HAFEZ: OBAMA and the "Persian Carpet"


HAFEZ: OBAMA and the "Persian Carpet"
by Hafez for Beginners

HAFEZ: OBAMA and the "Persian Carpet":

A few days ago, I came across the above photograph of a recent interview with President Obama in the White House, probably while reading an article on the current US elections.  Now, I don't know about you, but whenever I see a Persian Carpet, I am immediately transported to a different place and time. I leave that moment, whether I'd been looking at a photo of a President being interviewed, or say, standing in the lobby of most Ralph Lauren stores, which are decorated with the most excquisite of Persian Carpets, or any where else I see one. I just leave that circumstance  - and it takes me to a very deep, national, and emotional place. Everything that means "home" comes rushing to me, very tangibly, and with a profound sense of transported warmth.

So, that's how today's Blog started. I'd probably looked up some story on the US Presidential elections, this photo came up, and boom! I'm in a completely different place! If you also googled the photo of Pope John Paul II's funeral service, where all the dignitaries were gathered, you would see John Paul's very simple wooden coffin, lying on the most exquisite  Persian carpet, in the middle of the Vatican, with dignitaries from four corners of the globe at the servcies. (reference to Seven Nations/Haft Keshvar below in today's poem.) On that occasion too, I got jolted and transported to another place, and in fact have saved my New York Times front cover with the Persian carpet and John Paul II's simple coffin. 

The tradition of the Arts in our culture, isn't some haphazard thing. What fascinates me is the way the Persians were among the first people in history introducting the concept of heaven to earth. Persian Gardens, were the first expressions of "Heaven on Earth" in human history. The idea that God has planted Beauty, and the potential to create Beauty, in our midst, as a way of celebrating the divine. And to the artist, his creation, the creative process itseslf, is a divine experience. 

I - ARTHUR UPHAM POPE and "Persian Carpets":

For those of us in the visual arts - no single person in recent history,  has contributed as greatly to the preservation of the Persian Arts, as Arthur Upham POPE. His "Survey of Persian Art" - a massive 10-12 volumes (depending on the publisher) - used to fill as much bookcase space in my childhood home as the Encyclpedia  Britannica. Volumes and volumes of the white binding - (they are now in my own home.)

Pope loved Iran, but the reason I am bringing him up - is because his love for Iran had started with "Persian Carpets." As a child of a wealthy family, Pope used to visit his aunt in a posh neighborhood of Boston - and the Persian Carpets in this aunt's home, would captivate him beyond words. "I looked at those rugs" ... and it felt like a calling, he would say. Can you imagine what a sensitive little boy he must have been? Later in life, he would say that his obsession with Iran came from there: "And I felt that the people who had produced those - had a deep and genuine feeling for art - combining emotion with form and discipline, proof of real superiority of mind and spirit."

He went on to spend the 2nd half of his life in Iran - arrived there aged 44 in 1925 and died and was buried (at his insistence) in Isfahan in 1969. In his final days, he often said that the first half of his life was merely a preparation for the second half: Persia! Pope's love for the arts of Persia started with "Persian Carpets" when he was a little boy, and expanded to all the visual arts of Iran. A truly inspired man.


I've learned much from one of my favorite books on Hafez by Pourafzal/Montgomery: "The SPiritual Wisdom of Hafez". To Hafez, celebrating  Beauty on earth was a way of life. "While Khayyam found joy in the order of the universe and Rumi reveled in the rapture of union with God, Hafez's imagination translated all phenomena into the beauty of the divine and transformed eveyday occurrences into joyful gifts of the universe."

Hafez's love for Shiraz reminds me of my own love for Persian Carpets. He saw physical beauty everywhere, in Shiraz - from the river Roknabad to the garden of Mossala (where he is also buried.) To him, Shiraz was the epicenter of the Beauty of this world:

شیراز و آب رکنی و این باد خوش نسیم

عیبش مکن که خال رخ هفت کشور است

Shiraz o Ab-eh rokni o in bad-eh khosh nassim

Eibash makon keh khal-eh rokh-eh haft keshvar ast

Shiraz, its river Rokni, and this town's gentle and perfumed breeze,

Find no fault with her - she is the very beauty-spot of the Seven Nations.

A beauty-spot or beauty-mole on a woman's face has many layers of meaning and is the focal point of her Beauty. As to Seven Nations - Iranians in ancient mythical times, considered the world to be made up of "Seven Natons" - with Iran in the center - like the mole on a Beloved's face. For Hafez, it is now Shiraz that takes that important place, playing the role of the beauty-mole.

And for me, watching the President of the USA - the current world's super power - sitting on a majestice "Persian Carpet", it is the carpet that plays the part of that  beauty-mole.  The carpet's beauty, like the mole on a Beloved's face, also transported me to very different places - to the "Seven Worlds" of my own mind.

Thank you, from among many books, especially to:

"The Spiritual Wisdom of Hafez" - Haleh Pourafzal and Roger Montgomery

"Surveyors of Persian Art: Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Acerman" - A Documentary Biography by Jay Gluck and Noel Silver

 Afsaneh Mirfendereski



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Hafez for Beginners


by Hafez for Beginners on

Maziar 58: Thanks - so, it might be a "Tabriz"?

As Iranians, I do think it's up to us how we define ourselves vs. remaining hostage to the confined parameters of "politics" alone. With Persian Carpets adorning State homes, Presidential Palaces, even the Vatican, etc. -  the world will look very different if we used more than one metric to judge our common human story by.

Some lead the world in Economics, some lead the world in "Freedom", and good for them, but it's up to each country, surely, to focus on their own strengths and contribution to humanity. If it's Carpets, Poetry, the Arts, Cuisine, Architecture, Gardens, and beyond, then it is up to us to put on the table more diverse parameters, and define ourselves by what we bring to the broader table of humanity.



maziar 58


by maziar 58 on

An approx. 12 X 16 persian Tabriz I guess.


Hafez for Beginners

Persian Arts

by Hafez for Beginners on


Persian Arts blow me away - and just one look at this photo, and I was in a trance - that's what Persian Carpets do to me.

And this photo inspired the Blog - I am very, very proud of the role of Persian Arts (poetry, gardens, carpets, architecture, miniatures, cuisine, etc.) in human history: When a King, Queen, Pime Minister,  President, or even the Vatican wants beauty with which to adorn their majestic floors - they turn to the Persian Carpet. A lovely thought.


Hafez for Beginners


by Hafez for Beginners on

Demo: Magic of flying carpets - indeed! They always make my soul fly.

Iraj Khan:  that thing you said about the 2 year old is so true. I happen to be a water color artist - and most galleries comment on how the "palette" of colors is broad - such mixes - and I always tell them, "we grew up with these colors." I'll share some images, soon.

Fanoos: You're always naughty!


The Flying Persian Carpets

by Demo on

Believe it or not:


Perhaps the 'Naseem' of Hafez, like his own poems, could also make the persian carpets travel over 7 countries above the skies? And that is what the real 'faith' does to his beholder!   

Thanks much for your work, Afsaneh dear.


All this setting is missing is a voluptuous ...

by fanoos on

belly dancer to bring a wide smile on BHO's face! I would have volunteered to do it, had I been 50 years younger!

iraj khan

Persian Carpets

by iraj khan on

and Persian poets are second to none.

We all grew up on Persian carpets.

Consider the mind of a 2 year child playing on a Persian carpet while looking at the patterns and colors, that's who we are. 

Think of how it would effect one's mind and imagination.

We as Iranians will always have our cultural heritage such as poetry and the colorful patterns of Persian carpets to calm us down, to help us think deeply to understand ourselves and the world we live in, thanks. 

Hafez for Beginners

ubiquitous Carpet

by Hafez for Beginners on


The Blog (if you read it): isn't about OBAMA or the POPE (John Paul II) - but rather about the ubiquitous presence of the Persian Carpet, and the sheer joy it brings to many - including artists.

Hafez for Beginners

Magical Carpet

by Hafez for Beginners on

Maryam joon: That's how it felt to me, too. Also, if you google the picture of John Paul IIs funeral and the Persian Carpet there, it is just very mystical. That's how it feels to me, when the Persian Carpet appears here, there, and everywhere. 

IranLovesIsrael: It's the carpet that captured my imagination. Whether it belongs there or not is not the issue - but the idea of the little Persian Carpet making guest appearances from the Vatican (Pope John Paul's funeral) to the White House. 

And it takes my breath away. I don't care who is sitting on it! Hafez, Persian Gardens and the Arts in general, and the Persian Carpet - are all intereconnected as Arthur Upham Pope also observed - and I tried outlining here.


Most likely it's made in India or China!


The carpet, that is! Since the 70's the Indian and Chinese carpet industry have been plagiarizing Iranian patterns. I still don't see the correlation among Obama, Persian carpet, and Hafez! Supposing Obama had an aftabeh in his hand (no pun intended), would you still try to relate them to Hafez?

Shlomo loves Carpets from Isfahan.


Try this

by MaryamJoon on

imagine him sitting there without that carpet

somehow it would be less impressive

that picture is all about the carpet, not the two guys sitting there 

Hafez for Beginners


by Hafez for Beginners on

Rouzbeh: Thanks for your comment. This Blog was about the beauty of the Persian Carpet - and how this beauty appears in the most random of places, from watching a President speak to the funeral of the POPE.

The images of these carpets produced a chain of thoughts - all related to our Arts - and I took care to outline them, here - I'm sorry if they came across as "politics" to you. 




Please stop using Hafez's name for political purposes.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

If you are a hafez scholar and fan as you claim, you should stop Hijacking and using his name for political purposes in every blog you write.  

Thank You

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Hafez for Beginners


by Hafez for Beginners on


Photo: Aug. 25, 2012 interview with Associated Press.