An Iranian in Nineteenth Century Europe: The Travel Diaries of Haj Sayyah, 1859-1877

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IBEX Publishers, 1999 - History - 379 pages
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After finishing his religious education and returning to his hometown of Muhajiran Haj Sayyah realizes that his family's plans for him to marry his cousin. Partly wanderlust and partly wanting to escaped this, he sets off for what would be an eighteen year trip through Europe, America and the Orient.

Haj Sayyah's diaries are unique. While hundreds of Europeans travelled to Persia and wrote travel diaries, few Iranians travelled to Europe and even fewer with such limited means. He travels through practically every country in Europe, where he gives detailed reports. Later, in separate trips he also visits America and the Far East.

In the Caucasus he learned Armenian, Turkish and Russian. He also learns French, English, Arabic and German. He was astonished to see how much the Europe had progressed and concluded that education was the basis for their advancement.

In spite of his Muslim religious training, Sayyah had a positive attitude towards modern European customs. He mingled with people from all social classes and developed a fair understanding of their ideas; he saw that they were free to openly criticize their governments and religious authorities. He visited museums, schools, libraries, churches, factories, parks, zoos and botanical gardens, even prisons, and met some of the famous personalities of the time such as King George of Greece, Czar Alexander II of Russia, and Belgium's King Leopold I.

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