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No. 10     Eskandar (Alexander the Great) visits the Ka‘ba

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Ferdowsi, Shahnameh
Timurid: Shiraz, c.1435–1440

Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 22-1948, fol. 18v

 

The story of Alexander the Great, called Eskandar in the Shahnameh, is an important chapter in the epic. On his way from India to North Africa he made a stop in Mecca, which may be seen as a rite of passage in his long journey towards self-discovery. Eskandar paid his respects to the Ka‘ba, the House of Abraham, which Ferdowsi describes, as ‘the place of worship before any others existed … where God causes you to worship and to remember him.’ Here, Eskandar watches as a pilgrim reaches for the door handle of the Ka‘ba; in later versions Eskandar himself is depicted as a pilgrim.

For other illustrations from the same manuscript see Nos. 6, 7, 40, 41 and 42.

 

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