A Journey to Shirazسفرنامہ سکینہ سلطان وقار الدولۃ Translated by: Sunil Sharma. Original language: Persian
On June 1 1905 at the command of His Majesty Mozaffar-od-din Shah and the request of Soltan ‘Abd-ol-majid Mirza ‘Ain-od-dowleh and Her Highness Shams-od-dowleh I had to go to Shiraz with Her Highness Anis-od-dowleh. For several days I was busy with the arrangements and paperwork for his lord Mo’tasam-ol-molk, my husband, who was to take the bride. The lady Nozhat-os-saltaneh was sent to invite us to go to the andarun from where the bride would depart, inshallah.
Thursday, June 1, 1905
This morning we took care of the remaining tasks, sealed the door to the rooms and set off for the andarun. My husband’s aunt and Homa Khanom had also come to see us. My aunt Soghra Khanom and some other people were sorrowful. Somehow we bade farewell to them, with hope in God, and came out of the house. We got into a carriage and went to the andarun.
I swear by God on the sanctity of the travelers of the plain of Karbala that the king’s travel is without danger. Inshallah, may he and his companions return safely. May the sincere friendship of all make our trip without danger too. I am hopeful that it will be an auspicious day when we enter Shiraz and the bride is honored and accepted by the bridegroom. And we, having discharged our duty and satisfied, will return safely to this place. This is my prayer and that of a group of angels. Amin.
At all events, when we entered the andarun the lady Nozhat-as-saltaneh showed us great affection and kindness. She gave us some gold coins and cash for the bride’s expenses on the trip. She came all the way to the door of the andarun and made many recommendations to me. We came out of the andarun. The carriage was ready. When the ladies Shams-od-dowleh, Mahd-e Owliya, and the bride were seated, the carriage set off. A crowd of spectators had lined both sides of the road. My husband bade farewell to Mo’atamad-ol-haram and he and Mo’in-ol-haram got on their mounts. Some mounted royal gentlemen rode on both sides of the carriage. This group was with us until outside the city gate. After that they were sent off. The lady Shams-od-dowleh said many prayers for the wellbeing of His Majesty, the crown prince, the groom, and the grand vizier. We also said amin until we reached Mansouriyeh. The people there had come forward and made a sacrifice. We alighted and went inside. When we entered the door of the room, we saw Aziz Khan was shouting, “Rascal, get out, why do you remain here?” Mo’in-ol-haram and Basharat Khan and Bahlul Khan hastily entered the room to see who it was. They found a mirror in front of the door of the room. Aziz Khan had seen his own form in it and cried out! The men laughed a lot. After they told the ladies, there was great laughter too. Inshallah, this trip will be auspicious. We had a good prognostication. There were a lot of sweets and fruits set out on the table. We had had tea and sweets, when we saw the lord Sayf-ol-molk had come. He sat for a while and left after saying goodbye. The lady Mahd-e Owliya also departed. Shams-old-dowleh spent that night in Mansouriyeh. We ate dinner and slept.
Friday, June 2, 1905
Today we must go to Kahrizak and visit the holy shrine of Abd-ol-azim in the morning. Mo’tamad-ol-haram came from the city to escort the bride. We were honored by a visit to the shrine. After the pilgrimage and prayer for His Majesty’s wellbeing that is obligatory to all we came out. Hajiyeh Shams-od-dowleh stood like Hazrat Muslim, and we, like the people of Kufa, leaving her by herself said goodbye. We came and getting into the carriage set off.
After we had traveled a bit, the Mo’tamad-ol-haram said goodbye and stood while we left and reached Kahrizak, where we stopped at the garden of Amin-od-dowleh. But we greatly missed the pleasure of the company of the lady Hajiyeh Shams-od-dowleh. After spending the night there, we moved on the next day.
Saturday, June 17, 1905, the 14th stop on the trip to Shiraz
Today we must go to Esfahan. We woke up and in keeping with our daily routine the lord Mo’in-ol-haram came and we got in. When we reached the Isfahan gate, a mounted page conveyed the greetings of the prince Sultan Mas’ud Mirza. He had also sent some eunuchs and carriages, but my husband and the lord Mo’in-ol-haram displayed great formality and we entered in our own carriages in which we were seated.
I was in Esfahan after several years, but what was the use since all my relatives were gone and I was nostalgic remembering them. I was extremely sad as we passed the Khaju bridge. The river had a little water. Nothing was the same as I had seen in my childhood. Since I had said that no one should write the news of my arrival to those of my family who remained, no one came for me. Inshallah, if I am alive, when I return from Shiraz I will inform them so that they come to maintain the bonds of kinship. Although I have no one, I will inform the few people who remain.
July 6,, Entry into Shiraz
We arrived safely. Several ladies were standing there holding a Quran. They made us pass under it and with great respect we entered the hall. Sweets, sherbet, and all kinds of protocol were ready. After we were sitting for a bit, the lady Eftekhar-od-dowleh introduced the women to us. Since we are the guests of Mr. Sardar in this garden, he had placed a shawl and coin for him, and the same as a presentation gift for Hajji Moqtader-ol-molk.
July 7, Stay in the Bagh-e Eram
This morning I woke up and after the prescribed prayers and tea, I came to the makhlas. Maghrur Khan came bringing a handwritten note from His Highness, then the wife of Hajji Moqtadar-ol-molk came. A group of singers livened the day. A dancer, a black slave, who belonged to Monavvar khanom came. She danced well. As opposed to the group yesterday, they played and sang a bit until midday. After lunch we slept. Then I got up and went to the hammam. They had decorated the hammam nicely. It was a wonderful hammam. After coming out of there, guests arrived and stayed for tea. The people I knew were the wife of the Friday imam with her daughter-in-law and some other women. I knew some of them. It was evening and they all left. They kept the singers for the night and they played until dinner time. After dinner we went to sleep.
July 8, Wedding night
After drinking tea in the morning, Mrs. Sardar took all the guests to another town. No one remained in the garden except for us. Afterwards she took us to the hammam. After we returned from the hammam, we had lunch and slept. In the evening, we did some necessary tasks for the lady. One hour to sunset, Mrs. Sardar with some of her tribal chiefs came behind the bride, but because I had some work I didn’t meet any of them until we covered the bride with a chador. They came before us and tossed some shahis over the bride. The lords Mo’in-ol-haram and Maghrur Khan brought the bride and sat her in the carriage. They had decorated the carriage beautifully. It was a big carriage. Mrs. Sardar too came into the carriage with the bride. We were four of us. But what can I say about the crowd! No one had seen such lighting, fireworks, and crowds at any wedding.
The wedding is at six o’clock tonight. The wedding will continue until 10. There was a crowd of men and soldiers holding lamps around the carriage that we did not see anyone, except from time to time we saw His Highness, Mr. Sardar and my husband. They had closed off a big street. They had arranged the arches of the gates so beautifully. Thank God, it went well and the bride was taken into the andarun.
July 25, Stay in the Jahannoma Garden
After waking up in the morning and having tea, the gentlemen went to the city to take care of unfinished business. We too were busy with tasks until the evening. After lunch my husband arrived and said that tonight Mo’in-ol-haram had gone to the garden with His Highness and would come tomorrow. Some of the noblemen of Shiraz too would come here tonight to see us off. We sent for some sweets and fruits to be brought. In the evening some people came and left. Hajji Moqtadar-ol-molk brought me a handwritten note from His Highness to take to Tehran. It brightened my eyes but I was a bit regretful that if he were in the city, we could have seen him one more time.
July 26, Departure from Shiraz
We must leave the garden and reach Akbarabad today. Due to the gathering of the people in the camp and traveling companions and our conversations, my poor husband’s voice was heard speaking until the evening. We too had packed our luggage and were sitting but we hadn’t left. At last, around sunset Mr. Mirza Ahmad Khan came and said, “Your husband has left to see the prince and has asked us to take you to Akbarabad. The functionaries and all the servants are to stay here. At the end of the night they will send the luggage.” We put on our chadors and, with our hopes in God, came out and got in and set off. Bad roads, dark night, without any people around, somehow we made it to Akbarabad and alighted there. We didn’t have anything. Slowly the luggage and men arrived. Thank God, my husband also arrived. We had dinner at six o’clock and slept.
September 2, 1905, 1st Rajab, 28th stop on the return trip from Shiraz
Today we must go to Qom. In the morning after doing the prescribed prayers we drank tea and were on our way. Close to midday we reached Qom. The dome that was visible from far away was the first sign of the auspicious shrine. I said prayers for His Majesty and all the ladies who were the cause of my taking this trip and making this pilgrimage. May God accept my prayers. We ate lunch and slept a little. In the evening we went to visit the shrine. We missed all our friends. I am the deputy for the pilgrimage of all of them. I performed the pilgrimage and said the special prayers for today, if it is accepted. I remember it was also the 1st of Rajab in Kazimayn that I recited those prayers. May I have another day like this in the presence of Imam Reza. O God, answer the prayers of those with wounded hearts.
September 3rd, 1905, Stay in Qom
This morning we woke up and visited the shrine. Afterwards we had lunch and slept in the basement. Truly, they have a nice house here. Amin-os-saltaneh has built a nice house. I wanted to remain here. Today Sayyed Ahmad got a sheep that I had asked for as a sacrifice for Mirza Asadollah Khan. I gave it to him to give in charity. He took it and distributed it among people. Today my husband is very troubled about his brother. May God restore him to health. The wife of Hajji Khan came to see me with her children. She said, “Being ill is very bad.”
September 4, 1905
This morning after drinking tea I put on the chador and we went out to visit the shrine of Ali ibn Ja’far. We made a pilgrimage to several mamzadeh shrines. Having returned we visited the shrine of Hazrat Ma’sumeh and came home. We saw that Sayyedeh khanom was packing the luggage with a lot of surliness and sulking. I said, “What’s going on?” She said, “We must leave today.” I believed it. I sent for Mirza Ahmad Khan who said, “Yes, what can I do? They said to take the sick man to Tehran quickly.” It was decided that we would leave in the evening. We too finished our tasks. In the evening I again went to the shrine with the wife of Hajji Khan who had come. One hour to sunset we left. At midnight we reached Manzariyeh where we stayed in a guesthouse.
September 5, 1905, 29th stop on the return trip from Shiraz
Today we are in Manzariyeh until the evening. We will travel at night again. Today our house is a house of illness. His condition is serious. The physician came in the morning, didn’t say anything. But when he came in the evening, he said, “Tonight there is danger.” It was decided to spend that night there too. Close to sunset Mirza Asadollah himself said, “Why are you not leaving?” They said, “For your sake. We will remain here.” He said, “No, let’s leave right now.”
The poor sick man insisted that we get on the way. He himself climbed in. We came until Barabad. He said, “Drop me right here.” He climbed down from the carriage and slept. It was a sleep from which there was no waking up. My poor husband. He was in a state over the death of his brother, the only one he had, in the middle of a desert. In short, no matter how much he cried, his brother was gone. His body was sent off to Qom. We ourselves set off for Aliabad. We reached Aliabad in time for the morning prayer. Having said the prayers, we slept a little. My husband couldn’t sleep and was again weeping. Until sunset this was what we did. My sister Roqayyeh, as well as the family of Homa khanom, came here to go to Karbala. There were a lot of pilgrims here who left in the evening. Some pilgrims came to me in the garden to say goodbye since they were acquaintances. They had heard that we had come. We were there that day. The next night we left for Hasanabad.
September, 7 1905, 32nd stop on the return trip from Shiraz
Today we must go to Tehran. In the morning we arrived at Abd-ol-azim. In the house we offered prayers, drank tea. Then we visited the holy shrine. After completing the pilgrimage, we prayed for the well-being of His Majesty, and other entitled persons, and offered a thousand thanks to God that we had returned here alive. Poor Mr. Mirza Asadollah Khan died. Now we must go to the city in this downcast state. However, this is the way of the world.
We made the pilgrimage and got ready to leave. Through Mirza Ahmad Khan I gave tips to the carriage drivers; one by one he gave each one money with his own hand. We came to Ibn Babuyeh and got down to perform the pilgrimage, and saw that the lord Moshar-ol-molk had come to welcome us. He had coffee with my husband and left. Likewise, the lord Ehtesham-ol-khaqan and Hakimbashi came to see us as we neared the city. They said goodbye and left. We remained alone! Then some of our family members came to welcome us and we entered the city with them in good health.
Sakineh Sultan, Ruznameh-ye Safar-e ‘atabat va Makkeh, ed. Rasul Ja’fariyan and Kiyanush Kiyani Haftlang (Tehran: Elm, 2010)
Sakineh Sultan, Safarnameh-ye Sakineh Sultan Vaqar-od-dowleh, ed. Kianush Kiyani Haftlang (Tehran: Taravesh-e Qalam, 2003).
Amineh Mahallati, “Memoirs of Iranian Women Travelers to Mecca,” Iranian Studies 44 (2011): 831-49. This article contains translated passages on the journeys from Damascus to Aleppo, from Aleppo to Iskandarun, and from Baghdad to Samarra.