Wine, in Iran and other parts of the Middle East, was not the fermented beverage of the rich and famous, but of the public at large. Wine was consumed by men and women, regardless of their class, although the quantity and the quality must have differed quite widely, as is so today, depending on circumstances.

Whereas in Iran wine had no limitations of gender or class,[52] in Rome it was not lawful for women to drink wine.[53] In India, wine was drunk by the higher echelons of society, women of lower castes generally refrained from drinking wine, but the ladies at the court indulged, sometimes to excess.[54]

Wine has been a part and parcel of the Iranian culture from mythology to the present. Despite the edicts of Islam and the restrictions of the Islamic Republic both of which have failed to eradicate the tradition in Iran.

The prohibition of wine in Islam has led some scholars to question the certainty of existence and consumption of wine, and the reality of taverns and bars in the Islamic period in Iran. Our search revealed numerous usage opf the words may “wine”, may-khāna, sharāb-khāna, may-kada, sharāb-kada, kharābāt, kharābāt-e moghān for “”wine house, tavern, inn, bar”, khom-khāna, khom-kada, “wine cellar” and mos̬taba “wine shop”, all of which in the real sense. Although some of the usages may rightly be interpreted as metaphorical, a large number are very definitely literal.

The widespread appearance of obvious non-metaphoric manifestations from our study of various data bases of literary works, have displayed unrefuted evidence in this respect. These are strongly supported by abundant wine drinking scenes of various epochs manifestly illustrated in Persian miniatures and murals, some of which are even displayed in public places. Thus, wine culture continued in the Islamic period and was discreetly tolerated by the authorities in spite of the religious pronouncements.

Although the literary evidence yielded little direct evidence on the architectural side of the wine drinking establishments in Iran, if furthered our social and institutional understanding which affected both architectural and urban design. It is clearly shown that the wine houses were used frequently and regularly by the general public, and their social dimension as get-together places of communal gathering and assembly fulfilled very similar purposes to the modern tavern, pub or bistro.

The Greeks say “wine is also truth”[55] – a parallel notion which existed widely in Iran from the ancient times to the present and is reflected extensively in Persian poetry of different epochs, aptly summarized by the old Persian saying of masti-u rāsti.

< The Influence of Wine Culture on Architectural Acoustics

[52] Dariush Borbor, “Iran’s Contribution to Human Rights, the Rights of Women and Democracy”, in Iran and the Caucasus, 12, Leiden-Boston, 2008, p. 116.

[53] Pliny the Elder, Natural History, XIV. 14.

[54] R. C. Dutt, A History of Civilization in ancient India, Based on Sanscrit Literature, Calcutta-London, 1890, reprint., Elibron Classics, 2001, p. 788; Bose, op. cit., 46ff.

[55] Plutarch, Artoxerxes, 14: (4).