Senmar Sacrificing Session by Bahram Beyzai

Senmar Sacrificing Session, written by Bahram Beyzai in 1998, is a play narrating the tragic story of Persian- Roman architect who built Khawarnaq.

Building Khowarnaq by Kamal ud din Behzad
Building Khowarnaq by Kamal ud din Behzad, kept in British Museum, London

The play starts with some black-worn men bumping into a corpse. They surprisingly realize that the corpse belongs to Senmar. The renowned Persian-Roman Architecture who was assigned by the sultanate of al-Hirah, al-Nu’man I ibn Imru’ al-Qays, to build a palace in a desert. While they were talking to each other disparaging the wisdom and knowledge, Senmar rose and began telling his story.

I, Senmar, rise to recount my fall

As I was falling, I was close to Heaven rather than earth

In that unbelievable instance, Between Heaven and Earth-

To the air stripping away beneath me

And the world that opens his mouth under my feet

Yes, between the two worlds, I was counting the bricks

That I pieced them together with my hands

And each brick thousand times

In terror ask with wide open mouth: Why? Why? Why?

The ruler of al-Hirah ordered to fall Senmar from the palace he himself built. Al-Nu’man, who has been ruling the al-Hirah for some times, thinks to build a palace for himself. Tired of being sultanate of sands, he dreams of having a palace paralleled with the Sassanid Persian King, Yazdegerd I in Ctesiphon. He confessed his inability of architectural knowledge, while he boasted his craftsmanship in weaving tents made of Camel’s hair.

The arrival of the Persian King in the upcoming winter propelled Al-Nu’man to hide his inferiority and show his glory.

Are we less than Persia?

They are the Lords of the world and proud of it

Lest they look at us as inferiors!

Illustration of Senmar by Baran Sedighian

Senmar promised Al-Nu’man to build better palace than Persian kings, called “Khawarnaq”. Senmar demands golds for the palace, but Al-Nu’man could not bring himself to pay such a large amount of golds and workers. Seeing the sultan’s stinginess, he asked people help. Each who cuts a Cedar could keep the branches. Each who makes hundred bricks can take ten for himself. Infuriated by his shrewdness, Al-Nu’man accused Senmar of wasting and dedicating his resources to peasants.

He asks Senmar’s reward for building Khawarnaq that reputation has already spread throughout the realm. He replied “nothing”. He offers his own camel, his best horse, seventy of his best goats and above all his youngest daughter to Senmar. However, it was in vain. He refused all.

Senmar: I build this building for the sake of building.

One day Al-Nu’man dashed into the working place like wild cow seeing red withering with pain of his last dream. He dreamt that his father appeared in his palace asking to show the vast desert and the cedars which were used for making the palace. He felt humiliated by his father’s reproachful eyes for losing his long kept heritage. Senmar proposed stop working on Khawarnaq; however, Al-Nu’man’s eyes couldn’t let go of this magnificent palace. the situation went ugly when the elders of the tribes and courtiers reproached him for choosing a stranger over his own tribe member and warning him against Senmar’s popularity over himself. Khawarnaq belongs to Senmar who won people hearts, not Al-Nu’man. Meanwhile, Senmar fell in love with his youngest daughter at a first sight and now Khawarnaq was an excuse for staying close to her, despite her absence.

Senmar's Sacrificing Session Bahram Beyzai - The Seven beauties
Senmar felling in love with Al Nu’man’s youngest daughter

Once he tried to leave al-Hirah to visit his sick father, but Al-Nu’man broke his legs out of fear of losing him forever. With broken legs he couldn’t ride a horse to Rome. The next group who couldn’t tolerate Senmar’s progress and success were al-Hirah’s local architectures. They openly criticized the sultan’s decision, choosing Senmar as the architect, as belittling Arabs before the Persians. After all, he has no Arab blood in his body. They even warned him of building more magnificent palace than Khawarnaq for someone else after finishing his task in here. Maybe for Persian king.

Oscillating between keeping his heritage or seeking new palace, he finally ordered to kill Senmar by throwing him off his own building. After his death, Al-Nu’man slowly came to himself and realized his mistake. He stood against the elders to defend Senmar’s endeavor to make seven-domed palace out of this barren land. Al-Nu’man accused them of laziness and idleness.

Human cannot stop thinking and working

Khawarnaq is our endeavor fulfilled

Is it not better to know us by endeavor rather than idleness?

Senmar's Sacrificing Session Play Bahram Beyzai
Senmar’s Sacrificing Session illustration by Baran Sedighian

Khawarnaq shows what could have been built before

But we didn’t.

You hold a mirror before our idleness

In this mirror, we are only braggers

Who haven’t moved an inch for a century!

Senmar draws Al-Nu’man’s attention to the pictures on the walls of Khawarnaq where a man is depicted under an elephant’s feet. He prophesied that a sultan of your sons will pay for my blood in future. The play ends with arrival of King of Persia and Al-Nu’man hearing of the elephants’ trumpet.

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Seljuk Station by Bahram Beyzai

Seljuk Station by Bahram Beyzai - The Seven Beauties - Ebrahim Barzegar

Seljuk Station is a screenplay written by Bahram Beyzai in 2000. In this screenplay Beyzai focuses on the life a French woman searching for fertility.   

Where is Seljuk Station?

Seljuk Station is an gas station in an ancient city of Ephesus, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. The city used to be one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Greek era, but later on after invasion of Seljuk Turks in 12th century, its name changed into Seljuk. Seljuk city is one of the top tourist attractions of turkey filled with archeological sites particularly Temple of Artemis. 

Who is Cybele?

Cybele or Artemis was the goddess of fertility in ancient Greek. The Cybele Statue in Ephesus Museum is a small statue in a sarcophagus-like shape with two animals (Stags) next to her feet. Her multi breasts emphasize her fertility and potency of giving birth.

Seljuk Station Plot

Isabel and Francois were travelling to Ephesus to adopt a child in a war-stricken village of Turkey on Isabel demand, since she is infertile. On the way to Istanbul, in the early morning, on a gas station in Seljuk district, Isabel got off the bus to use the toilet, while Francois was asleep in the bus. Two young boys teased her by occupying the toilet before her. When she left the toilet, her eyes caught the glimpse of the store next to gas station and stepped toward it. All of the sudden, she realized that the bus was moving. She ran after the bus, but it was in vain.

Left alone in gas station, she tried to get help from the locals. However, no one understood her. No one spoke French. She tried English and luckily, one spoke back. One tried to give her a ride in his car but the local warned her against it. He was notorious for being womanizer. Wrapped in blanket giving by the owner of the local shop, she sat on the ancient plinth close to the station, hopelessly.

While she was alone, she began to think about her husband behaviors and attitude toward her resolution: adopting a child. The situation began to go awry as her fears turned into nightmares. Her emotion became over her so much that she even blamed her husband for being left alone. Suppressed voices of unconscious welled up and made her had a second thought about her life.

Meanwhile, her husband, François, attempted to back for her with all difficulties. Isabel constantly dreamt Francois was coming back with a child, but it was a pipe dream. When finally, he came back, Isabel made up her mind and got on another bus and left him. She could not bear the situation anymore. The modern East where all the magic was gone disillusioned her. Along with that, she realized that her husband has prevented her to achieve her goal. 

Seljuk Station Review

Bahram Beyzai , as usual, uses a historical place or historic moment as a jumping board for his narrative. In “Seljuk Station”, Beyzai excavates into the life of French couple visiting the magical East to adopt a child. According to Francois, he is not going to adopt a child from a Germany, Italy and Russia because they are the child of Nazism, Fascism a Communism, respectively. He was against the Turks or Kurds too; however, Isabel talked him into it.

Isabel was desperate to have a child. She taught that East was the same thing she had read in books and stories. But once, she was there, it became dawn on her that she was wrong. The modern East has lost its charmed taste. This disillusionment was paralleled with reevaluation of her husband and her life with him. Her nightmares were nothing but her wishes and fears. Wishes for a child. Fear of being raped. Dreaming of uniting with her husband plus a child captured her body and soul to the verge of nervous breakdown.

Similar to all other Beyzaie’s screenplays or plays, the female protagonist made an important decision that is rebelling against the status quo and made her free of all the masculine shackles.

Quick Facts about Seljuk Station

  • Full Title: Seljuk Station
  • Author: Bahram Beyzai
  • Type of Work: Screenplay
  • Genre: Drama
  • Language: Farsi (Some English Sentences)
  • Time and Place Written: 2000
  • Date of First Publication: 2000
  • Publisher:  Roshangaran Publication
  • Point Of View: Third Person
  • Tone: Straightforward
  • Setting (Time): Circa the publication
  • Setting (Place): Ephesus, Turkey
  • Protagonist: Isabel
  • Major Conflict: Isabel attempts to adopt a child in Turkey
  • Rising Action: Isabel missed the Bus to Istanbul
  • Climax: Isabel got on the bus alone and left her husband
  • Themes: knowing the truth about her life; Pregnancy is impossible; Huge gap between her and her husband, The magical East is gone
  • Motifs: Nightmares and dreams, Smoking, Road
  • Symbols: Cybele Statue
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