13. March 2005 · Comments Off on Gardens of Delight · Categories: General, World

Captain Loggie has e-mailed me this weekend, to let us know that he has arrived in Herat, Afghanistan, and had been given a tour of the city. I expect they told him that it is one of the cities founded and named originally after Alexander the Great, and that it was a rich, powerful and cultured place, full of monuments and gardens, under the reign of the Timurid kinds of the 15th century…. and is supposed to be still full of lavish gardens, most particularly of roses. And yet, Afghanistan is so often portrayed to us as a harsh and barren place, either cold and dusty, or hot and harsh and totally barbaric. But one of the gardens in Herat was written up in this book, which I gave to my mother for a Christmas present after I scored a very marked-down but pristine copy at Half-Price Books— but I read it first!
The thing is though, in a harsh and desolate climate, a garden— a green and thriving garden— is most particularly cherished, since it is achieved with such great effort and against such odds. Water is the thing, water and shelter; high walls and deep wells. A garden in the Islamic tradition may be large, but most always it is enclosed, sometimes no more than a courtyard in the center of, or adjacent to a house. Sometimes no more than a collection of plants in pots and tubs, there is nearly always a fountain or a pool. The largest gardens are sometimes meant to look like an elaborate carpet, with raised paths between the beds, which would be planted with elaborate arrangements of blooming plants. And always there would be shade, and water, and a place to sit and look at it all… for after all, Paradise is most assuredly a garden, the most lavish and beautiful of all.

Garden in the Generalife, Alhambra, Spain

This is one of those gardens, in the Summer Palace by the Alhambra complex in Granada, Spain. More here, from my archive.

Comments closed.