Caravan of the Sun
A play about the captives of Karbala
By Mahdi Mutavasseli
Translated by Mohammad Mehdi Baghi
Since 1992, the play Caravan of the Sun has been performed more than 900 times on stage, both inside and outside Iran, by the Fadak Cultural Institute. The playwright, Mahdi Mutavassili, has stated that the play is loosely based on seven classical sources. Husayn Musafir Astanih served as the last director of the play performed by the A’in Troup in Qum in 2014.
The play opens with a scene inside a monastery, where a telling dialogue transpires between an old monk and his young, truth-seeking apprentice. The scene swiftly changes to the arrival of soldiers and their captives; Shimr ibn Dhi al-Jawshan, the commander of Yazid’s army in the Battle of Karbala, has brought the caravan of prisoners to the monastery. Shimr, an ex-supporter of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, had fought with the Imam at Siffin against Mu’awiyah, but he later joined the Kharijites (Seceders) and then served as the Umayyad commander in Karbala. The scenes that follow skilfully, and at times movingly, portray the cold-hearted, materialistic character of Shimr and his soldiers on the one hand, and the pure, dignified nature of Imam Husayn’s oppressed family members on the other.