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Qajar Banquet

Lucinda H. Dunn

Still revered within the family circle as such, HRH Soltan Ali Qajar was the guest of honour at a recent banquet by the Qajar Family Association in London. 

‘Prince’ Ali would be the Shah of Iran today had Reza Khan not succeeded in his 1921 coup, creating the Pahlavi dynasty. The Qajars, a nomadic tribe of Turkic origin, had been ruling over Persia for 130 years until that point.

Ali was born in 1929 in Lebanon and raised in Paris. He spent short periods of time in Iran in his youth, and has written a historical book in French named ‘The Forgotten Kings’ (‘Les Rois Oublies’), but his connection to today’s Iran inevitably remains distant.

However the Qajar family, of which there are between 2-3,000 remaining members across the world, maintain their closeness by means of these periodic events.

During the course of the evening guests revel in the family legacy: a luxurious banquet comprising several stews and rice dishes is served up by Mohammad-Ali Azodi, a Qajari chef living in London. Later, the scene is set with the beautiful traditional Persian Sufi music of Sarang Music School, based in London but including band members of Qajari lineage.

Of course Qajari contributions to Persian culture made during their reign are also celebrated. The day before, the Association organised an ‘Art Study Day’ of Qajari artefacts at the Victoria and Albert Museum. When asked about the Qajari fingerprint on today’s Iran, Ferial Nikpour, the Association’s Head of Executive Committee says there has been a revival of Qajar art and fashion. They are, for example, now refurbishing the Qajari Palaces Sadabad and Saheb Qaranieh in Tehran. Contemporary artists Shadi Ghadirian and Ramin Haerizadeh draw inspiration for their work from Qajar fashion and ‘Taaziye’ theatre, and alternative pop duo Abjeez mix ghetto with Qajari style to create their own unique image. “The Qajars were remote Kings, strict Muslims, but also avant-garde. They travelled a lot,” Nikpour explains.

The evening climaxes with a nostalgic and historical photographic slide show of the various Qajar Shahs presented by family member Amir Farmanfarma. But these events are more focused on celebrating a family rather than a nation: “The purpose of the Association is so the family can meet up,” says Nikpour “we are the cultural keepers of our own heritage.”

The 600-member strong Association is based in London, although previous events have been held in such varied places as France, Holland, Austria and America. In a speech given before dinner, Treasurer Nazafarine Rokni shares plans for future activities, which she hopes will include the expansion of the website into a virtual museum of Qajar art, and a charitable aspect aimed at helping Iran.

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- Anonymous، 2014/11/12
Qajar dynasty is part of our history and I love that period of my country history the most as they appreciated art and culture more than Pahlavi and todays regim Iran they brought first
technology of those days
to iran and still we witnes and feel their presence and influence in many aspect of our todays life in Iran. I rather prefer the return of qajar dynasty back to rule once more.
- Anonymous، 2010/12/11
Please stop attacking one another in such disgusting ways and instead learn from past mistakes in order to make a better future for our children. If you look thoroughly to the Iranian history you will notice that it has been decades since we have had a King or a ruler who truly felt it his responsibility to create a better and prosperous Iran. Every once in a while a King or personality has come and done great things for Iran, people like the late Reza Shah, Mossadegh, Amir Kabir, Cyrus and Darius. Unfortunately, greed and jealousy of fellow Iranians has caused these people's downfall or death. When you look deep you understand that it is the fault of the PEOPLE of Iran who have permitted such atrocities to happen and one should blame no-one but oneself for all that has fallen on our heads.
- Anonymous، 2010/11/21
I think this group feels elitist by its association to the shameful Qajar dynasty... And I would take Islamic Republic over qajars, in spite their brutality, and irrationality. So please get off you hi horses and stop this ridiculous thing called Qajar revival. Don't you have anything better to do for the world, rather than this ridicolous thing? .
- Anonymous، 2010/11/18
The Qajar Dynasty presided over the most shameful chapter of Iran’s History. They sold the Iran’s wealth to the highest overseas bidder to feed their own personal greed. So brazen had become this habit, that even the Shiah orthodoxy opposed this corrupt behavior. It was Shake Shirazi who opposed and eventually nullified Naseradin shah’s Tobacco concession. The Qajars are famous for their cruelty, greed, despotism, wastefulness, neglect and nepotism. The savage acts of Barbarity happening under their rain has little precede nce. Their shameful massacre of the defenseless Babi’s and Bahai’sunder their rules stains the annals of Iranian history. The Qajars are also Turks and came into power by the brutal force of arms. I wonder if they ever cared for the Iranians who they presided over. Perhaps the descendants of the Qajar will do better to see how they can educate themselves regarding their own tribe and to engage in acts of atonement rather than ostentatious socialization.
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