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Best Handicrafts of Iran: Souvenirs from the Past
Every city in the world has lots of stories to tell. These stories can be seen through the architecture of the city, the way its people talk, the way they dress, also in their social relations. However, the most significant way in which a city’s history and tradition unfolds is in its souvenirs and handicrafts.
When we travel to a city, most of us buy souvenirs for our loved ones, some of us however, buy souvenirs for ourselves. People who buy souvenirs for themselves are most likely among those people who value every second of their life and at the same time, know the worth and the standard of a product, an artifact and indeed a piece of art as it sometimes tells of a thousand-year-old history.
Here in this special blog which is the first one of its own and is going to be followed by more stories, I intend to introduce you to the most significant souvenirs of some cities of Iran. What you must keep in mind is that we here in Visit Our Iran have chosen these cities among many due to their popularity for the tourists, we also offer tours on them. Moreover, these cities have more souvenirs and artifacts than the ones we mention here, and the choice has been based on the level of authenticity and uniqueness. As mentioned earlier, other cities and their artifacts will be introduced in other blogs.
Sistan and Baluchestan; Dreams on Fabric and Clay
The city of Iranshahr in Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran is the cradle of the special Balouchi needle work.
Different types of needle work on various fabrics is done in different cities of Iran, but the special needle work of Balouch women is one of its own. An artifact even recognized by UNICEF, the final product finds its roots in the dreams and visions of the Balouch women. The symmetrical shapes are so accurate that if you use a ruler you can easily see the exact measurements which are done by years of practice and the bare eye.
These beautiful needle works are usually done with silk but on different fabrics. Many jackets and head wears are made in this way which are popular to the folk people of the province. However, it was during the 1970’s that this art was highly upgraded, when designers tried them on the special dresses of the Queen, which she wore on special occasions like Nowruz. From that time till now, people are paying more and more attention to this art. The products of the cradle of the Balouchi needle work are not just a piece of clothing, or a fabric which is worked on beautifully, but a piece of art worthy of greater attention and interest.
Many young designers nowadays use these beautiful patterns and fabrics in their works. Manteaux, jackets and other pieces of clothing with the art of Balouchi needle works are among the most popular trends among people. Also, at the Lipar Lake or the Pink Lake in Sistan and Baluchestan province you can find women and girls of different ages who make handmade accessories. A charity event started a few years ago to enable the wonderful artists of the area to know their power and work on it, it was supported with great interest and joy, and is one of the most successful Balouchi needlework groups of the area.
Sistan and Baluchestan is the home of this special kind of needle work, no matter who does it, this artifact tells a story of thousands of years of dreaming and working. The story of women who produced something out of their dreams and visions that has gone to be so precious that the whole world will love.
Another special handicraft of Sistan and Baluchestan is pottery. Pottery is one of the first acts of making artifacts done by humans, and the interesting fact about the special kind of pottery which is done in Sistan and Baluchestan is that the Balouch men bring the needed soil and women make dishes and containers without using pottery wheel and in the most basic form. Still the final product is highly applicable and delicately made.
Kerman Souvenirs; from a Needle Work Folk Art to Sweet Treasures from the Earth
It won’t be wrong if we call Kerman the wonderland of Iran. Geographically and culturally, Kerman is so diverse and beautiful that it has enabled its inhabitants to produce the most beautiful artifacts like Patteh and Copper works, and the most delicious sweets like Kolompeh.
A folk art, Patteh is mostly created by women. A wide piece of wool fabric is needle worked with colored thread, mostly of silk.
The interesting fact about Patteh can be its popular shapes. Flourishes of paisley patterns, cypress trees and the sun are all pre-Islamic symbols.
Kerman houses one of the main bazaars of copper and its products in Iran. The copper delivered from different mines of the province takes shapes and forms of beautiful handicrafts in the hands of the masters.
When you visit Kerman and its bazaars, you can find the beautiful patterns of Patteh to see.
Kerman is also known for producing the best dates of Iran. As a result, the most delicious sweets, cookies and pancakes with date are made in this province. One of the most famous and delicious ones is Kolompeh, a date based pancake which can be made in different forms and shapes.
Isfahan’s Souvenirs; Glass Fused to Perfection, Metal Etched to Beauty, and One of the Oldest Sweets of Iran
Isfahan has been the home to artists and masters for a very long time and this has enabled its handicrafts and artifacts to be among the most distinguished items on any list of souvenirs.
One can make a very long list of them, but the most authentic I think would be Mina Kari. So what is Mina Kari? When powdered glass is fused to a substance by firing and being shaped in the process of cooling down, it is called Mina Kari or vitreous enamel and even porcelain enamel, as it is done on different bases.
Different kinds of objects are made in this way that can decorate your houses to the most beautiful and unique fashions. Vases, cups, even dishes and bowls in different sizes and shapes are made in this way. You can also watch the process in the great bazaar of Isfahan done by masters who have learned the craft through generations.
Another remarkable handicraft of Isfahan is called Ghalamzani, or Etching. Masters of etching can make different dishes, vases, or any kind of containers from different metals which are shaped into precious artifacts.
Isfahan is also home to one of the oldest sweets of Iran known as Gaz. Originally taken from the roots of a tree that grows mainly in mountains, pistachio, almond and sugar is added to the original substance. Gaz is one of the most delicious sweets which is usually eaten with tea. When you visit Naqshe-Jahan Square you can find many stores who sell different kinds of Gaz.
Shiraz’s Wood Carving; Resurrecting the Wood
Shiraz, or the cultural capital of Iran is home to many artifacts, artists and literary figures. Every part of this city has a story to tell, from Persepolis to Hafezieh, from Narenjestan to Saeideh. From its ancient beautiful bazaar you can hear the story of hundreds of years of living and loving of some of the most heartwarming, welcoming and hospitable people on earth.
Monabat Kari, or the art of wood carving may be done in different cities of Iran, but the beautiful tableaus of wood carving which are made in Shiraz most specifically can be one of the unique decorations of your house. You can also find beautiful wooden boxes, pipes and other artifacts being elaborately worked on by Shirazi masters to bring back home with you.
A form of woodworking which has been done widely throughout the world, takes the shapes and forms of Iranian and Islamic symbols and sceneries in Shiraz, presents its long history and tradition in the most beautiful way.
Another beautiful and famous handicraft made in Shiraz out of wood is called Khatam Kari. Little triangular wooden pieces are set together to make different kinds and shapes of containers, an art which has developed for more than 600 years and is meeting its perfect beauty these days. Among these small wooden triangular shapes pieces of gold, silver and aluminum are used.
Masghati is one of the most delicious Iranian desserts that comes from Shiraz. This sweet porridge is usually decorated with pistachio or almond and cut in symmetrical shapes before serving.
Yazd’s Termeh; a Piece of Fabric from Millenniums Ago
The city of Yazd is known for many things, one of them being the genius air conditioning system of the houses of Yazd in thousands of years. Some people call it the city of wind-catchers!
Aside from the genius architecture, the city has many artifacts and beautiful, handmade products to offer. The special kind of fabric traditionally made in Yazd is of the highest quality and the most renowned in the world. This fabric is called Termeh. This handwoven cloth, Termeh, requires a good wool with long fibers, a master and a worker called Goushvareh-Kesh. With these two people constant working only 25 to 30 centimeters of Termeh is woven in a day.
The art of weaving Termeh has been present in the life of Iranians for thousands of years. There are Greek and Chinese records from very old times, like 2,500 years ago that appreciate the art of Iranian/Persian cloth weaving.
While visiting the city of Yazd, among its many attractions make sure you visit its bazaars and workshops in which you can see how Termeh is woven. The beautiful fabrics can cover anything, from cushions to tables, from tableaus to bed covers, and with their beautiful light and jujube red, green, orange and black colors bring joy and hundreds of years of history and tradition into your houses.
In the city of Yazd different kinds of sweets are made, but the most famous one is called Baghlava. A kind of sweet which is made in different cities and also in different countries, finds authenticity in Yazd. Baghlava is made in different symmetrical shapes and with a variety of tastes from pistachio to almond and coconut. Baghlava is mostly served with tea.
Ancient Artifacts; a Pause in the Chaotic World of Ours
What we buy as a reminder, a gift or an added piece of decoration for our homes, has lived many years, it has come down to us from one generation to the other. It has grown from a way of making things to make lives easier to be a piece of art done by masters.
These items are a token from the past, something to be appreciated. In our world in which everything happens so quickly, they are like a pause, to sit back and watch the stories in front of you.
However, they are not just stories, although they would be more than enough if they were. Let me give you an instance. Do you remember the Lipar girls who made accessories using the special needle work of Balochistan? These needle works coming down to these girls from their mothers and a long line of women throughout time, became something to enable them to feed their families in the time of hardships, one of these girls has claimed that she pays for the eight members of her family. When we buy souvenirs from different parts of the world we visit, it is like we are taking a piece of that place, its people and its history and tradition with ourselves back home. We are keeping a light on that brightens up people’s lives, which glorifies history, tradition, culture and art.