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La Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu

După cum reiese din titlu, am fost în Pelerinaj la Arsenie Boca cu Patriarhia Română. Acum, știu, e firesc, să se ridice câteva întrebări.

Cum și de ce? Simplu, am simțit că e ceva ce mă ajută spiritual și mental, că am nevoie de liniște, că vreau să înțeleg unele lucruri și să le văd cu ochii mei și să le simt pe pielea mea.

Păi și cum te rogi? Mă rog pur și simplu, câteodată în română, câteodată în engleză, câteodată în arabă (limba Coranului). În mai am fost la o meditație în retragere în care rugăciunile erau în pali, o limbă străveche, dispărută, vorbită în vremea lui Buddha. Sunt sigură că Dumnezeu nu se supără. Rugăciunea este, până la urmă, numai  formă.

Cum e în pelerinaj? Eu am fost deja la toate mănăstirile importante din țară, fie în excursie, fie în regim propriu. E prima dată când merg în pelerinaj și am ales unul scurt, de două zile, pe weekend și cu nu foarte multe mănăstiri pe itinerar. Întâmplător, sau nu, a fost weekend-ul 8-9 septembrie când se sărbătorește Nașterea Maicii Domnului, respectiv Sfinții Ioachim și Ana, chiar părinții Maicii Domnului.

Am plecat dimineața din Dealul Patriarhiei, de la Unirii. Pe drum s-au spus rugăciunile dimineții și, surprinzător, le țineam minte de la ora de religie de acum 20 de ani. Rugăciuni pentru drum. Foarte frumos, mi-a adus aminte de rugăciunea de călătorie care era recitată pe toate zborurile spre toate destinațiile, la fiecare zbor, la compania la care am lucrat. O rugăciune nu strică niciodată.

 

Prima oprire la Mănăstirea Caraiman din Bușteni

La poalele Masivului Caraiman, pe care se află Crucea de pe Caraiman despre care am aflat că are o lățime de 14 m. Cu o zi înainte, la cursul de croitorie am aflat că în medie, o deschidere de mâini are 1,4 m.

Mănăstirea Caraiman se află la poalele Masivului Caraiman

Maica Domnului i s-a arătat în vis părintelui Gherontie Puiu, care a înălțat mănăstirea, indicându-I locul unde aceasta trebuie ridicată. Întâmplător sau nu, în timp ce scriu acest articol aflu că weekend-ul acesta voi fi…tot la Bușteni.

Mănăstirea Caraiman

Am luat tămâie (că mir nu au), magneți cu îngeri (că îi întâlnim în mai multe religii și pentru că recent mă fascinează) și un mic card cu Arborele Vieții cu Iisus și cei 12 Apostoli (care chiar mă fascinează și pe care-l urmăresc în diverse religii, culture și semnificații). Acum, eu văd multe lucruri în arborele acesta. Văd multă simbolistică, văd numerologie, văd paralele de tipul 12 Apostoli – 12 Imami (din Islam). Oricum, bun de purtat în portofel.

Lumina se reflectă superb pe pictura murală de la Mănăstirea Caraiman

Am stat la slujbă, am admirat pictura din mănăstire, dar și chiliile, unde se poate sărbători Crăciunul, am dat niște pomelnice, am admirat orătăniile și animăluțele mănăstirii. Un loc de liniște și pace interioară.

Crucea de pe Caraiman nu se vedea din cauza norilor. La un moment dat îi arăt prietenei mele că a apărut. O admirăm și în scurt timp dispare din nou printer norii albi. Semne.

Am o droaie de întrebări în sacul meu cu de ce?-uri, dar prietena mea îmi spune te rog eu, dacă ai ceva întrebări mai controversate, pune-le la întoarcere, să nu ne lase pe aici. Adica, în pelerinaj este loc și pentru glume, că e pentru oameni.

 

Izvorul Părintelui Arsenie Boca de la Sâmbăta de Sus

Este în apropiere de Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu, într-o poieniță, într-un loc deosebit de liniștit. Înainte să ne îndreptăm spre mănăstire, s-au rostit câteva rugăciuni de însoțitorul de grup, iar una, chiar a Părintelui Arsenie mi s-a părut foarte plină de înțelesuri și deosebit de frumoasă:

“Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, ajută-mă ca astăzi, toată ziua, să mă lepăd de mine însumi, că cine ştie din ce nimicuri mare vrajbă am să fac şi astfel, ţinând la mine, să Te pierd pe Tine.
Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, ajută-mi ca rugăciunea Preasfântului Tău nume să-mi lucreze în minte mai mult decât fulgerul pe cer, că nici umbra gândurilor rele să nu mă întunece, căci iată păcătuiesc în tot ceasul.
Doamne, Cela ce vii în taină între oameni, ai milă de noi, că umblăm împiedicându-ne prin întuneric. Patimile au pus tină pe ochii minţii, uitarea s-a întărit în noi ca un zid, împietrind în noi inimile noastre şi toate împreună au făcut temniţă în care Te ţinem bolnav, flămând şi fără haină, aşa risipind în deşert zilele noastre, umbriţi şi dosădiţi până la pământ.
Doamne, Cel ce vii între oameni în taină, ai mila de noi şi pune foc temniţei, aprinde dragostea în inimile noastre, arde spinii patimilor noastre şi fă lumină sufletelor noastre.
Doamne, Cela ce vii în taină între oameni, ai milă de noi, vino şi Te sălăşluieşte întru noi, împreună cu Tatăl şi cu Duhul Tău cel Sfânt. Căci Duhul Sfânt se roagă pentru noi cu suspine negrăite, când graiul şi mintea rămân neputincioase.
Doamne, Cel ce vii în taină, ai mila de noi, căci nu ne dăm seama cât suntem de nedesăvârşiţi şi cât eşti de aproape de sufletele noastre şi cât ne depărtăm noi prin păcatele noastre. Ci luminează lumina Ta peste noi, ca să vedem lumină prin ochii Tăi, să trăim în veci prin viaţa Ta. Lumina şi Bucuria noastră, slavă Ţie! Amin”

M-am așezat în iarbă pentru conectare cu Pământul și pentru reamintirea simplității vieții și a acelor momente când încă păstram inocența de copil. Am văzut gaze în covorul verde, dar și flori de câmp și brândușe mov.

 

Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu din Sâmbăta de Sus

E o bucurie să mă reîntorc la Mănăstirea din Sâmbăta de Sus, a doua mănăstire ridicată de Brâncoveanu, unde, în urmă cu mulți ani, am stat chiar și peste noapte. E o încântare să văd stiul brâncovenesc, unul dintre preferatele mele în arhitectura românească.

Aici am admirat biserica veche, stema familiei Brâncoveanu, boltele simetrice ce încadrează curtea, pictura pe nuanțe de turcoaz a bisericii noi, sculpturile în lemn și piatră, pictura ce reprezintă decapitarea brâncoveilor de la Constantinopole, am asistat la slujbă după răbdarea și interesului fiecăruia, am observat forma de octagon al locului de rugăciune din curtea interioară.

În biserica nouă se desfășoară nunți, iar eu cu prietena mea am mai fost la câteo slujbă, că știm de la Dragoș Argeșanu că se deschid cerurile și participarea la slujbă e asemănătoare unui duș energetic. Adică te curăță, carevasăzică.

Printre altele îi spun Iuliei că, pe cât de controversat o fi el, Argeșanu a trimis la și spre biserică mai mulți oameni decât mulți popi. Inclusiv pe noi. Am zis!

Martiriul Sfinților Brâncoveni

La iesire scrie Căutați mai întâi împărăția lui Dumnezeu. Dedesubt e steagul României, o țară eminamente ortodoxă, cu toate avantajele și dezavantajele la pachet.

 

Cazare în Hunedoara

Ne-am cazat la un hotel din centrul orașului Hunedoara, pe unde ne-am și plimbat seara. Un oraș mic, liniștit și frumușel.

 

Mormântul Părintelui Arsenie Boca și Mănăstirea Pislop

Drumul spre mănăstire e frumos și peisajul e pitoresc, pot spune reprezentativ pentru România. Pe ici, pe colo, turme de oi cu oieri ce ne faceau cu mâna. Îmi place mult când văd un zâmbet sincer și bucuria vieții simple. Norocul ne-a urmărit și nu am asteptat mai mult de 20 de minute pentru mormânt. E foartă multă liniște în locul acela și se simte. Pe drum am cumpărat crini pentru mormânt. Oameni de tot felul cu motivații diverse.

Înainte să vină rândul meu a venit o femeie în scaun cu rotile. Eu de rugat, nu mă rog pentru lucruri concrete, ci mai filosofice. Pe scurt, n-am cerut nimic. Dar am mulțumit de 100 de ori când am văzut ce binecuvântare e să ai picioare sănătoase, ochi care văd, mâncare în fiecare zi.

În apropiere mai este o peșteră destul de greu accesibilă, dar până la care ne-am aventurat. Apoi am stat pe-o piatră și-am ascultat slujba de duminică, ce s-a desfășurat afară, într-o filigorie de lemn. Am luat mir și tămâie, am aprins lumânări. Ca tot omu’. Poze n-am făcut.

 

Mănăstirea Cozia

A fost ridicată de Mircea cel Bătrân în 1388, în Călimănești, pe malul Oltului.

Mormântul domnitorului se află în mănăstire. Aici am fost de mult ori, dar niciodată n-am știut că se poate ieși prin cuhnie pe pontonul din spatele mănăstirii, chiar pe malul Oltului.

 

 

 

 

Pe drumul de întoarcere s-au mai rostit niște rugăciuni, s-au recitat poezii și s-au cântat cântece laice. Am aflat mai multe despre viata Părintelui Arsenie Boca dintr-o piesă de teatru pe care am ascultat-o.

Una peste alta, a fost un weekend reusit, liniștit, petrecut cu rost, în aer liber, cu rugăciune – nici prea multă, nici prea puțină. Nu e o activitate pentru fiecare zi, dar cu siguranță dacă nu necesară, foarte folositoare din când în când.

La Mănăstirea Cozia

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Looking at the locals, living in a restrictive regime where self-expression and the free propagation of ideas is not exactly what you would be inclined to do, I’m wondering how many live for a dream and what is that dream?

Travelling through tens of countries from Bangladesh to Japan and Argentina to Kenya, seeing different cultures, political systems, schemes of thinking, beliefs, religions, behavior models, my personal dream is to get to the people’s core way of being and understanding them.

Judgment can only be stopped by knowing, by documenting, by understanding, by seeing and genuinely trying to put one in the shoes of the other. We live in a globalized world that is more racist and less understanding and tolerant to other beliefs, cultures and religions than ever.

Before judging someone or something try to understand where they’re coming from, how they think and what they have to say.

I wanted this trip for years and it must be 15 years since I’ve been in a group tour, an itinerary organized by somebody else. While this is the most common route in Iran, when I come back, I have to visit Tabriz and maybe Mashad.

Mashad is a holy city in the East of Iran where Imam Reza (or Ali al-Ridha), the 8th Imam of the Twelver Islam, a section of Shia Islam, was buried.

Globalization: A Basic Text

Closing my eyes, I can see where I am on the world map. So far, yet so close. What about my mission, my life? Where am I? We’re so good with practical aspects, yet with the less tangible we still seem to struggle. At least I do and I’m unceasingly searching, searching. Sometimes I feel like a dog scratching the ground in search of something he cannot see or feel, yet his senses tell him it’s there.

It’s second day and I wished I talked less and listened more. Does human interaction scare me? Does it make me look inside? Simply cannot sleep. Does a story that resembles mine make me sad? Does my competence make me too proud? Do I not take rejection, criticism?

Travel, just like love, is meant to change us. My motto is:

If love and travel did not change you, it means you did not love enough or traveled far enough.

Love, another force that makes the world spin.

I’m working on myself without even noticing, washing away pain, learning to deal with my thoughts, at the border between acceptance and understanding. Between these two doors I walk back and forth.

It’s a long way, a long process. It means dedication to myself and meanwhile I’m trying to observe where selfishness ends and giving begins.

Personal Revolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You’ve Always Wanted to Do

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My personal favorite.

The crown above was made by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1967 for Farah Pahlaviit is made of platinum, gold and around 1500 diamonds, 36 emeralds, 105 pearls, 34 rubies.

The coronation of Farah Pahlavi in 1967

 

The Treasury of the National Jewels is located in The Central Bank of Iran and is only opened to public for around two hours per day.

A testimony of the glorious past of Iran, of the ambitions of former rulers, but also the suffering of regular people who had to put their sweat into the insatiable thirst of wealth of the ones who were ruling them.

Platinum tiara. 294 diamonds and 7 emeralds.

The collection is truly impressive and, as a follower of the last royal family, I could recognize the pieces from different books and articles I had read on them, from covers of international magazines or from documentaries on the wealth of the Pahlavis.

Farah Pahlavi wearing the above described crown on the cover of Paris Match.

“I saw Farah Pahlavi wearing this on the cover of Paris Match” I would say in the basement of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Crown used by the Qajar Dynasty for their coronations, known as Kiani Crown. Pahlavi did not like this crown and ordered one that is pictured below

Actually, I even noticed when the guide indicated a crown to have been worn by the Shah Mohammed Reza, when I knew exactly I had seen it on Farah Pahlavi’s head.

Darya-i-nur Diamond

Darya-i-nur Diamond means the Sea of Light and it is the largest pink diamond in the world.

The truth is that we don’t pay much attention to these details or we don’t really make the connections between the information we have or we receive. I’m not talking tourism only…it could be religion, faith, the creation of the world. It’s hard work to get out of those boxes we’ve been put in by the society, family etc. and where we’re hiding, get out of the loop and step up.

The place is crowded and it’s normal if you think it is only opened two hours a day, but most of the visitors are Iranians looking to see the creativity and skill of their co-national artisans.

This globe weights 34 kg out of which 3,6 kg is gemstones. To be more precise 51.366 of them.

The globe above made me smile because apparently, the reason why the countries are not well depicted is because the artisans were good at making jewelry not at geography. Fair enough! However, the seas and oceans are green, in emerald and land is shown in rubies. The Equator is shown with a line of diamonds and rubies and Iran is standing out in diamonds, same as South-East Asia, England and France.

Even the most renowned specialists in the field were not able to evaluate the value of the collection that is beyond imagination.

Crown used by Pahlavi Kings for their coronations inspired by Sassanid kings’ crowns. You can see this crown used in the picture above.

Exquisite, impressive, outrageous, incredibly beautiful, stunning!

I cannot find the word to describe the collection that impressed the monarch of the world.

Emerald box made of 92 matching emeralds.

At the 1971 celebration organized by Shah Mohammed Reza to celebrate 2500 years of empire in Iran at Persepolis, were over 60 monarchs and head of states were invited, rumor had it among them that they should not worry about the jewelry they should wear because Farah Pahlavi’s jewels would be more extravagant and, obviously, more valuable. And they were right.

A story

I watched a wonderful documentary on the celebration and a funny tale made me smile: one royalty was asked how the event happened. Apparently, the invitees were arriving, yet they could not be welcomed so fast, so there was a line at the entrance of the luxurious tent put up solely for this occasion. People were confused, because there is a protocol, some were head of government, others were monarchs with full powers, others were presidents, but they adapted and were chatting outside. The reporter asked how did the socialists get along with the capitalists and the member of the Greek royal family said: oh, they were getting along best of all.

Decorated buckler (small shield) used in the war with India. The precious stones were added later.

Hundreds of strings of pearls looking like silk, diamonds, platinum, emeralds, rubies. Sky was the limit for the ones who ruled Persia over time.

By the way, the name of Iran was adopted in 1935, when the other countries received a note stating that the country should be addressed from then onward on this name.

 

From the booklet in high quality sold for only $1,5 at the Museum

 

Ladies shopping in the Isfahan Bazaar
Ladies shopping in the Isfahan Bazaar

Real Iran is not something you read about on the Internet. It is not just landmarks and a few historical dates. It is a country with ups and downs, with people having the same life phases, worries, hopes and dream, like you and me. Like any other country.

This is where we fail in connecting to each other on an inter-religious and intercultural level. We forget this simple rule. We are all the same, at the end of the day.

 Circumstances might influence our life coordinates, but we’re built more or less the same and have the same triggers. We can connect through smiles, music, an open gesture or a simple Helo. Yet, why is it so hard to do it?

Conversation with a local female entrepreneur. She’s brave and she knows what she wants. She fights for her rights and for her baby. With a truly impressive life story, with not much help from anyone she hustled in a male dominated society, getting pretty far, I would say.

She’s the type who knows how to stretch limits, even the Iranian limits, who knows what happens abroad and how to adapt a make the most within the tight perimeter one has in the current days Iran.

Together with young Iranian girls who approached me to ask me things every youngster is interested in when seeing someone…different. Their approach is a lesson to us all. Just ask before you assume…

Somewhere in the Karkas Mountains (Karkas means vulture), in central Iran…

Do you like scarves?

The Fin Gardens, traditional Persian garden

The Fin Gardens (Bagh-e Fin in Farsi) in Kashan are historical Persian gardens, witnessing the rise and fall of empires, assassinations and celebrations.

Built by the Safavid Shah Abbas I and developed by Shah Abbas II, the gardens are a great place to spend time walking through the numerous cypress trees and long water canals.

Amir Kabir was a prominent political figure and Prime Minister of Persia under the Qajar Dynasty and is referred to as Iran’s first reformer, being at the same time a declared opponent of the religious movement Babism, whose leaders were executed at his orders. Like all reformists in history he was ultimately killed in Fin Garden, where he had been in exile.

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During the golden days of the Silk Road there were around 1000 caravanserais offering free hospitality for the merchants crossing the mountains and deserts with their products. One of these is where we will stay tonight.

We find out there is good quality flower juice in Kashan and, indeed, we are welcomed with cold rose water served in blue glasses at the Negin Traditional Hotel, resembling the outlay of a former caravanserai and comprising of restored and connected Qajar era houses.

Welcome drinks

 Negin Hotel, whose tagline is Dream house in the traditional town of Kashan is established by an Iranian family that lives abroad.

The wind is blowing through my flower print dress from Casablanca, not through my hair, as it is covered. Everybody else seems to be concerned about wi-fi and I’m concerned about the quintessence of life.

In the interior courtyard of the former caravanserai
Enjoying rose water and the smell of flowers in the interior courtyard of the former caravanserai, while the call to prayer hears at distance

Everybody throws a thing or two: an embassy, reference to a star who asks about their well-being, all the exotic destinations they’ve been to. Happy to be past all these worldly temptations, these illusions, especially bragging.

Enjoying rose water and the smell of flowers in the interior courtyard of the former caravanserai, while the call to prayer hears at distance. The prayer hears as if it were in our hotel, a traditional former Caravanserai on the Silk Road. Overlapping voices of the call to prayer from the nearby mosques. Do I really belong to this culture?

I came here to discover more of who my ancestors were and rediscover myself by immersing in this sublime culture. I found greatness, but I also found the reminiscence of a fallen empire.

Details of the interior courtyard.
Details of the interior courtyard in blue and turquoise. In white it is written Allah – The God.

The details of the property take me to another era when there still was time for poetry and introspection, I think to myself as I walk down the wide terraces of the traditional hotel.

In the old fashioned style I carry with me my notebook with all the information I need, the itinerary and some thoughts written by hand. Iran is not exactly the place where you can rely on the Internet. I do love details, so my Bonchaier I chose to bring to Iran has an Orient inspired drawing and the description reads Persa.

Details, the passion of my life. The detail of life, a blossom flower.

My notewbook with all the information I need, the itinerary and some thoughts written by hand. Iran is not exactly the place where you can rely on the Internet
My notewbook with all the information I need, the itinerary and some thoughts written by hand. Iran is not exactly the place where you can rely on the Internet

The Negin Hotel in Kashan is just two steps away from the  centuries old Kashan Bazaar and here I could find the simplest, yet the most beautiful blue and turquoise decoration that stand out exceptionally in the ochre general décor of the clay.

I was particularly enchanted to find a wind chime during one of my long walks through the many hidden paths of the hotel. It has 12 round, turquoise, clay figures representing Astrology. I see it as a sign; I see everything as a sign. God talks to us through many means.

Moreover, the history of Persia with Astrology (The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need) is well known and it is one of the reasons that I was drawn to these places. Let’s say…

The tree of life is a symbol that I saw many times depicted around Iran from civil construction to the Ali Qapu Palace in Isfahan and this place makes no difference.

 

Our room

The stairs to our room are super high, but having the opportunity to spend a night in a historic place is worth it. Besides, staff is extremely willing and helpful and they took my heavy suitcase upstairs.

My suitcase and the room underneath ours. Each room has a traditional decor and these were rooms that had particular purposes back in the days.

Tired after a long day I cannot find the bathroom in our room. I can see everything else. Then I notice a painted panel depicting a tree is actually our door to the bathroom. Pretty cool, no?

This is by far one of the coolest hotels I’ve stayed in and I have a lot of experience in this area.

A painting in our room on the narrow staircase that opens in yet another interior open-air courtyard, a wonderful place to rest, either on the Persian traditional carpets or on some tables. The decor is super traditional, minimalist from a point of view, but of great impact.

Going on vacation?

Each room has a traditional decor and these were rooms that had particular purposes back in the days. The opened air courtyard is filled with flowers, traditional decoration items. Birds are singing all day and you can drink a tea or serve the best cheesecake here.

The relaxation area looks like a museum

The hallway leading to the wing where our room was located and also to the relaxation area, a sort of games room – which is opened air, as well.

From one of the doors of the hotel they were bringing sacks of peppers and fat eggplants. Eggplants (bademjan) are one of the most important ingredients of Iranian cuisine. This is what tourists what to see. Authenticity!

As I write this, I run upon Sami Yusuf’s Forgotten Promisses also shot in Iran at the Azadi Tower. Give it a look it’s worth seeing, to promote tolerance, understanding of one another and love. We are all the same, in the end!

The sophistication of life lies within details

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Two landmarks of Tehran and witnesses of the turbulent Iranian history: the Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower.
Preparing for Iran: world atlas, passport cover from US, camera, travel tags, Islamic motif Fartima’s hand shape earrings from Beirut, golden head jewelry from Muscat

Tehran is a wonderful city nesting under the heights of Elborz Mountains which are visible from many parts of the city that is one of the biggest in the whole region. When the weather is good and the skies are clear, between the buildings of Tehran, on top of wide boulevards rise huge cliffs clothed in thick layers of snow.

Two landmarks of Tehran and Iran that can bring you closer to the cliffs of the mountains are the Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower.

Two landmarks of Tehran and witnesses of the turbulent Iranian history: the Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower.

 

The Milad Tower

The construction of the Milad Tower (Borj-e Milad in Farsi) started in 1997, but was completed ten years later and it is a new symbol of the Iranian civilization, culture and art. The tower is the 6th tallest communication tower worldwide, after the Tokyo SkyTree in Japan, the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, CN Tower in Canada, Ostankino Tower in Russia and the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai, China and was inaugurated in 2009.

Although the construction was recent, the project dated since the 70s and was part of a portfolio of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, which was meant to modernize and develop the city.

The purpose of the tower is to improve and facilitate wireless communication, optimize the coverage of radio and TV signals and provide infrastructure for weather forecasting and traffic controlling.

The lobby of the tower has 6 floors where I lost myself as in a maze, through cafes, shops, restaurants elevators having a capacity of 9000 people per hour and staircases.

The impressive lobby of the Milad Tower. The water stream goes from one side of the other above the visitors heads in a wonderful show that captivates all.
The impressive lobby of the Milad Tower. The water stream goes from one side of the other above the visitors heads in a wonderful show that captivates all.

What is most impressive is the 12 floor Head Structure which is one of the biggest in the world and has a closed observation deck, a hall with wax figures of Iran’s history (the one approved according to the regime, obviously), artists, writers and scientists, a revolving restaurant and an open-air observation deck where the wind did not let me comply with the local permitted outfits.

Miniature of the Milad Tower
Miniature of the Milad Tower

I spent my time in the exhibition hall where I saw wonderful exhibits of old globes, maps and astrolabes, but by far the most interesting part is the Sky Dome, the upper most level, under the antenna of the tower, the cupola shaped glass made lid of the tower head. It had an octagonal shape and a permanent exhibition depicted through mythological figures, symbols and icons tells 9000 years of Persian history.

Inspired by the natural elements, earth, water, fire and air and fundamental concepts such as life, death, love, justice, fight and peace enchanted the ones who could see through the real message of the exhibition of modern art in deep blue and gold. As a tribute to the biggest names in geometry, mathematics and astrology that mainly came from the area, elements of these sciences were mixed with the religious elements of Islam in an exhibition that for any lover of art, symbolism, numerology, mysticism, it is not easily forgotten.

 

In the end, art does not have to be beautiful; it has to send a feeling. If it managed to do that, it succeeded its purpose.

So, I am not upset I lost all the pictures I took from the open air observation deck of Tehran from above. I am not upset – I will repeat until I will not be upset. I’ll use it as a pretext to go back. Soon!

 

The Azadi Tower

The Azadi Tower (Borj-e Azadi in Farsi) has a quite long history and it is linked to the former Shah of Iran. As a matter of fact, the tower built in 1971 on the occasion of the vast celebrations that took place in commemoration of the 2500 years since the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran and was initially called Shahyad Tower, meaning Shahs’ Memorial Tower. That was until the 1979 Islamic Revolution when the tower was renamed Azadi Tower or Freedom Tower. I did not see much freedom myself around the tower.

The Azadi Tower, whose architecture is inspired by the classical Persian eras. The Tower inspired many other "freedom" towers in the Arab world.
The Azadi Tower, whose architecture is inspired by the classical Persian eras. The Tower inspired many other “freedom” towers in the Arab world.

On the design of the tower the same architects that designed the Sydney Opera House were hired in a time when money was not an issue in a year, 1971, that some called the beginning of the end of the monarchy in Iran. This was mainly due to the extensive, lavish, extremely expensive celebrations that the Shah held in 1971 hoping to resurrect the patriotic feeling in the population by celebrating 2500 years since the time of Cyrus the Great, but which only manage to enrage the population at the limitless spending on the occasion. Obviously, on top of the rumors on the extreme spending of the Shah & co. Rumor had it that Shah’s lunch arrived daily on a flight from Paris.

The inauguration of the tower took place right after those celebrations and the Shah flew from Persepolis to Tehran for the occasion.

Getting back to the tower, it is worth mentioning the name of Hossein Amanat, the lead architect of the Azadi Tower whose belongings were confiscated and name was put on the death list in 1979. His links to the Baha’i faith seems to be the main cause of the measures as the religion is linked to Israel, a country that for sure is not on the friend’s list of Iran.

Also, the fact that Azadi Tower was the silent witness, the concrete observer of many historical events such as the 1979 Islamic Revolution or the brutal 2009 Iranian Green Movement aka the Persian Spring.

Nowadays, on February 10th of each year rallies take place to commemorate the 1979 Revolution.

I notice a resemblance with the Marthyrs’ Memorial that I saw in Algiers, which was built some 10 years later, but which actually was strongly influence by the Azadi Tower.

The Milad Tower is visible from one side of the Azadi Tower. The Azadi Square and the boulevards that link it to the rest of the city are filled with thousands of Iranian flags.

The Arch of the Azadi Tower, inspired by the Sassanid era
The Arch of the Azadi Tower, inspired by the Sassanid era

 

The complex has a library and a museum, too
The complex has a library and a museum, too

 

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Panoramic view of Abyaneh from the peaks that I climbed wearing a long dress, sandas and purse, plus camera and phone
Panoramic view of Abyaneh from the peaks that I climbed wearing a long dress, sandals and purse, plus camera and phone

Abyaneh is a village looking like a living museum, preserving culture and history. It is located one hour away from Kashan in the Southern direction. At an elevation of 2200 meters it concentrates a history of 2500 years and has a population of 301 people only.

 

Abyaneh has its own dialect, traditional ceremonies and costumes and they are all registered as intangible cultural heritage.

The red hue of the clay houses built on top of each other makes the place picturesque and a dream for the ones eager to explore.

Traditional costumes of Abyaneh are part of the country's intangible cultural heritage since 2013
Traditional costumes of Abyaneh are part of the country’s intangible cultural heritage since 2013

The Palahamoona or Takht-e Haman is a fort built 200 years ago for defense purposes and offers a great panoramic view of the multi-story structures of the village.

The Palahamoona or Takht-e Haman, a 200 year old fort
The Palahamoona or Takht-e Haman, a 200 year old fort

Women generally like me no matter where I go. In Abyaneh, though, it really impressed me. So kind and nice.

In Abyaneh with Iranian visitors who asked to take a picture of me
In Abyaneh with Iranian visitors who asked to take a picture of me

I’m wearing a traditional black dress with applied red roses and green leaves on one side, my green turban, both from Doha and a head jewelry I got from Mutrah Souq in Muscat.

 The Iranian origin, yet with a very strong British accent, accompanying Asian tourists complimented my outfit and said this is extreme fashion what I’m doing. Thank you!

The Great Mosque was built in early Islamic ages during the Seljuk era showing that the locals embraced Islam, however Zoroastrians still exist in the village. The wooden carvings painted in bright colors are particular beautiful, making it one of the most impressive mosques of the early Islamic ages.

The Great Mosque in Abyaneh, seen from above
The Great Mosque in Abyaneh, seen from above

People seem poor, but apparently the people here own land and sheep and orchards and are actually rich, sending their children abroad for studies (a clear indication of wealth in Iran).

 

The specific red hue of the village
The specific red hue of the village

The Harpak Fire Temple is one of the highlights and it tells the history of preservation of faith and traditions of the community, as Abyaneh still keeps its historical faith although it was converted to Islam. The Temple was built during the Achaemenid era.

Panoramic view of the village from the cliffs protecting the village
Panoramic view of the village from the cliffs protecting the village

The ancient village reminds us of ancient Persia and although nowadays the descendants of the village study and live abroad, when they return, they wear the traditional clothes and keep the traditions such as Tasu’a (September 19th in 2018) and Ashura.

Climbing this in sandals and long dress
Climbing this in sandals and long dress

Tasu’a is the day before Ashura and holds more historical and religious commemorations.

...for this picture
…for this picture

Ashura is the Day of Remembrance. For Shi’s Muslims it marks the martyrdom of Hossein ibn Ali (625-680), grandson of Prophet Muhammad, who refused to pledge allegiance to the Umayyad Caliph. For Sunni Muslims it represents the day Moses fasted to manifest gratitude for the liberation of the Israelites from the Pharaoh.

Panoramic view of the village from the cliffs protecting the village
Panoramic view of the village from the cliffs protecting the village

In Iran 90-95% of the population are Shi’a. Ashura is marked by religious manifestations and the commemoration of the martyrdom of the imam who died in Kerbala through self-flagellation with the purpose of shedding blood, which is rather scary. Hit Google if you are curious.

Random alley in Abyaneh
Random alley in Abyaneh

Personally, I was in Lebanon, somewhere in the heights of Ghosta, nearby Beirut, a few years for Ashura and I was the one shedding blood due to a paragliding mini-accident.

I called this place El Caminito of Abyaneh
I called this place El Caminito of Abyaneh

On the same subject it is worth mentioning that in Lebanon, where there is also significant Shi’a population that practices blood shedding (tatbir) on the  occasion of Ashura, religious and political leaders invited believers to donate the blood instead of shedding it. Also, one of the sustainers of stopping these bloody ceremonies is Hezbollah.

Beautiful relief and the red hue of Abyaneh
Beautiful relief and the red hue of Abyaneh
Admiring the uniqueness of the place
Admiring the uniqueness of the place

 

In Kashan we are going to visit the Agha Bozorg Mosque was impressive and I’m so proud of all the knowledge I have. At the same time, it is a pity people don’t get the right information, but probably you only get access to what you’re ready to process. The mosque is the place where Ustad Ali Maryam started his career as an architect when he was a pupil. He later designed the Tabatabei House and the Boroujerdi House.

Wonderful design at the BoroujerdihaHouse in Kashan
Wonderful design at the Boroujerdiha House in Kashan

The two historic house museums which belonged to father in law and son in law noblemen: The Tabatabei House was built in 1880 and The Borujerdi House was built in 1857 for the bride belonging to the Tabatabei family.

One of the most beautiful colorful glass decorations in the world can be found at the Tabatabei House
One of the most beautiful colorful glass decorations in the world can be found at the Tabatabei House

Legend has it that the sister of the bride got married and her husband built for her a very beautiful house and the newly groom wanted to build an even more impressive house for his wife.

In Kashaan there is an area where most of the houses are new, yet they hold ancient inspiration. True palaces, still uninhabited, with high up walls taller than the two floors of the houses.

Mosque in Kashan in turquoise, green and yellow. Lizoda Shop has some pretty cool and colorful outfits.

Kashan, an Iranian City in Change

Off to Fin Gardens, another UNESCO World Heritage site of Iran, built during the time of Shah Abbas I of Persia (1571-1629), also known as Abbas the Great, known as the most powerful ruler of the Safavid Dynasty.

The Fin Gardens are historical Persian gardens, witnessing the rise and fall of empires, assassinations and celebrations
The Fin Gardens are historical Persian gardens, witnessing the rise and fall of empires, assassinations and celebrations

My nickname on this trip is Shirin, because of the similarity with Sevim, my name. A quite common female Iranian name, it is inspired from the legend of Shirin and Farhad (another version: Khosrow and Shirin), a famous Persian love story between a queen and a king. The outcome of the story is a tragic one, sprinkled with infidelity, heroic deeds, kids from other marriages, love murders and finally the suicide of Shirin. A soul mate story, a twin flame story, dating since the 12th century. This reminds me of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and the wonderful exhibition on the Qajar Women.

Qajar Women was a temporary exhibition of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar
Qajar Women was a temporary exhibition of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar

Still feels weird to be listening to Romanian in our group. More weird than listening to Arabic, Hindi or Farsi.

How shallow outside to have to resonate with the world, how deep within where I can go to different realms. In a state of bliss, in my Moroccan night dress and green turban from Qatar, a present from Souq Waqif bought by my Syrian friend.

The prayer hears as if it were in our hotel, Negin Hotel, a traditional former Caravanserai on the Silk Road, that used to give food and shelter to the merchants.

In the interior courtyard of the former caravanserai
Enjoying rose water and the smell of flowers in the interior courtyard of the former caravanserai, while the call to prayer hears at distance

Overlapping voices of the call to prayer from the nearby mosques. Do I really belong to this culture?

I came here to discover more of who my ancestors were and rediscover mysel

 

f by immersing in this sublime culture. I found greatness, but I also found the reminiscence of a fallen empire.

 

Greatness is great as long as it stands, in the end. So it’s better to leave the past where it belongs, I think to myself, as I walk down the wide terraces of the caravanserai.

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The Agha Bozorg Mosque is a beautiful and very popular with tourists mosque in Kashaan. It is the place where Ustad Ali Maryam started his career as an architect when he was a pupil. He later designed the Tabatabei House and the Boroujerdi House, both in Kashaan.

One of the iwans of the Agha Bozorg Mosque
One of the iwans of the Agha Bozorg Mosque

Resting at the Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashan
Resting at the Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashan

Islamic Art patterns
Islamic Art patterns

 

The Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashaan
The Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashaan

 

The Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashaan
The Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashaan

 

 

Go where your light is
Go where your light is

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The map of the Middle East
The map of the Middle East

 

On our almost 3 hour ride from Tehran to Kashan we pass from Tehran Province to Qom Province and then to Isfahan Province, where the city is located.

As foreign tourists, we have the obligation to stop at the police station and declare our presence as we pass from one province to another, but our driver takes care of that.

Iranian music, the endless desert, long fences written in Farsi, some tree plantations, old, eroded peaks of the mountains melting into the desert.

We’re going South from the basis of Elborz Mountains, where Tehran is situated through the Dasht-e Kavir Desert, the salty desert in Central Iran.

Map of Mircea Malita's The State of the World, 1985, p. 296
Map of Mircea Malita’s The States of the World, 1985, p. 296

A truck full of soil and a police car behind. Our bus pulls over. First thing that occurs to me is that something is about to happen. Anything could happen. Anywhere, I mean, not just in Iran, Lebanon, Algeria or Pakistan. I remove my memory stick with pictures from the camera and put the blanket on my head. We drive forward.

Intuition is within us all. Sometimes I simply know.

Reading the local newspaper Tehran Times on the road: nuclear deal everywhere, Lebanese elections, on the Tehran International Exhibition of Flowers that I saw the other day, an English learning section – pretty cool, on Tehran’s noise pollution issue, Energy Dominance, Energy Strategy, Deals, Energy Swaps, whatever, I’m getting back to my thoughts.

Reading the Tehran Times

When I hear comments on Muslim women it makes me wonder. Let’s say they don’t have a choice – but this is a different discussion – and they are forced to do things. Let’s say you don’t take me into account that I probably can defeat you preconceptions…

What about you, free, emancipated, coming from Western, democratic country, highly educated, financially independent, what’s your excuse? Why do you wear those ugly clothes, why are your beliefs so narrow, why do you stick to that abusive man, why don’t you leave?

The thing is that these people do not like to hear this question. They pretend they don’t hear it and find so many different excuses.

Looking out the window and thinking of too many things at the same time
Looking out the window and thinking of too many things at the same time

Back to more beautiful things…

Back to my too many per minute, aggressively competing in my mind, parallel, explosive, overlaid, overplayed, multilayered thoughts. Ignorance is bliss. It’s so easy to judge what you don’t know, what you don’t understand.

By now the lady next to me makes assumptions on how mean the women here are. Because they live here and they wished they did something else than what they’re doing. However, every single one of us speaks through theirown feelings and sees the world through their own limitations.

I don’t think so… I say and then ignore her completely.

Impressive relief from Tehran to Kashaan
Impressive relief from Tehran to Kashaan

How much these men and women deceive themselves: first, that they are better than the men here and that they treat women better and the second, that they can do what they want and that they can actually do it. What they don’t notice is how they run away from their own failures in trips to countries where they like to think people are less happy than them. Continuing to brag about running out of passport pages, while I don’t say a word, running away from something – reality, their reality.

People see the world through their own eyes, applying their own filters, don’t they? Their own limitations and understanding of the world.

…and the most interesting part is that the husbands of the ladies who comment most on the condition of the local women have the most misogynist comments.

One of the lessons I’m learning at the moment is to be more focused on myself, on within than on the outside, where, with or without my will I notice too many things. This ability is great, but it keeps me away from being 100% connected to my own axis.

Between two cultures, between two worlds. The one I belong to and the one I was born in. The one down here and the one up there.

I think when you travel, you have to take things as they are. Observe. The culture, the people you meet, the habits you hear about. Don’t judge, don’t stare, just absorb and be amazed at the mosaic of cultures, traditions, faces and skin colors this world hosts.

At the Tabatabei House in Kashaan
At the Tabatabei House in Kashaan

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