On Monday evening, Dr Iftikhar Salahuddin, an ENT Surgeon at the Aga Khan University (AKU), had his audience captivated with a presentation that outlined the rise and fall of Emperors and Kings in the Muslim period of Iran and exhibited a breathtakingly rich canvas of culture, art and architecture bequeathed by the Safavids to the eternal city Isfahān. It also celebrated the poets Firdausi, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz and their influence on Persian culture.
"Iran is a land of ancient history and culture," said Dr Salahuddin, "and is amongst the oldest civilizations in the world. In the 6th century BC, the vast Persian Empire stretched from the Aegean Sea to the Indus River, where we are now."
Accompanied by exquisite images from archives and the speaker's own collection, Dr Salahuddin and his audience embarked on a journey showcasing the saga of the Persians, beginning with the rule of the mighty Emperor Cyrus, who was considered to be the very first ‘Emperor of the World’ and who is central to the history of Iran. He related the story of the tragic 20-year Greco-Persian wars and the interminable feuds between the Romans and the Persians. These wars ended with the conquest of Sassanid Persia by the Muslim Arabs, resulting in the Sassanid dynasty that lasted 400 years and was the last dynasty before Islam came to Persia.
The stunning images from Iran, included, among others, those of: Persopolis, the ancient capital of Persia and burial place of many Achaemenid kings; Bait-al-Hikmah, the house of wisdom and knowledge; Jāmeh Mosque of Isfahān, Naqsh-e-Jahan Square or Imam Square, Shah or Imam Mosque and Chahar Bagh in Isfahān; the Peacock Throne built by Shah Jehan and a replica of the same in Golestan Palace, Tehran; and the Daria-i-Noor and Koh-i-Noor diamonds.
Dr Salahuddin, has been associated with AKU for over 30 years, and besides being a respected clinician, teacher and surgeon, is an avid photographer and history enthusiast who has an abiding interest in documenting Muslim history, art and architecture. His photography and narrations have inspired a play on Jerusalem which was staged in both Karachi and Lahore. He is also the author of the coffee-table book and travelogue titled, Jerusalem – A Journey Back in Time for which he secured the Peace Prize 2014, awarded by the Federal Republic of Germany for books that promote peace, international understanding and tolerance in the world.
The event was organized by the Sixth Sense Forum (6sf) of AKU, which aims to promote free, open and academic discourse on a variety of topics. Over the last four and a half years, 6sf has invited a number of renowned speakers from within and outside Pakistan to speak on art, history, geography, culture, music, sports and more.