given these connections, it remains surprising that Tinco Lycklama never mentions Nikolay Karlovich Girs (1820-1895) – also named Nicholas de Giers. Later in life, this man would become the Russian foreign minister under Tsar Alexander III. But, at the time of Tinco’s stay in Tehran, Nikolay Girs was the Russian minister plenipotentiary to the Qajar court.

Perhaps Nikolay Girs was absent during the five months that Tinco lived in the Persian capital? Possibly. However, why mention the other Russian diplomats and the top people at the other foreign legations – but not Nikolay Girs? For the moment, this remains a mystery.

Antoin Sevruguin (1830-1933), Qajar court photographer

In the overview of foreign legations in 1860’s Persia, we gave the names of those who, in 1866, were officially stationed at the Russian legation. One of them was Vasily Sevryugin, the first drogman (translator/interpreter). This man is worth mentioning, if only because he was the father of Antoin Sevruguin (1830-1933) who, in the late 19th century, produced a larged quantity of photography of people and sites throughout Persia – including the first images of women in the Shah’s harem. Born as a Russian in Tehran, Antoin Sevruguin spent virtually all his life at the service of the Qajar court.

The second position of the legation was held by first secretary Ivan Alekseevich Zinoviev (1835-1917). After a spell in Romania, Zinoviev became his country’s minister plenipotentiary in Persia between 1876-83. But, he was already stationed there in the 1860s. Tinco Lycklama met him several times, and it is together with Zinoviev that he was received in private audience by Naser al-Din Shah.

Teodoro Edmondo de Krebel
Théodore Edmond de Krebel (1841-1926)

Someone who does not appear on the formal list of the Almanach de Gotha of 1866 (see notes), is Théodore Edmond de Krebel (1841-1926). This is interesting, because Tinco refers to him once, telling us that he had to pay the man a visit to return a favor. He calls Krebel an “attaché” to the legation. Whereas Krebel is officially present in Tehran in the 1870s, he doesn’t appear so in the 1860s. We found a reference calling him a “Russian agent” – which can mean many things. Théodore Edmond de Krebel also turns up later in diplomatic positions in Italy, including as consul-general in Genua – and dies in Rome. It so happens that Krebel had been chamberlain to the Russian tsar – but we currently lack further detail.

As said earlier, we need some serious digging in Russian archives to gain a better understanding of the diplomatic activities (and their operators) in 1860s Persia. Perhaps it will help us to learn a few more things about Tinco himself.


But, today, on September 20th 1866, it’s party time at Zergendeh – once again. The occasion was a celebration to honor the anniversary of tsar Alexander II. This can’t be his birthday, as the Tsar was born in March – nor his reign as that started in March 1855. Probably his coronation of September 7, 1855 was the belated pretext for having a good time.

All the corps diplomatique of Tehran was present, as well as almost all the ministers of the Shah’s government and many high dignitaries. It was a magnificant evening, with formidable banquet, excellent music (directed by the Shah’s chief musician, the Frenchman Rouyon), and with a terrific finale of fireworks that lit the skies of the Chimran hills.

At this occasion, Zinoviev presented Tinco Lycklama to Yaya Khan, the aide de camp of Naser al-Din Shah. This man of confidence voiced the puzzlement of the Shah that, after spending five months in Tehran, Tinco had not yet asked for an audience. In fact, Yaya Khan put it like this: the Shah would be very surprised if Tinco were to leave Tehran without asking for an appointment.

The message was clear. Everyone in Tehran knew that Tinco was about to travel the country – certainly to satisfy his curiosity for the people, its history and its ancient sites. But, Tinco was also about to travel to Baghdad – in Ottoman territory – and intended to spend the winter there. The next summer, Tinco would return to Teheran, and it is evident that his entire travel plans (including a long trip along the Ottoman-Persian border) were very well known.

Tinco was friendly with the French, the British and the Russians. And, he had developed close relationships into the Qajar Shah’s inner circle. Indeed, an audience with the Shah was appropriate, and it would happen on September 23, 1866.


  • Almanach de Gotha: annuaire généalogique, diplomatique et statistique pour l’année 1867, published November 1866 by Justus Perthes, Gotha. (see link…)
  • Almanach de Gotha: annuaire généalogique, diplomatique et statistique pour l’année 1868, published November 1867 by Justus Perthes, Gotha. (see link…)