I spent 10 days in Iran and I had the opportunity to learn about a culture from which to learn a lot. It’s never just a physical journey but also an inner and emotional journey, especially starting from the north to the south. The people are friendly and curious, intelligent and emotional, strongly linked to its history and its strong roots. Persian culture is rich in engineering and art, a country where water is present in every corner as fountains or artificial rivers along the way. From here comes for the first time the name of “paradise” as a synonym for “garden”, and you can admire the powerful link between nature, water flow and special people.
Before taking the plane i was almost sure about the place i was going to meet, and without any significant doubt i reached Tehran after a total of 12 hours passing through Istanbul. I took a taxi at the 5 o’clock in the morning from the Imam Khomeini airport and i spent the time looking at the sunrise through the windscreen of the car, followed by an intense smell of burned and damp grass all along the street, a smell that i will never forget, it seemed as if the sun, rising, was going to burn. To be sure about the price I watched one of the stickers on the window, it was almost 23 dollars. I payed and left the taxi, checked in at my hostel and closed my eyes in a crowded dormitory (http://sevenhostels.com/)
I got up early around the 9.30 o’clock in the morning, i put the phone on charge and went outside for a solitary walk, thinking about how to get to know someone. But these things in Iran work automatically, after 5 minutes of walk a book seller has taken the first step and i found myself first to be the first customer of a new coffee where the book seller, Kuroosh, explained to me a bunch of Persian history, writing a little bit on my agenda and a little bit on his copybook. Then he brought me literally underground, in a hidden wholesale of books where after a couple of minutes and some nice shots I was pleasantly kidnapped by a publisher who brought me in the office of a publishing house. There I met with surprise a young poet and writer who was preparing a nice coffee, it seemed as if I was expected. We smoked a cigarette and then he gave me one of his collections of poetry. I thank you again.
Later i was again on the street with Kuroosh around the famous “book’s city” of Tehran. He introduces me to some of his friends when I decide to accompany one of them to a theatrical hearing (he is an actor), and after that i found myself at a recording session for a TV show. I completed the day in a restaurant where some new friends offered me to eat a kebab of fish and explained to me some stuff about the black market of beer in Iran.
The day after i went to visit the Golestan Palace, an outstanding example of Persian architecture and after that i took a taxi to go visit other places and Azadi Tower. Again, however, I find myself invited to launch by the taxi driver who introduced me his daughter and son. Before leaving they decided to give me a persian carpet and an hand painted vase made by the grandfather. I hope I’ll find the right way to return these beautiful gifts.
I reached Isfahan with a night bus. The journey was almost something spiritual, especially when the driver stopped in the middle of the desert under a starry sky at a service station full of flashing signs in Farsi. I suddenly heard in the loudspeakers a loud prayer that was lost through the desert dunes. Evocative… Each time I hear the call to prey (muezzin) I have the impression that all the places in the world are dragged and combined into a single point.
Isfahan is a great city, especially if you have the opportunity to spend time with a local person. An english teacher and her friend guided me to almost all the most important places in the city, including: Imam Square, Blue mosquee, the bazaar, armenian area and to the famous sport competition called “Zurkhaneh” -> the house of the strength (must see it). The following is a summary of the places I attended for accommodation and launch:
Hotel Ebne Sina (Trip advisor link: http://bit.ly/2bk2w2K )
Restaurant Shahrzad (Trip advisor link: http://bit.ly/2bikDEp), i suggest you to try the “biryani – beryā(n)“
Later during my stay in Isfahan i met Mansour, an old and sportive man who led me to an important factory in Isfahan where they make some of the most important articles of the bazaar. There i met the master Mojtaba Basirat
The handmade items are a real treasure for the country, most of them are very expensive and detailed.
From Isfahan i took another night bus to the ancient city of Yazd. I reached the city at 5 am and not knowing where to stay I wandered into the night searching for an available hotel, with my precious carpet on the shoulders. For a moment I thought I was Aladdin. I was attracted by an old man who walks silently with his stick, while I knocked at the door of a hotel. Finally the Silk Road hotel responds, they have a room available.
They ask me for passport and show me the room on the ground floor. I sit down, I take the necessary from my suitcase for a shower, then i lie down on my new comfortable bed.
Yazd boasts at least 3000 years of history and it was the main center of the Zoroastrianism before the Islamic conquest. Today it is especially famous for the production of fabrics, pastry and the silent streets of the oldest part. The houses and the ancient sites are built with mud and straw. From the top you can admire the big fans that collect the wind to distribute the cool indoors.
I spent the day wandering around the ancient city, stimulated by the silence and peace felt in those streets. I met a bookseller who invited me to observe the city from above, I was locked up in a workshop where two beautiful girls taught me to paint the dishes with them, they do not speak English and we talked quietly, using gestures. I spent the rest of the day visiting the bazaar and discussing a lot with a carpet salesman, a guy who told me about the interesting history of carpets in Iran. You can read more here: Iran – A curiosity about the carpets.
Shiraz – شیراز, Persepolis
I wish i could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being – Hafez, iranian sufi poet
Shiraz was the last leg of my journey before returning to Tehran. Like previous cities it proved to be a city worthy of note. Maybe I did not have time to visit everything you need but I can assure you that what I have seen and known is simply amazing. As usual I reached the city at night.
As soon as I reached the hotel I found out that they were all about to leave for Persepolis (the city of Persia) and I joined the group. Under Darius I It became the capital of Persia, a majestic city of which only the ruins remain today, although well preserved. Since its history is not so short I suggest you to take a look online.
During the early afternoon I met a local friend who led me within the Sufi’s convent (Khaneghahe Ahmadi) where I heard the story of the hierarchy that has marked the history of Sufism. The silence, the passion, the attention that I perceived in the building are still echo in me. Drinking tea, Mehdi told me the story while before my eyes, over a large door, a woman and a man were about to pray at the the tomb of Hazrate Vahidaloliya.
After that I visited the Shah-Cheragh mosque invaded by a large crowd. At the entrance they have provided me a free guide and I can assure that the visit of this mosque is of exceptional interest. Imagine a set of rooms whose walls are covered with a mosaic of mirrors and the whole thing seems a maze of mystery. When we came out on the other side I met a crowd that was listening to a religious song. Birds revolved around the mosque several times. The site is the most important place of pilgrimage within the city of Shiraz.
The next day i focused on visiting some of the most famous gardens of Shiraz, as well as the tomb of the poet Hafez. It was here that I met Behrad, on the bright steps that take to the grave. He introduced me to his friends and we spent the evening talking about some issues in which they are directly involved. They belong to an ancient faith (Bahai) that is not accepted by the Iranian government. For this reason they can not attend the public university although they are still accepted by the Iranian people.
The night is dark and deep. We walk in a university park where the three boys of 17 years prove capable of discussing about many high-impact topics like sociology, poetry, art, cinema, economy. A demonstration of interest and openness that is not easy to meet. I am very grateful to have concluded my journey even knowing them. The next day they gave me a souvenir of the Hafez’s tomb, the place where we met the first time. So every time I look that gift, the high-relief of the tomb will come to life in my imagination. We ended our night at the “Door of the Koran”. Why this name? Because on the door there is copy of the Koran, in this way all the people who pass under may receive Its blessing.
The “Bach moment”
On the way back I get a message from Behrad, oh it was a song by J.S. Bach: “Violin concerto 1041“…. the last time Bach left me an extreme emotion was during the earthquake in Emilia Romagna, when I jumped off the balcony listening to Air. And this time Bach will still remember me that sometimes the beauty is always accompanied by a sad issue. Hoping that the Iranian government will be able to solve their problem as soon as possible… thanks a lot Behrad.
An interesting detail
I noticed that the use of advertising is very limited. That’s very good. If you move in the metro or on the busiest streets you’ll notice that the walls are filled mainly with poems, positive thoughts, verses from the Koran, paintings and photographs. Moreover Iran is known for the dignity of poetry and spiritual thought. To understand more look here: Dream of Iran – Tehran subway, an underground museum of art