Wednesday, November 22, 2006


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Having problems uploading images will try again later... (Sunday maybe)
The thing about traveling in Iran is that you aren’t just traveling through space, you are traveling through time. The space is already dramatic enough… a short trip takes you from Tehran north into a lush forest and south into the desert. It also takes you to a village where people heat with wood or an oasis where people gather water from an underground stream.

You can go from the emerging cosmopolitanism (yes, even here) of Tehran to fundamentalist Islamic culture in a short drive.

Our trip to Yazd (Keivan wrote two trip reports and is working on a third, so I will just write about Yazd) was a bit like that. I mentioned earlier that on the way, we met Moses -- that was not his name, but he looked more like Moses than Charlton Heston or Michaelangelo’s statue – and his wife who was equally Old Testamenty in a long embroidered dress, with two thick black braids, and a well-groomed unibrow (not a contradiction! Among some Iranians a woman with a well-groomed unibrow is sexy. At first I thought it was bizarre; now I also find it attractive.) The two run a bizarre guest house in an oasis somewhere in the desert, so who knows, maybe they wandered there.

But Keivan will tell you about that…

I’ll tell you about Yazd, a city on the Silk Road that is just amazingly beautiful. We hired a guide to ensure that we didn’t get lost its mazelike streets. He took us to all the highlights: the huge towers of silence where the Zoroastrians used to leave their dead to be eaten by vultures. “The practice stopped when the city got too close to the towers and people started finding bits of bodies in their gardens,” our guide explained. Boys on motorbikes rode up and down the hills leading to the stone tanks that used to hold the dead.

It was Al Qods Day when we were there, which means huge anti-Israel, anti-American rallies. Our part of Yazd, despite being a revolutionary city, had a pretty lukewarm rally when the cameras were off… turn the cameras on and you see something else entirely. The group we saw seemed to be barely interested. Its leader tried to get the crowd worked up, but to no avail.

I know that we just saw one small leg of the march; I know that huge crowds turned up, but what we saw was impressive for being so unimpressive. I was, frankly, relieved.

The highlight of our day was a visit to the Friday Mosque where huge groups of women were participating in a gathering said to be of help women with problems getting pregnant. The women had taken over the mosque and were exchanging fabric and measuring each other for colorful chadors. Other women were there for help finding a man. First they read their fortunes from the inside of walnuts (like tea leaves or coffee grounds); then they climbed to the dome of the mosque and walked around it 7 times while saying special prayers.


You heard me. Walnuts, fabric exchanges, and circling the dome…

“The 135th generation of David is buried here,” our guide told us. “Every year, Jews from all over Iran make a pilgrimage to his grave. The funny thing is that when they leave there is no sesame halvah left anywhere in Yazd.”

Some traditions are the same all over the world…

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