The Colours, Beauty and Sounds of Persia (55+)

Join us on a 7,000-year journey through the civilization of Persia. Experience the nation’s history, identity and spirituality through its artistic endeavours. Walk the streets of the historic city of Isfahan—today the second-largest city in Iran—and see why it was renowned as nesf-e jahan (half the world).

We will look at examples of Isfahan’s carpet weaving, engraving, miniature painting and tile making. We will also come to appreciate how the Persian carpet is a distinguished manifestation of Persian art and culture. Hear the wisdom of the poets Rumi, Hafez and Ferdowsi; listen to the sounds of the daf, nay and setar; and dance to a rich variety of Persian music.

Note: Back by popular demand, from spring 2018.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Identify fundamental elements of Persian culture
  • Analyze the role of Persian culture in its enduring identity over 7,000 years
  • Explain how Persian culture adapts to new ideas, events and cultures
  • Name the most prominent Persian poets and their contributions
  • Classify major genres of Persian music

Learning methods

You will learn through lecture with time for questions and answers (may vary from class to class). For Liberal Arts Certificate for 55+students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Introduction

In our first week, we lay the foundation for understanding Persia as a nation as we categorize the empires of the past 8000 years, to better understand the roots of Persian architecture, art, poetry, music and dance.

Week 2: Architecture

Observe a five-millennium architectural evolution through one city: Isfahan. Founded in 2,700 BCE, Isfahan flourished under the Safavid Empire in 16th century, and is today the second largest city in Iran. Together we discover the rationale behind the Persian proverb: "Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast" (Isfahan is half the world).

Week 3: Persian paintings, miniatures and carpets

In our class this week we look at the first Persian paintings, made in Dushe cave over 8000 years ago.  Experience history through looking at the change in Persian paintings, miniatures and carpets.

Week 4: Poetry

Our fourth week is devoted to Persian poetry. Inhale the fragrance of a nation’s beauty, wisdom and love through its verse. Attend to Firdausi’s Shahnameh; experience the love and wisdom of the divine through the words of Rumi and Hafez.

Week 5: Music

Listen to sounds, rhythms and melodies of Persian music and familiarize yourself with various musical instruments. Let the music guide you through an ancient civilization. Experience both traditional and contemporary Persian music.

Week 6: Dance

We move together to Persian music as we experience Persian dance through this civilization’s history. Observe various ethnic dances of modern-day Iran. Learn how dance is a Sufi form of active meditation.

Books, materials and resources

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

Academic integrity and student conduct

You are expected to comply with Simon Fraser University’s Academic Integrity and Student Conduct Policies. Please click here for more details. Simon Fraser University is committed to creating a scholarly community characterized by honesty, civility, diversity, free inquiry, mutual respect, individual safety, and freedom from harassment and discrimination.

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