Stories

← View All Stories

Natanz Ceramics

A Persian expression of appreciation for the receipt of any beautiful gift
is to acknowledge that it must be from Natanz.
Natanz Ceramics profile
Peter Deekle
Iran 1968–1970

After living in two relatively cosmopolitan cities during my first four months in Iran, the Peace Corps office transferred me to Natanz, (نطنز ), a remote mountainous village in Isfahan province. Today, Natanz is more modern and strategic; in fact, it is the current site of Iran’s most substantial major nuclear installation. In 1968, however, I was the only Westerner in the village.

My new assignment, teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) in the boys’ high school, presented several challenges. There were more than 60 students in each of my classes, far from an optimal scenario for teaching a language. Winters in Natanz were severe, with months of heavy snowfall. Moreover, electricity was limited to a single line and generator on the main street, which supplied power only from dusk to midnight. As a result, I often used kerosene lamps for heat and light. 

After my first month, the government assigned me a roommate, Ali, an English-speaking college graduate from Tehran. He was from a prominent family, and (I later learned) was a member of the Shah’s secret police. Although Ali’s position placed me under constant surveillance, his presence ensured that we had a village woman to cook for us, and an ample supply of kerosene.

As I would come to learn from my time there, Natanz has for centuries been famous for its brilliant blue glazed pottery. In fact, a common Persian expression of appreciation for the receipt of any beautiful gift is to acknowledge that it must be from Natanz. As I prepared to leave Iran at the end of my assignment in 1970, I purchased a ceramic vase in the bazaar. The vase will always remind me of my time living and teaching in Natanz.

six-minute video, produced by Iranian government media, provides further background on Natanz ceramics, including examples of different styles.

Share

Add Your Comment