iran 9: nain, abyaneh, kashan—travelling through the desert

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I’ll be leaving in a couple of days; I have been in Iran for two weeks now. How easily we are able to change our habits. Two weeks and I now feel uncomfortable going out in public without my hejab, kebabs have become my staple diet, and salams and merci come easily. One more week here and I would be all chadored, going na na every time someone wanted to take a picture of me.

Travelling through miles of desert is an extraordinary experience. It also teaches you not to be fussy. Bathrooms are invariably behind a sand dune, at a little booth in a caravanserai, or in a thicket. So when you emerge you learn to check your front and backside as well so that there are no twigs sticking out of your hejab. It gives a whole new angle to the “going to the ladies” ritual.

There are two main deserts in Iran—Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut—and they are both dotted with tiny little towns built around ancient mosques. Nain is the most charming with its carpets and 9th Century Jameh mosque decorated with stunning yet simple stucco-work. Continue reading

iran 6: shiraz, the heartland of persian culture

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Drink until the turbans are all unbound,
Drink until the house like the world turns around.
~ Hafez, Sufi poet (14th Century)

I’m in Shiraz, the heartland of Persian culture. Shiraz was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and the capital of the Zand Dynasty from 1747 to 1779. Through its many artists and scholars the city earned a reputation for being the “House of Learning” and was synonymous with education, nightingales, poetry, roses. and at one time, red wine. It is home to one of the oldest universities dating to the 7th Century AD. Two of the world’s greatest poets, Hafez and Saadi are buried here. Continue reading

iran 1: tehran … museums, palaces, bazaars, and mosques

Note: I travelled to Iran in October 2007 for two weeks. Iran has been one of my most memorable travels to date. I am republishing the series comprising 10 posts till this mid-June. Refreshing my personal memories. This is the first post in the series—on Iran’s capital city Tehran and its museums, palaces, bazaars, and mosques. Hope you enjoy the reads. 🙂

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meiran1“Why are you going to Iran???” “Coz I want to.” “But why? You’ve really gone cuckoo. Just look at the current global political scenario!!!” “I’m going because I want to go that extra mile. Cross that extra river. Go beyond preconceptions and expectations. Learn for myself what really is out there.” “You’ve gone cuckoo, period!”

Salaam. I’m off to Iran. It was not an easy task explaining my choice of holiday for the year. 🙂 But, hey, who cares. I’m going where my heart wants me to go. I want to walk through the ruins of Xerxes’ Persepolis, wonder at the beauty of Esfahan, and smile and play with Kurdish children before it is all too late. Before it all becomes another Baghdad, Kabul or Libya. Come along with me? Continue reading