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Posts Tagged ‘Farsi’

atlas-hotel-shiraz

After the stress of the previous evening, Feri and I slept soundly for ten hours in our en-suite, air-conditioned room. It was impressively clean with a large, comfortable bed and a huge fridge. Breakfast the next morning was typical Iranian fayre and plenty of it. It seemed a shame to check out after just one night after all the effort we had made to get the room, but we were meeting Rahmon for a day of sight-seeing in Shiraz and we had an early start.

Rahmon managed to find a precious car parking space in the city centre multi-storey and we made our way towards the famous Vakil Mosque, Bazaar and public baths.

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First stop was the old public baths which, after spells as an underground restaurant and carpet shop, have now been converted into a waxwork museum depicting what the baths may have looked like when fully operating. The first things that strike you as you enter the first of many chambers are the smell of camphor and the beautiful designs decorating the ceilings. I understand that the restaurant closed in 2008 when it was found that the heat was destroying the plaster ceilings and I am so pleased that they are now being preserved.

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Waxwork figures are placed in each chamber/room and it is easy to see how many traditional treatments were available in public baths at a time when many people didn’t have bathing facilities at home. There were masseurs, barbers who often doubled-up as dentists, circumcisers, blood-letters, exfoliators, henna and hair removal specialists. Men and women were segregated and non-muslims were mostly not admitted. The baths were not only a place to get yourself spruced up but also somewhere to catch up on the news and gossip. It is no surprise then to find that bath day often took all day.

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It was while wandering around the chambers that a young girl approached me and asked whether I was English and if I could speak to her. She was learning English at school and wanted to show me how much she had learnt. Of course I obliged, then after a while I answered her in Farsi which delighted her so much that she shouted across to a large group of people and beckoned them over. This was a family outing to Shiraz, and coincidentally they too were from Esfahan. We had lots in common so they all started to ask me questions wanting me to reply in Farsi. It seemed to amuse them that I could. They also took lots of photos; some surreptitiously, worried that they might offend me by asking, others more blatant and unashamed!

Luckily, Feri realised that I was surrounded by a well-meaning but demanding audience and understanding that I may be getting a little overwhelmed he came to my rescue. After more obligatory photos with every member of the family, we departed friends, me having done my bit for Anglo/Iranian relations.

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Next stop was Vakil Mosque. I must admit that my initial reaction was one of disappointment. I was used to the spectacular and visually stunning blue mosques of Esfahan but here the decorative tiles were more muted and mostly in shades of pink. I soon realised that I have been spoilt in becoming so familiar with the mosques in Esfahan and not realising how amazing they are. It is not until you have something to compare them with that this becomes so apparent.

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As I walked around the 48 stone columns carved in spirals and looked closely as the mosaics, I saw how intricate and beautiful the mosque is. One of the main features of this mosque is the minbar, the pulpit from which the Imam conducts prayers and delivers his sermons, which is carved out of one solid piece of green marble. The minbar has 14 steps leading up to a recess in the blue and yellow tile-decorated wall and appears to be a favourite place for Iranians to pose for photographs.

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This is one thing that really annoys me when visiting historical and cultural sites in Iran. Posing Iranians, with designer sunglasses and selfie sticks, heavily made-up women draping themselves over carved stones, wrapping themselves provocatively around pillars demanding yet another picture be taken. It is something that I haven’t come across anywhere else and it seems disrespectful to both the site and others wanting to see items in their “raw” state!

With camera poised and after much huffing and puffing, shifting from one leg to another, the offending Iranians eventually got the hint and let me take my photos.

After the relative peace and quiet of the mosque, it was full-steam ahead to the bustling Bazaar Vakil with instructions from Rahmon to buy his wife a scarf and with our immediate task of finding a tea-house where we could sit down and take stock, and refreshments.

Next time: Clubbing and bazaar happenings in the car park.

 

 

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As usual before my holiday I spent some time researching possible trips out of Esfahan and made a list of all those things that I wanted to see. I compiled the list before I experienced the searing heat in June/July and therefore some of my plans had to be changed to suit the temperature once we arrived in Iran. One trip which I didn’t have to change however, even though we were due to head South-East towards the desert, was a visit to Na’in. I read about the old mosque with its minbar, the carpets, the citadel and the qanats in this town and convinced Feri and Will that they would love to spend a day in Na’in too.

Rahmon (see previous post) was duly roped in to our adventure-willingly as usual- and we set off early on Sunday morning with our normal supplies of  iced water and tea. Although this was the first day of Ramazan we were hopeful that we would find somewhere open to eat lunch later and we left the nun and panir at home.

As we traveled out of Esfahan to the East, the landscape gradually changed and we saw several pigeon towers dotted across the fields; herds of goats and their herdsmen were sheltering from the sun under the tree-shade by the roadside, the large guard dogs were also trying to keep cool by lying in the ditch. As we traveled towards Na’in, the soil became more sandy and the already sparse green shrubs became fewer and farther between. The passing cars left a thick dusty trail behind them as they disappeared into the distance.

After a short stop for a drink, we continued the long and winding climb through the mountains as the sun started to get really hot and intense.  We arrived in Na’in and drove straight to the old mosque-Masjeed-e Jame which we found easily by its tall 28m high octagonal minaret. We parked the car close to the mosque and walked towards the entrance.

The 28m high octagonal minaret

The 28m high octagonal minaret

Mr Aghaee

As we approached the mosque a man came towards us and greeted us in both Farsi and excellent English. I clearly understood the English but strangely, Feri and Rahmoon had difficulty in understanding the Farsi dialect. It appears that he was speaking the Pahlavi Old Persian which is not widely spoken in Iran but at least they understood more than they were able to speak!

Now they know how I feel 🙂

This very polite man introduced himself as the curator of the old mosque and Pirnia House (Pir= old, nia= ancestry) an Ethnographic Museum which Mr Aghaee has built up almost single-handedly, and was particularly proud of his mention in the Brandt Travel Guide to Iran. I actually had a copy of this guide with me and turned straight to page 112 where I read; ” Do persuade the knowledgeable curator, who speaks very good English to take you round; his wife is a noted carpet maker in the locale. He has persuaded the townspeople to lend him interesting archival material, such as marriage contracts, as well as metalwork and ceramic objects.”  

Feri & Mr Aghaee

Feri & Mr Aghaee

I can vouch for both his extensive knowledge and his excellent English and he was more than happy to escort us around the site. There was no persuasion required but if you visit and he is not there, do try and find him as it will make your visit much more meaningful.

During our initial conversation he explained that he is 73 years old (that was a surprise-he looks much younger I think), he has 7 children (must be the secret of eternal youth!) and his wife is a renowned local carpet maker. He corresponds with several ex-visitors by email, including an eminent professor from Oxford University. He has learned 22,000 verses of Persian poetry including some from Rumi and Hafez, and proceeded to recite some for us.

One of my favourite sayings of his was;

“Grey hairs are not a sign of growing old.

Growing old is when you have no love left in your heart”

As one who is cultivating grey hair at an alarming rate this was rather comforting.

Once we has listened to some of his poetry, Mr Aghaee offered to take us round the old mosque. This was too good an opportunity to miss as he was clearly both very knowledgeable and passionate about both the mosque and the museum of his and so it turned out to be.

Next time: Na’in, the old mosque.

Learn the lingo

Goat              Boz

Mosque             Masjeed

Museum         Muze

Carpet           Farsh

      

 

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I’m forever trying to bust myths about Iran when asked about my visits and some of the questions I’m asked seem ridiculous when seen from my eyes and with my experience. But that’s the issue. I’ve seen some of Iran myself and experienced family life over there. I’ve bought fruit and vegetables, clothes, done the tourist “thing”. I’ve been to weddings and mourning ceremonies in the mosque. I’m not a practising Moslem but no one minded. I respect their culture and dress code just as I expect visitors and residents to respect our culture and expectations here in the UK.

The picture that the media portrays of Iran  is very different and whilst I understand that the political situation is controversial, the propaganda and unbalanced approach to the reporting is very frustrating. I’m not qualified to comment on politics be it about the situation in the UK/Europe or about the latest Middle East issues. It is complex and frankly very confusing so I don’t do it. Many may think this is a cop-out, but I could spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week trying to understand world politics and I honestly just don’t have the time.

I happen to think that there is room for more information to be made available about Iran from a non-political perspective. There is so much more to Iran than the nuclear debate, human rights issues and the religious tension and we will all get along better if we understand the different cultures and history and learn to appreciate our differences and similarities.

I found this quote on the net today. Sadly the author’s link was broken and I’ve been unable to trace its origins to give credit. I like this as it deals with many of the myths and attitudes embedded so deeply in people’s psyche. I know, as I get asked the questions.

  • No, I am not a terrorist nor a wife beater,
    I don’t live in a tent in a desert
  •  
  • I speak Farsi, not Arabic
    Iran is pronounced “EERAUN” and not “I – ran” (it’s not track & field)
  •  
  • News flash: Iran and Iraq are two different countries ,
    Middle east is a region and NOT a continent,
    And camels are not our way of transportation.
  •  
  • Iranian women are just as outspoken (if not more) and liberal as the
    European women,
  •  
  • Iran is the first country to have red white and green for a flag,
    A beautiful country ran by the wrong people
    But still the best part of Middle East
  •  

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If you haven’t already come across Hila Sadeghi, the young Iranian poet, you are about to. Great poetry has been written by great Persian poets in the past and the rhythm and musicality of the language makes it perfect for this medium.

Written and spoken with passion, angst, disappointment and anger, Hila’s poems come alive as she delivers them to the receptive audience and she gets the recognition and applause she deserves for her talent, openness and bravery.

I’m not proficient enough in Farsi to really appreciate Persian poetry past or present-it is  difficult to translate poems from and into any language without losing some of the inferred meaning but even if you don’t speak the lingo, there is no doubting the meaning and passion behind Hila’s poems. She speaks from the heart. A brave thing to do.

Hila remembers Neda Agha Soltan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWAM7C3Q8vk

The Class is Empty without Your Presence

By: Hila Sedighi

It is a rainy autumn day.
The sky is about to burst
into tears
as if a cloud
is kneeling to pray
to the summer’s heat.

The school smells of the alphabet
The bells ring loud to declare our first recess

Our unsanctioned laughter and our naive joy
was met with constant rage and slander
These were our youth days!

It is autumn and the school re-opens.
I am filled with moments and memories in this classroom where you are no more.
I sit there at your desk that is topped with perished flower petals.

It is autumn and I am so full of rain
It is autumn and I am so full of rain
I am imprisoned by my own rage.

What a beautiful tomorrow we dreamed of
It is all in vain now.

What great times and what dreams we passed
searching for a re-awakening.

Me and you!
We were the generation that was not allowed to fly.

Me and you!
We were the generation that could not fly!

Enslaved in the claws of the falcon-
the same falcon who shot you in front of my eyes with its sharp claws!
The same falcon who shot you in front of my eyes with its sharp claws!

All our dreams died
and separated our hands of friendship.

You drank the poison of death,
and you left me suddenly.

I now swear to to the tears that roll down a mother’s face
And I swear to our eternal ideas
And I swear to each drop of blood of love
And I swear to the burning hearts in chains
My heart shattered in a hundred pieces and fell to the ground
The sorrow had cut my heart.

Tell me
Tell me if you are happy where you are.

Are you free in the other world?
Do yo still remember our younger years?
Do you still love your country?

Tell me, are there no perverts where you are?
Is the fate of trees indebted to axes?
Do they not steal your conscious over there?
Do they not rape your pride over there?

Are there signs of unknown graves where you are?
Do you hear the cries of the mothers?

Recite with me, recite with me
We shared our pains, our generation, and our way
Recite my poem with sorrow and sigh

Again,
it is the beginning of autumn
The sky is about to burst into tears

I am left with an empty chair where you used to sit
I am left with an empty chair where you used to sit
And the perished flowers on your desk.

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Married to an Iranian it took me a while but in October 2010 I finally organised and prepared myself to visit this fascinating country. I had very mixed feelings about the visit but I was determined to go with no negative pre-conceptions about the ordinary Iranian people. Those I have met in Europe are wonderfully friendly, compassionate, fun-loving, respectful, hard-working and have all, without exception, welcomed me into their fold. I purposefully went with an open mind and all good intentions to embrace and respect their culture, just as I expect others to do here in the UK. In short, I was prepared for a really unusual adventure and amazing cultural experience.

I was not to be disappointed.

As a long-term depression sufferer however I was also aware that two weeks in a foreign country, immersed in a vastly different culture, with reduced at-your-finger-tip communication with my support network and the obvious language barrier combined with being out of my routine would put huge pressure on my ability to cope and may spiral me into a depression. That was the last thing I wanted but was it a genuine concern? There was only one way to find out.

I knew that I didn’t just want to be a visitor. I wanted to be accepted as an honorary “Iranian” Was this too much to ask or expect? I wasn’t sure but I found out for myself. Armed with my new Iranian passport and a basic knowledge of Farsi, the Persian language I was confident that I would survive the two weeks. The following posts will give you a flavour of what I have encountered during my visits so far which has been more positive, inviting and welcoming than the general media portray.

 

 

Pimsleur-Conversational Farsi– 30 CDs providing basic conversational Farsi. A very useful comprehensive introduction to the Persian language and enough to get you by. 

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