The Bridge Between East and West Silk Road
In ancient times the Silk Road started from Tian Huang town in China. Then it continued to Gansu Province at north, entered the present Eastern Turkistan, crossed central Afghanistan and continued to Samarqand and Bukhara. From Bukhara, the highway continued to Mary, Sarakhs, Nishapur, and Gorgan and reached Rey, from Rey the road continued to Qazvin, Zanjan, Tabriz, and Yerevan and from Yerevan, it continued to Trabzon port at the Black Sea.
After the road made a circle and reached a port in Syria. A branch of the Silk Road ran from Samarqand to Kharazm, then to Hashtarkhan and ended at Danube River and Sea of Azov in Europe. The most important commodity transited through Iran in ancient times was silk, but since the Iranians imported a great deal of silk and converted it to the fabric they were able to sell their silk fabric to European countries at a good price. Encouraged by Sogdians the Turks asked King Anooshirvan of Sassanid Dynasty to allow them to transit their silk through Iran but he refused such a permit. Later on, in order to avoid crossing the giant central desert in China, the Chinese emperors invented a new sea route from ports east of China and shipped the merchandise towards west. As a result, the Silk Road was divided into northern and southern branches. As mentioned before the northern route, known as Silk Road, started from Tian Huang town, then crossed several Chinese provinces before arriving at the great central desert. After crossing the great central desert it was divided into three branches. Two roads circled the great desert and the third road continued from the south of it. After crossing the southern towns of China the southern road reached the north of India; then it took a northward turn and continued to Greater Khorasan and present Iran. After that, it reached the Caspian Sea and joined the northern road. From fourteenth century onward another sea route was established from China which was separated from the older road.
Spice Road was a corridor for transportation of Indian spices to Europe. Its main route didn’t deviate much from the Silk Road. The only difference between the two roads was that the silk was exported from China and the spice was exported from India. Spice road was a mountainous road and a masterpiece of engineering. Some of the side branches were connected to Silk Road through mountains at Fars Province. It is said the stone-paved Spice Road was built four hundred years ago for transportation of spices and similar goods. Part of the stone-paved Spice Road has remained intact and one can see monuments beside that road such as a water reservoir over the mountain. Some historians believe that a bridge had been built in Fars Province over the Spice Road but it has disappeared. Jean Chardin, a famous French traveler, who visited Iran in the sixteenth century, has passed the Spice Road and has mentioned it in his travelogue. He says Mount Alborz is the most difficult and dangerous route in Iran and the only passage through that mountain is a stone paved road. Chardin says there were three water reservoirs in Mount Alborz which were dry because of drought.
History of clothing in Iran
For the sake of modesty and virtue, Iranian women have worn the hijab during the course of various Persian dynasties. The Medes were the first extensive empire in the Iranian plateau and Median women did their best to array themselves and resorted to everything which could embellish them. At all periods the Iranian women used gold, silver, bronze, iron, and shells to adorn themselves. In the Louvre Museum, there is an embossed statue of the woman who lived during the Parthian Dynasty. This woman is wearing a mantle and her turban invisible under the Chador. Above her forehead and below her turban the Parthian woman is wearing a broad projecting metal which covers the hairs in front of the head like a lace. The comer of the chador is pinned under an oval-shaped ornamented clip or button and hung under the neck with a chain. It is said that the chador which had been used by women form older times was worn by the women during the Sassanid period albeit with different colors and designs.
During the Safavid Period because of focusing on Iranian tradition and strict adherence to Shia faith, various arts blossomed and the women’s dress had its specific shape. The robes were often colorful and flowery or silk embroidered. Above their dress, they wore a coat which reached their feet and was open on their chests. They fastened their robe loosely on their waists, wore a small cap, a scarf, cotton pants and short woolen socks during the winter.
During the Zand and Afshar periods, the women reduced their ornaments and wore simpler garments. They shortened their blouse and their coat and wore loose pants, and wore a mangle over them. The women often wore tight shirts made of wool and silk, round collar which was fastened under the neck by a lace. When necessary they put on a long coat which reached their ankles.The shape of women’s dress changed very slightly during the Qajar Period. They wore a shirt with an open front and long sleeves and long, baggy and frilled robes. They embroidered the edge of their skirts and wore a golden, silver or jeweled belt. Like Zandian Period the women wore a net and a small cap on their heads.