3 Farflung Museums of the World

My current home town of NYC has some pretty amazing museums.  The city is fortunate to have the world’s history and art come to them instead of traveling many time zones away to see it.

When I’m traveling I’m always up for checking out the ones that get a little less attention and are somewhat off the beaten path.  I’m in search of what will never reach any museum close to home because it’s just impossible to really appreciate something that is thousands of miles away from its origin.  It’s pretty hard to move an entire building as well.  Some have been somewhat successful.  For example,  the MET in NYC did do a great job of bringing the Islamic world back after being in storage for a decade.

I usually find places that are more known for both their architectural beauty and small collection of art inside. Here are a few of my favorites from my travels over the years.  Trips to Russia and Iran just require a pricey and lengthy visa approval process and Syria is considered very unsafe for foreigners and nationals alike.  Things will hopefully the violence will end and peace will resume in days ahead.   Here’s just a little look inside a few.

Moscow – The Gorky Museum

Gorky Museum
The stairway and beautiful lamp at its base inside the Gorky Museum in Moscow
Gorky Museum
The Art Deco designs on the outside of the Gorky Museum in Moscow

Kahn, Hamah – The Mosaic Museum of Syria

Mosaic museum
Syria’s Mosaic Museum displays amazing Byzantine works in the Town of Kahn just outside of Hamah
Mosaic museum
Highly detailed Byzantine Tile work on display at the Mosaic Museum in Syria

Yazd – Coin and Anthropology Museum

Yazd - Coin and Anthropology Museum
Yah..coins!!  The name sort of deters some but not me. Stunning sight for those who aren’t afraid to embrace their geekiness
Yazd Coin and Anthropology Museum
Don’t see many of these around
Yazd - Coin and Anthropology Museum
See…more than just coins and bills.  The empty rose filled courtyard of the Coin and Anthropology Museum in Yazd Iran.  It’s just you, the guard and his friend handing you the ticket.

The four Iwans of the Jameh Mosque of Esfahan

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
South, East and West Iwans in the Jameh or Friday Mosque in Esfahan

At the first encounter, there is a courtyard of the Friday Mosque in Esfahan is composed of four prayer halls or Iwans, the east and west are similar in hight and frame but the west is more colorful. The north and south are much larger and both compete for who is fairest.  Each iwan design reflects the time when it was constructed.  The north and south iwns contain some of the original pre-11th century  mosque.  The other two brick domed chambers were included when the Seljuks began embellishing the mosque.  The rebuilding and enhancements commenced in the 17th century and today the mosque is a standing and lovely visual history of the Iranian Architecture.

Detailed Tiles of the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan

The Jameh Mosque or Masjed-e Jāmeʿ is one of two great congregational hypostyle mosques in the ancient Persian center of Esfahan.   Esfahan continued to expand and grow as a city of commerce and trade continued to flow into the city from the Silk Road.  The first mosque was thought to have held up to 5,ooo friday afternoon worshipers.   This original mosque was thought to be burnt to the ground leaving only some of the south and north Iwans intact.  Some historians say that the fire was actually not a fire but just people being ordered to take away pieces of the mosque and use it for wood when the Seljuks first captured the city under Tughril Beg.  Other historians argue that the mosque was in perfect condition in 1052 when the Tughril Beg took the city.  Either way, the original didn’t survive and what stands here today is the largest and oldest mosques in Iran.

The Seljuk invaded and made Esfahan its capital with the Friday Mosque at its center.  It’s admiration and prestige in Persia grew as both its royal and common patrons built and embellished the structure during the Seljuk period.  It’s beauty and geometric precision in design make this mosque one of the best examples of Persian architecture .  It’s hypostyle design became a blueprint for future construction of mosques and buildings in Persia and the rest of the Islamic world.

This grand mosque was originally built around the same time as the Jameh Mosque in Na’in. Today, very little remains that reflects the time connection.   They both contain alabaster lighting systems for prayer chambers below ground,  have similarly designed wooden carved minbar and they were both though to be built on grounds that used to be Zoroastrian Fire Temples.

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan copy
The alabaster ceiling windows of the lower prayer room of the Friday Mosque in Esfahan
Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
Wood carved minbar in the 14th Century Room of Sultan Uljaitu of the Jameh/Friday Mosque in Esfahan

Each leader and conqueror left their mark on the this richly diverse structure of beauty.  The mosque was the first to have a four iwans which all face the central courtyard and built at various stages during the Seljuks period. Further modifications and additions to the Iwans and the surrounding interiors reflected the times and ambitions of each patron.  The Mongols, Muzzafarids, Timur’s and Safavids all left their mark on the walls of the Jameh Mosque. It was the Muzaffarid ruler who get credit for most of the more decorative pieces. The central ablutions fountain is a replica of the Kabba in Mecca. It is used for would-be haij pilgrim to practice the rituals performed there.

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
Jameh Mosque of Isfahan

The east and west brick dome were added on during the Seljuk Period. They were originally unimpressive brick and tile domes but both we decorated with tiled mosaics and geometric patterns by the Safavids These iwan are simple and appears to balance the rest. Behind them lie many prayer halls, finely decorated rooms and corridors connecting them. These are all later additions but the highlights are the north and south iwans which contain some of what remained after the original mosque was destroyed by fire.

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
South or the Qibla Iwan in the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan

The South Dome or Qibla Iwan

This massive and striking iwan was the first the Seljuks constructed some time in the years 1086-87. It was built by Nizam al-Mulk, the famous vizier of Malik Shah, and it contained the mihrab which is the niche cut out of a wall in the center of the Qibla wall which points to Mecca. It’s dome was the largest at its time and was built by Safavid architect Ebrahim B. Esmail. Inside the dome has been adored with Mongol-era stalactite mouldings and two minerats.

The North Dome

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan copy
The North Dome at the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan

It is known to be “the most brilliant examples of what could may have said to be a Seljuk specialty in Iranian architecture.” The North Dome is more elegant and lighter architecturally to the southern dome across from it. It was constructed a year after it by Nizam al-Mulk’s rival Taj al-Mulk and thought to have a royal function. Inside it is filled with massive cursive Qurʾanic inscriptions beautiful to look at even if you can’t read them.

On this very cold friday I had a visit to a piece of Isfahan.  The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan has put up it’s collection of Islamic Art which includes pieces of the Great Mosque in Esfahan.  There’s a few pictures of details of the Mihrab on display.

Great Mosque of Isfahan's Mihrab at the MET in NYC
Great Mosque of Isfahan’s Mihrab at the MET in NYC
Great Mosque of Isfahan's Mihrab at the MET in NYC
Great Mosque of Isfahan’s Mihrab at the MET in NYC

Esfahan Market Delight

The Grand Bazaar of Isfahan
The Grand Bazaar of Isfahan

Esfahan is not only one of the top travel destinations of Iran but also the place to get something to take home.  The US has many restrictions on how much it’s citizens can spend in Iran. This restriction along with the obstacle of having enough cash to float you the whole visit restricts spending and raises the question “What do I buy and where”?  It’s a conundrum but I’m going to make it easy.

Isfahan Traditional Restaurant - Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Naqsh-e Jahan Square Shopping area and the Isfahan Traditional Restaurant

First, Esfahan is located on the central tourist route which goes from Shiraz in the south to Tehran in the north.  It’s not to say that other cities and towns along the way won’t have unique items available to buy such as carpets in Kashan or Qom or enamel wares found in Shiraz shops. Esfahan is home to masters of  miniature painting found on camel bone and has some nice carpet shops.

Miniatures on Camel Bone or parchment:

Chehel Sotoon Palace
Chehel Sotoon Palace where Reza Abbasi is on display

Esfahan was one of the many cities in the vast Persian Empire who developed a Persian standard to the style and composition of miniature paintings.  The city has been a center for Persian traditional crafts for centuries.  The paintings were indirectly  by Chinese and Indian art but have their own unique characteristics including bright colors, idealistic settings and later, scenes of ordinary life.  Works beauty and detail continued to blossom throughout the Safavid period.  Shah Abbas the Great wanted to see Persian artists take the miniature art to the next level and give the craft a distinct Persian look to it.

The miniature reminds me of whales tooth scrimshaw that was done by sailors while they waited for Moby Dick to come along.   In ancient Persia, small finely detailed paintings depicting Polo matches, bird hunting and a romantic meetings were created on the surface of camel bone and parchment.  Miniature style progressed and the pictures began to intentionally go beyond the rectangle borders and included poems. Artists were commissioned by royalty and many began studying the craft as demand increased throughout the Ṣafavid Period.  Most of the pieces seen in galleries and museums around the world today are ones done by or similar to the style of Reza Abbasi who worked in the Late Safavid period under Shah Abbas I.  Some are currently on display in The Metropolitan Museum – New York.

There’s plenty of miniatures on display and for visitors to buy and take home.  Like most of Iran, there’s little pressure to buy, so take time and check out the many studios located in the bazaar corridors of the square.  It doesn’t cost anything to look and many shopkeepers are keen on educating their customers on what they have to sell. Esfahan is the best place to even just look.


Carpet Museum of Iran
Carpet Museum of Iran

Iran is most famous for its carpets which are filled with geometric shapes, flowers, tendrils and shapes that almost look like animals.  The carpets are on display in hundreds of shops around Esfahan.  The only thing potential buyers need is time, patience and some kind of idea what they are looking for.  Some say it’s not the buyer choosing the carpet but the carpet chooses you.  This is if you have the funds of course.  If not,  there’s always the token small patch of carpet that are used for seat covers that will set you back a quarter million Rial, or 25K tomans or $25 USD.  I know it’s confusing but if you go better get your currencies straight because some prices are based on Rial and some on the old Toman.

A Walk Around the Jameh Mosque of Na’in

A visit to the oldest inhabited city – Yazd, and now we go and visit the to the oldest mosque in Iran – the Jameh (Friday) Mosque of nearby Nain

Na'in's Jame Mosque

The city is not only famous for its fine silk carpets but for its Jameh Mosque.  The outside is very simple and not as colorful as many I have seen so far.   It’s design is known as the Khorasani style and was  originally constructed in the 8th century AD. It’s basement is thought to have once been a fire temple so it was first used by members of the Zoroastrian faith.  The mosque is without a three-sided Iwan and does not have the typical tiled dome or grand entrance to other mosques in the area.

Na'in's Jame Mosque

This afternoon we had the place to ourselves.  The alabaster stones found in the ceiling helps illuminate the area during the day when worshippers gather to pray during the hot summer and cold winter days.  The details of the columns and the carvings on the wooden Minbar are a wonder to see in person.

Na'in's Jame Mosque
Na’in’s Jame Mosque Minbar and prayer area

Like many mosques, the Jameh Mosque transformed to what it is today over the centuries with each conqueror making their additions to the structure.  The elaborate brick work seen on the columns and much of the interior  inside were characteristic of the Seljuk period which was around the 11th century. The unusual octagon shaped minaret and wooden minbar was also added to 700 years ago.

Na’in is a natural compliment to seeing the Jameh Mosque found in Esfahan. I recommend seeing it first if you can. It’s makes a good rest stop on the trip between Esfahan and Yazd.

Na'in's Jame Mosque
Mihrab and the wooden Minbar at the Jameh Mosque in Na’in
Na'in's Jame Mosque
Mihrab in the Jameh Mosque
Na'in's Jame Mosque
Grave marker (left) inside of Jameh Mosque in Na’in

The controversial graffiti I referred to at the beginning:

Na'in's Jame Mosque
Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Grafetti inside the Na'in's Jame Mosque
Grafitti inside the Na’in’s Jame Mosque
Old section of Na'in
Old alleyway of Na’in

A typical day for visitors on a guided tour of Iran

What does a typical day on a guided tour in Iran look like?

Curious on what actually goes down when you are an American on a mandatory guided tour in Iran?  It’s not as bad as it sounds and there’s no choice in the matter since we are Americans. My husband and  I, like many travelers,  usually prefer to go at my own speed when we take a trip.   We get typically get by with help from good pre-trip research, a guidebook with a good map, on site pointers from other travelers we meet along the way and the occasional internet search at the local internet cafe/hostel.

Many who are considering a trip to Iran wonder simply what a day is like when you need to be escorted around by a local guide.  I found plenty of videos; pictures; blog posts about traveling in Iran but little information about how a typical day went down.   I understand it may not be very exciting material but I hope it gives others a little more insight on how things roll along during a typical day.  I travel independently so tours aren’t usually a part of my travels except for the occasional organized day trip to a protected area which requires a guide.

My typical day:

7am: Get up  and wait for our guide to do the same.  The first few days the time was more like 3am but it worked its way eventually to 7am. I like early starts even if it means chilling out for a couple of hours waiting for our fixer.

9am:  Meet our sleepy-eyed guide for breakfast which hopefully includes eggs, fresh bread, cheese, butter, jam (hopefully not of the carrot variety) and of course cups and cups of tea.  I’m excited when things like hot soup, real coffee and pastries are there as well.  This happened a couple of times.

Shiraz Niayesh Traditional Hotel
Dining area of the Niayesh Hotel in Shiraz early morning…it’s 7am..where is everyone?

10am ish:  Or somewhere around that time…Check out the sites until it gets really hot which usually coincides with lunch hour at high noon.

12pm – 1pm:  Many things that require an entrance fee close at this time anyways.  It’s a good time to have lunch when everyone else does.  Lunch usually is the biggest meal of the day and the choices are very much like dinner.   The vegetarian menu typically has been limited to rice, bread, yogurt/Doogh and the usual plate of  Kookoo Zabzi –  sometimes the cook has other choices but usually it means meat dishes where the meat is literally picked out of the plate.  I decided I had enough Kookoo Zabzi and alternated with kebab.

12pm-late afternoon: Our guide goes to the gym and lets us have some time to ourselves.  This is when I have a few minutes out of the sun and let my hijab down.  It was hot that day but no complaints.  The hijab kept my head safe from the suns rays.

Mid day in Persepolis

3-4pm:  We take off again to see sites in the best light and before evening prayer time.

Shah Cheragh Mosque
Evening prayer time at the Shah Cheragh Mosque in Shiraz

Around Sundown:  We have dinner and check out what goes on after the sun sets.  This is when I hope to find something sweet like Saffron Ice cream and get some good night shots.  The evenings are when most cities typically come alive.

Our view of the Sweeping Mosque or Bibi Dokhtaran Mausoleum near by
Our view of the Sweeping Mosque or Bibi Dokhtaran Mausoleum near by in Shiraz
Shiraz Market near the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
No pistachio Ice cream but plenty of other sweets to choose from in Shiraz

Best of Yazd: From getting lost in the quiet alleyways to enjoying the view from the rooftops

Yazd is oldest city in the world and to get to know it a visitor needs to see it from all angles

Alleyway in Yazd

The adobe alleyways in the old city  keep the dwellings protected from the sun, large vehicles out and water fresh and cool below.   My visit started on a thursday after noon and ended a couple of days afterwards.  It is considered the weekend here and it was quiet for the most part.   The  doorway found along the alleyways are modest entrances to the beautiful homes which lie behind. They traditionally  contain a courtyard filled with plants and a pool of water and have rooms circulating around it.

Doorway in Yazd
Doorway in Old Yazd

Plenty was open and available to see since the weekends are times when families spend time together and also visit tourist sites. We arrived in the late afternoon on thursday. We got to see a couple of sites before getting a bite to eat at the Silk Road Hotel. The food was pretty good there. The standard menu of kebab, Kookoo Zabzi, Rice, salad and Doogh. Fridays get pretty quiet here. Most activity ceases until after the evening prayer. At least we can find a place to get a cold drink as we explore the empty bazaar.

Bazaar on a Friday in Yazd
Bazaar on a Friday in Yazd

We left Sunday and found out that this was a good choice since most shops are closed in this conservative town. This includes the famous Haj Khalife Ali Rahbar Confectionary Shop near the Amir Chakhmaq square. I luckily got to it on Saturday and bought my 1/2 kilo of Qottab – it’s sort of like Mexican Wedding cookies with cardamom.

Pastries at Haj Khalifeh Rahbar's shop
Pastries at Haj Khalifeh Rahbar’s shop

Our days were filled with visiting mosques in town; visiting Zoroastrian landmarks; taking day trips to the UNESCO sites of Chak-Chak and Kharanaq; and eating and sleeping in between. Yazd is definitely on the list of places to come back to when revisiting again in the future.

Masjed-i Jamé mosque
Sunrise in front of the Masjed-i Jamé mosque
Masjed-i Jamé mosque
Courtyard of the Masjed-i Jamé mosque
Masjed-i Jamé mosque
Inside the Masjed-i Jamé mosque
Masjed-i Jamé mosque
Iwan of the Masjed-i Jamé mosque
View of Jameh Mosque from Orient Hotel
View of Jameh Mosque from Orient Hotel in Yazd

Yazd – the City of Badgirs

I usually like to find attractions along the way which are overlooked and ultimately not overcrowded. My interests are more than checking off a list which usually means seeing what many don’t stop and see. I found many things in Yazd which may seem to be boring because of their name but ended up being quite interesting. Here’s my top things to see in Yazd list:

Yazd Heidarzadeh Coin Anthropology Museum:

It’s a museum that isn’t listed on most group tours going to Yazd which says to most “Don’t Go” but to me it goes on my “Must Do” list.

Yazd - Coin and Anthropology Museum

Sounds geeky right? It’s really in name alone. This museum is home to a large collection of coins which date back to the beginning of the first century.  A jewelry shop assistant and part time teacher named Mr. Hussein Heidarzadeh collected 5,000 pieces of different items including coins, banknotes, scissors, lantern, rosary, seal, scale, knife, samovar, silver ornaments, etc over his lifetime and donated most of them to the Cultural Heritage Organization here in Yazd. The coins and bills are not the only attraction here.  The interior of the building has been well attended to and is much more attractive then the water museum.  This could partially be because they get less traffic then the Water Museum.

It was late in the afternoon when we set out to find the Museum located in the old quarter of Yazd. The LP guide to Iran has the museum listed as a part of there walking tour of Yazd.  It was one of the few things open at 2:30pm on a Saturday afternoon. We followed the LP map and discovered a helpful english sign once we got past the closed tourist office. It’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of covered alleyways of the old city but we finely made it to the museum. A young man and another friendly armed gentleman dressed in military fatigues answered the door when we knocked. It’s good to know we and the coins are safe.  It was just us, the coins and our minders.  How wonderful – we had the place to ourselves.

Yazd Coin and Anthropology Museum
Display accidentally taken inside the Museum

The Coin Museum located inside in a similar building which includes a well-kept central courtyard minus the crowds. The only draw back is that you can’t take pictures. I managed to get some because I accidentally hit my camera and wellah..I got a couple of shots. No harm done.


Yazd Water Museum:

Yazd Water Museum

I happened to visit in mid-day along with a large group of rather loud Castalian retired and hearing impaired visitors. Let’s say I was a bit put off by the crowd inside the narrow chambers. It was hard to hear what Mahmoud had to share with us while the group passed us by and spoke amongst themselves. At least the museum had a few visual aids to help explain the museum and the building it occupied.

Yazd Water Museum

Yazd Water Museum

Many go to the Water Museum so they can check out how wealthier Yazd residents lived 100 years ago. The former home is in excellent condition and it’s great to see how the cooling system worked in the home, but there was one big drawback. It gets crowded. I would suggest to skip it but try to find an off-peak time to visit. Possibly when it first opens and large groups are still having breakfasts or late in the day when they are on the bus and rushing on to their next destination.  It’s located just across from the Amir Chaqmagh Complex and Hajj Khalifeh Rahbar Confections Shop.

Yazd: Windcatchers of the Desert Oasis

The top two things that come to mind when I think of my stay in Yazd are Windcatchers and its ancient Qanat water systems. Further confirming that I am a travel geek.

Amir Chaqmagh Complex (edited)
Amir Chaqmagh Complex

Just off of the Ancient Silk Road Highway

It survived Mongol invasion and its famous visitors include explorer Marco Polo in the 13th century and later in the 19th century British writer/traveler Robert Byron.  Byron wondered why others hadn’t noticed its beautiful architecture and asked the question, “Do people travel blind?”  Seems strange that one could visit Yazd without noticing its unique Windcatcher filled cityscape.  But,  it’s something I have asked myself more than once.  Marco Polo probably would have begged to differ since he found Yazd to be “a very fine and splendid city and a centre of commerce” when he traveled through it earlier in the 13th century.

Yazd Water Museum
The water that cools below the windcatcher above.

It’s possible that most were merely distracted by the hustle and bustle of the streets and just safely going about their business.  There are many things to contend with when walking the streets of Yazd.  The locals going to and coming from daily prayer, car and pedestrian traffic, lack of safe crossways, potentially hazardous centuries old water channels, and narrow sidewalks – just to name a few.  I imagine Yazd was just as bustling centuries ago as it is today.   It also as become a stop-off for modern-day explorers who participate in the Mongol Rally in the dead of summer.

Amir Chaqmagh Complex (edited)
Yazd – Amir Chaqmagh Complex

Windcatchers and water

The first thing that stuck me as a visitor in Yazd was the field of windcatchers which rise out of almost every structure in the city.  There are hundreds of them to be seen here. Many are not in use today but are reminders of Yazd’s industrious past.  They along with the qanat helped keep the city’s residents cool during the summer months when temperatures can get above  100 F.

Schoolyard in Yazd
Windcatchers in the Schoolyard in Yazd

Yazd is thought to be the oldest inhabited cities of Iran thanks to the qanat water system made during the Sassanian Period (224-651 AD).  The qanat along with the windcatcher systems keep the lower levels of many buildings and homes cool. This gives residents comfortable rooms to escape to during the steamy summer months and provides a safe place to store food within their home.

Doorway in Yazd
Doorway in the older section of Yazd

These water systems made centuries ago is the main reason this city still remains as it does today.  Water is scarce in this area found in the heart of the persian desert.  The climate is contradicting in the fact it is so dry but it’s full of pomegranate and date trees and fresh water streams still flow from the mountains.  The locals take pride that they and their ancestors have managed to have a water supply without the help machines and modern technology.

Today, Yazd is just as popular stop for travelers on the Silk Road as it was centuries ago. It remains the center of the Zoroastrian faith in Iran even though the numbers have dwindled. They are allowed to continue to worship as they please since Zoroastrians are ironically considered a religious minority even though they are the oldest known organized faith in the world.  The basic three tenets followed by Zoroastrians are: Good Thoughts; Good Words and Good Deeds.  Very good tenets to live by.

Pasargadae: How Alexander the Great and UNESCO saved it

Tomb of Cyrus the Great copy
Road to Cyrus the Great
Tomb of Cyrus the Great
Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia.Grudge me not therefore this monument.

Pasargadae looks pretty barren today and its simple remains says nothing of how great of a leader Cyprus was to Persia.  The limestone tomb contained a golden coffin which rested on top of a table also made of gold.   Tall trees, flower beds, pools and waterways encircled the resting place of Cyprus the Great.  It’s called the “Four Garden”  style today is still the prototype for Western Asian architecture and design

When Alexander the Great arrived in 334 BC, the tomb had been destroyed by those who wanted it’s treasures.  Cyrus bones were scattered around outside of the tomb and thieves carried away treasures found inside.  Alexander was outraged and ordered the thieves to be prosecuted and had the tomb restored.

More is still be discovered today at the site.   Iran had announced that it intended to make the a dam near the site.  The dam could have caused the area to flood and the dampness created by the water would accelerate the deterioration of the fragile limestone.  The UN encouraged Iran to allow a team of architects from around the world excavate what they could before the dam became fully operational.  They  scrabbled for a bit in 2004 and uncovered many sites including a road that linked Pasargadae and Persepolis and caves believed to be inhabited 7000 years ago.   The site became a UNESCO site in 2004 and things are looking pretty good for this site and many others waiting to be discovered in the area.

The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace and the Zagroes Mountains
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Audience Hall of the Pasargadae Palace
The Citadel to the right and the Prison of Soloman to the Left
Prison of Solomon
Prison of Solomon