Have you ever heard of the color ‘Persian blue’? Well, I am fairly sure that it was first invented in the city of Qom, Iran. Qom is a city roughly 3 hours southwest of Tehran, famous for its religious and historic significance – and filled with the color blue. It is the city of the marvelously blue Fatima Masumeh Shrine, commemorating the pious sister of Imam Reza, and a meeting point for pilgrims from all over the world. Here are some of my thoughts on the city!
Qom was the first place that I visited in Iran which seemed slightly touristy. Not only did I meet several South Asian tourists, but I even met my first European tourists (it was quite exciting, not going to lie!). And I wasn’t surprised! Qom is widely known for its importance to followers of Shia Islam, but also for its incredible beauty. The city is centered around the Fatima Masumeh Shrine, seen below in the pictures, and its alleys are filled with little guest houses and cozy restaurants. It even boasts a fairly large bazar outside the shrine walls, selling everything from rosaries and rings to snacks and clothes. It was snowing slightly the day we went, so we spent a couple of hours admiring the views of the shrine over a cup of tea in a restaurant.
The city also boasts several theological centers, libraries and universities, and even some pre-Islamic remnants (Qom dates back to Sassanian times). But during my trip, I was just hunting for the Persian blue, and thus stayed around the shrine.
The shrine and structures around it
I entered the shrine without any problems – there was only a short hold-up while I was taken into a tent to be dressed in a chador. Since I am not Muslim, I was also taken around the shrine by a free and very friendly tour guide, which was absolutely great! She shared stories about the shrine, showed me around and helped me take pictures. I was delighted.
The shrine and structures around it are some of the most beautiful buildings that I have ever seen. Everything is decorated in blues and gold (plus some seasonal black, red and green for the month of muharram), and there just seemed to be no end to the number of arches, towers, courtyards and fountains that we passed. The city was even more beautiful at night, when the lights turned on and azan echoed through the city. Absolutely magical.
Arches, gates and ceilings of Fatima Masumeh Shrine, Qom
I wish I could’ve spent days just admiring the patterns, tiles and mosaics of the shrine – it is safe to say that there is nothing like it outside of Iran. The intricacy and colors of the patterns are mesmerizing, even to the more accustomed eye (so I have heard). I begun an obsession with blue after leaving Qom, and bought only blue souvenirs when I came back to Tehran.
Close-ups of the tiles
I know, I have published many of these before. But honestly, they’re so beautiful that they deserve to be featured again.
A final thought on Qom: Do not feel scared by the city’s religious reputation. While the fashion is slightly more conservative than that of Tehran, I met no hostility or strange glances in Qom. I had to wear a chador inside the shrine area, but that was provided at the entrance (I was even dressed by some helpful girls, who giggled at my poor chador fashion!). There are a lot of mullahs around the city, but I don’t think that they stand out more than anyone else. Actually, one of my favorite memories from the city is jumping out of the way for a motorcycle carrying no less than three mullahs, all dressed in sunglasses, and each carrying a heap of freshly baked bread. The image makes me smile every time.
All photos taken by me.