4.4.11 Gardens, orchards and fields

Islamic cities and their immediate hinterlands often had a mixture of fields, gardens, pasture, and trees within their environs.

Elite garden space: Quranic verses depict gardens with fountains of running water, two kinds of every fruit, and couches on which believers can rest and view this paradise (Brookes 1987, 11). Gardens were to be viewed from a distance, from pavilions, rather than from paths through them: 'to be viewed rather than used ... a constant factor in Persian layout' (Brookes 1987, 32). Running water, fountains and pools became an integral part of Islamic garden design, and were perhaps especially important to those from arid countries. There was also an emphasis on enclosed, walled gardens, with clear demarcation intended to restrict the access, use and even visualisation of the space. As a result, gardens also tended towards regularity, often with rectilinear layouts.

So we might expect within the urban and suburban space at Merv to see evidence of such elite structuring: regular boundary walls enclosing large areas of unbuilt space, perhaps with water features (ponds, channels, etc.), and even pavilions.

Orchards and fields: the other forms of 'green space' in the urban landscape would have been horticultural activity – fields and orchards – and pasture. Merv was renowned for the lusciousness of its fruit, especially melons, grapes, and pears (Kennedy 1999, 41), and for its cloth and fabric production, both of which would probably have required open spaces in and around the city.

Therefore, other forms of structured space might be expected: perhaps again with boundary walls, or at least some demarcation and regular limits, although without the internal features we might expect to see in the formal gardens (above). Pasture would perhaps be more difficult to isolate, although unbuilt space near suburban caravanserai might be a possible location.

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