Fellow wanderlust, Sandeep Singh, recently visited Iran and found beauty beyond what he expected to see. When he sent me this article with these five incredible photos, my jaw hanged in the air and all I thought was, “The beauty of Iran held me hostage.” No pun intended. Yes, I’ve never been to Iran but it’s on my list. Enjoy.
What comes to your mind when you hear of this country? Perhaps you think of a land where religious fundamentalism holds sway. Or maybe you picture an oppressed people with little law and order. Some even confuse the region with its neighbour Iraq.
For me, I had the good fortune of travelling to Iran for a fortnight in April this year, and will be the first to tell you that what is portrayed in the media is completely different from the reality of life in everyday Iran.
My foray into this ancient civilisation spanning over 2,500 years began in Shiraz, located in south-western Iran. Known as the city of poets and gardens, it was also famous for its wines. Iranians enjoy referring to Shiraz as a city with one of the laziest people because of their supposedly laid-back demeanours and lifestyle devoted to sensory pleasures of food and music. However, I found this trait endearing, and is an especially welcome respite for a weary traveller who seeks refuge from bustling city life.
My next stop was Esfahan, known colloquially as ‘nesf-e-jahan’ or half the world. With its tree lined boulevards, restaurants serving Italian cuisine and glass façade shops selling international brands, I did feel like I was in Europe rather than the Middle East. The only difference is that the women here do not leave the house without covering their heads. It was a delight discerning the various headscarf styles worn by the women; from light colourful fabrics loosely framing the faces of young girls to austere black or blue chadors which are wrapped tightly around the face and give usually older women an air of which authority which perfectly complements their seniority.
The last place I visited, and definitely my favourite, was the desert city of Yazd. Together with Shiraz and Esfahan, these three regions form a trinity of sorts, for travellers seeking to experience the cultural aspects of Iran. Yazd is unique for its desert architecture, with buildings specially constructed to withstand the harsh, arid environment. Climbing atop the many roof terraces in the city, your eyes adjust to a landscape dotted with minarets that are illuminated by blue and green lights in the evening and sandstone domes interspersed badgirs or wind-catchers; which funnel air down into the cooler depths of a home – an ingenious form of air conditioning.
Iran is for sure, one of the most enchanting places I have been to. The people are fiercely proud of their rich history, and are genuinely curious to learn about where you come from and what you think of their country.
Children peak at you shyly beneath heavily lidded lashes before whispering to each other and bursting into fits of giggles. Old women press gaz, traditional sweets made from rose-water, almonds, pistachios and flour into your hands and welcome you.
The architecture and monuments are breathtaking, with such intricate detailing that you cannot help but feel insignificant in the face of such grandeur. I definitely recommend making a trip to Iran to fully enjoy all that this beautiful and sometimes misunderstood country has to offer. (Text and photos: Sandeeph Singh)
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