The Lions' "Eyes"
By MortazaviBlog on Dec 18, 2007
The classic Pol-e Khajoo ("The Bridge of Khajoo") in Isfhan, Iran, is not simply a 350-year-old bridge built by the Safavid kings.
It is an architectural marvel with many mysteries. It acts as a dam and a two-level walkway. Its stone steps and arches function as halls for classical Persian singing, in individual form at random times and in group gatherings every Wedensday evening. (Unfortunately, this Wednesday evening, we will be on the road to Yazd and will miss the singing, which I've only actually observed in the summers.)
Last night, as we strolled from along Zayandeh Rood ("Zayanda 'Birth Giving' River") river, we looked for Pol-e Khajoo's "candles." These "candles" are silhouette which form when multiple edges of Khajoo's archs and caverns are viewed from the right angle as one walks on the banks of Zayandeh Rood towards the bridge, with a "candle" forming and disappearing in each cavernous arch as one walks closer and closer to the bridge. As one finally arrives a the bridge, the closest arch produces the last "candle." (Puzzle: Wind, Water, Earth and Fire are finally put together.)
Walking through the stone caverns and the downstream steps, down to the Zayandeh Rood reminded me of a few years ago, a Wednesday evening, when we stood there listening to a boisterous group of Isfahanis sing and listen to classic, Persian "opera."
At the far end of the bridge, my brother, who is visiting from Turkey (I'm visiting from California), pointed to one of the stone lions on the other end. (There are two of these "art deco" stone lions, protecting the bridge, one on each side.) He said he had noticed how the eyes of the lion on the near side was shining with a faint orange color and he had wondered whether he was imagining it because of exhaustion. Now, he had turned to look at the other lion, and it had the same shining "eyes," faint but still shining. I looked, and he was right! (My quick analysis was that this was some kind of black body radiation from the black stone lions. They each have a small semi-spherical cavity on the sides of their mouth which might be responsible for this glow but there may be other reasons for the glow.)
From each end of the bridge, the lion on the other end forms a dark shaddow in the distance but the glowing "eyes" have a natural form. The effect—an animal gazing in the dark of the night—brings the stone lions to warm life in the cold, winter nights of Isfahan.