Pearls of travel wisdom from Shirazi poet Saadi

The building of Saadi mausoleum in Shiraz

The building of Saadi mausoleum in Shiraz

“A traveller without observation is a bird without wings” Saadi Shirazi, Iranian poet.

Being this one of my favorite travel quote, could I go to Shiraz and not visit Saadi’s mausoleum? Of course not.

Saadi, nom de plume of Abū-Muhammad Muslih al-Dīn bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī, is one of the most appreciated poets of medieval Iran. In his writing he mentions often a lifestyle of traveling, and his wisdom wasn’t just his intuitive spirit but stemmed from some 30 years of travels. Since we are talking about the thirteenth century, his were real travels, on foot, on some sort of carriages, camel, donkey or whatever means they might have had at the time, but certainly not via quick flights.

This, apart from being a much slower path than our average trip nowadays, allowed him to better blend and integrate with the locals he managed to meet along the way, resulting in an inevitable greater insight in the cultures he dealt with. With such a huge part of his life spent on the road, it goes without saying that Saadi went back to his hometown Shiraz with a great deal of wisdom and knowledge of life, the kind of awareness that makes for inspiring poetry.

Saadi mausoleum at the end of a Persian garden

Saadi mausoleum at the end of a Persian garden

“Why should possessors of enjoyment and luck
Bear sorrow for fear of distress?
Go, be merry, my heart-rejoicing friend.
The pain of tomorrow must not be eaten today.” From The Effects of Education

Among his most famous works are the Bostan (The Orchard), where he highlights the virtues every Muslim should cherish, such as justice and modesty, and the Golestan (The Rose Garden), devoted to life, his personal story and the human condition in general, not least the same human absurdity portrayed with humor and witty insight.

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“A liberal man who eats and bestows is better than a devote who fasts and hoards.” From Rules for Conduct in Life

Saadi’s tomb is a simple, sleek, pastel-hued building  that lies in a typical Persian garden with a long perspective, water, colors and fresh flowers as key players. Its walls decorated with flowers and scripts of his poems, the interior is peaceful and inspires spiritual as well as worldly edification, just as Saadi would have wanted.

Here I leave you with more shots from his shrine and some of his century-old, yet topical verses.

Adam’s sons are body limbs, to say;
For they’re created of the same clay.
Should one organ be troubled by pain,
Others would suffer severe strain.
Thou, careless of people’s suffering,
Deserve not the name, “human being”.
Entrance to the shrine

Entrance to the shrine

Tomb and verses

Saadi’s tomb and verses

Detail of the wall decoration

Detail of the wall decoration

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saadi mausoleum8


  1. Lovely post Angela.
    There is a precious book “From Astara to Astarabad” which comes in 10 volumes written by Dr Sotoudeh, an Iranian proffessor of Iranian studies. (He is now around 101 years old, may God prolong his life)

    The book is a research well-deep into cultural heritage, languages, ethnic groups, historical monuments and geography of Iran’s 3 Caspian provinces along the Alborz mountain range aka Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan.
    I was astonished when I learnt this book is in fact his travel notes, in a trip he went from Astara in Gilan to Gorgan in Golestan province ‘all on foot’ for months in the 70s, integrating with the locals, collecting even the forgotten words, songs and proverbs. (This distance is around 15 hours drive)

    Meanwhile, sad to witness travel writing is becoming more and more lazy, commercial and unprofessional these days.

    • Thank you for this information on Dr. Sotoudeh. I have been looking for good travelogues on the Caspian provinces.
      The best way to learn about a people, province or culture is to read travelogues.
      I completely agree with you that travel-writing has become very mediocre. The reason is, in my opinion, now anyone who travels with a camera (or a good smartphone) with a laptop computer can write (blog) travelogues. Most are just curious tourists who know how to form a sentence! Travelogue are much more than that!

    • Thanks Madi, I will look for that book, sounds very interesting.

      Sad indeed to see much travel writing turning uninspiring and poorly researched, in the end it’s supposed to be the best job in the world!

  2. I tuoi post sull’Iran sono uno più bello dell’altro!

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