Paternal Line: According to oral traditions handed down the generations, the Ziai genealogy begins with Mir Abol-Qāsem, a high-ranking man of letters at the Safavid court who accompanied Shah Abbas I on his last trip to Mashhad on 13 September 1601. Born and raised in Herat, Shah Abbas (1571-1629) had recaptured Mashhad from the Uzbeks—his archenemies on the east—in 1598; he had then renovated and tenaciously promoted the shrine of Imam Reza as a Shi’ite rival to Mecca to offset the dominion of the Sunni Ottomans—his archenemies on the west. When the shah—prototype of “The Sophy” in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1601-1602)—went on a pilgrimage to Mashhad on foot from Isfahan, Mir Abol-Qāsem, likely a native of Khorasan in his entourage asked for permission to stay. The shah obliged and granted him the village of Hosni in Torbat-Heydariyeh, ancient Zāveh (“zav” meaning ‘body of water,’ ‘canal,’ ‘ravine’), a mountainous region with fertile plains and abundant water that had been settled in prehistory and thrived since. The target of the first massive Mongol invasion in 1220 CE, Zāveh was in the 15th century renamed Torbat-Heydariyeh after the Sufi Qutb ud-Din Heydar (d. 1221) who is buried there, ‘torbat’ meaning burial ground.

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