• gerard van weyenbergh

Oriental gardens, when Princes flowered the desert.

Closely linked to the symbolism of power, the oriental gardens are places of reception, meditation, and intimate practices. Their splendor has inspired poets, artists, and theologians since ancient times. Who, apart from sovereigns, could make deserts bloom?

It is probably in Iran, that the "Oriental gardens" were born. Refuges against the scorching heat, these enclosures planted with trees and flowers with a spellbinding scent will inspire all the "landscapers" and horticulturalists of the Islamic world, from Cordoba to Agra, via Marrakech, Samarkand, and Isfahan. Inheriting the know-how of the Assyrian rulers (who built royal parks and gardens near their successive capitals of Nineveh and Nimrud), Cyrus the Great (reigned around 559 - 530 BC) thus decided to establish his palatial residence in Pasargades around 550 BCE, in the province of Fars, north of Persepolis.

The ancient authors will be full of praise when evoking the splendor of these "paradises" (the Greek word paradeison comes from the old Persian), which were as much from the hunting enclosure as from the pleasure park. Irrigated thanks to a clever network of canals, obeying a strict geometrical distribution (monumental doors led to paths planted with trees leading to different pavilions), this ideal microcosm loud and clear affirmed the omnipotence of the Achaemenid sovereign, a magician making him emerge from the bowels of the earth, water, the promise of life and fertility.

The enchanting parks of Samarkand

Having kept a certain inclination for nomadism, the Persian dynasts liked to change their residence according to the seasons. The Achaemenid sovereigns stayed in Susa in winter and in Ecbatane in summer, granting Persepolis only a symbolic role of capital. Of Turkish-Mongolian origin, the great Tamerlane himself (the founder of the Timurid dynasty, in the 14th century) had little taste for palaces, preferring them the tranquility of the pavilions or the ephemeral nature of improvised camps in green meadows. In his city of Samarkand , the sovereign thus liked to "nomadize" according to his numerous gardens to give parties there whose sumptuousness and splendor ignited the stories of European travelers.

Under the pen of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, a Castilian gentleman sent to the embassy to Tamerlane in 1404; everything is just abundance of food and luxury display. Servants take turns constantly to satisfy the needs of the guests for mutton and horse meat, glasses of wine and fruit (melons, grapes, peaches), which grow in abundance in this fertile valley. Musicians and games enliven these pantagruelic banquets, from which women hardly seem excluded. The festivities continue late into the night until the senses are exhausted.

The Registan of Samarkand

read complete documentation in French, in Connaissance des arts