“Eat an onion from each new place you visit to adjust your body to the local cuisine.” — Words of wisdom from one of our guides on the subtle appreciation of eating one’s way through Iran.
Traditional Iranian cuisine combines the savory of fresh herbs and spices like saffron, merges it with the sweet of pomegranate, barberry and cinnamon and tops it all off with a flourish of nuts, dried fruits and beans. The result: not to present one distinct flavor, but to serve up layers that keep the taste buds guessing as to what is and what’s coming next.
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Spice mountains, Shiraz bazaar.
Yazd, a historically Zoroastrian town and a sort of desert outpost that took in people fleeing persecution and wars in other parts of the country, is one of our favorite cities in Iran. Its old city is almost entirely built in brown-red adobe clay, helping to blend it into the surrounding desert landscape and to keep its building interiors cool.
Ones eyes adapt to this mono-color, after which the bright turquoise and intricate Persian Islamic design in the Jameh Mosque will make you feel like you’ve put on 3-D glasses. Gaze at the mosque’s designs long enough and they’ll dizzy you, pull you in and play tricks on your eyes as you try to discern the calligraphy, symmetry and symbolism buried within.
Open up the panorama below and take a spin around the almost 900-year old mosque, Continue Reading »
“If you look up, at just the right time, you’ll see a peacock on the ceiling,” our guide, Javad, explained as he walked us under the gilded and tiled dome of Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran.
We craned our necks, searching for just the right angle. With the aid of sunlight passing through a nearby window, an image of a peacock — previously unseen, now tail shimmering — was revealed to us brush strokes. Intermittent cries of “Oh!” indicated when everyone in the room “got it.” Continue Reading »
Upon hearing the news of the recent earthquakes near Tabriz in Northwest Iran, my mind went immediately to the time we spent in that region last November, including a day trip from Tabriz to the village of Kandovan where people live in fairy chimneys, caves made from volcanic ash deposited thousands of years ago. Continue Reading »
Iran is again catching its share of headlines. So it seemed as good a time as any to share the story of our exit from the country at the end of last year — hopping a train en route from Tehran across the border to Turkey, then all the way to Istanbul. One of the finest and most surprising segments of our around-the-world journey.
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An Iranian carpet, especially one from Tabriz, is worth more than gold.
– Our Iranian guide gives us an economics lesson in the old carpet section of the Tabriz bazaar.
The largest bazaar in the Middle East. The world’s largest covered market. A UNESCO World Heritage site. That’s the Tabriz bazaar. And deep inside, old men, purveyors of grand old Persian carpets, drink tea, smoke qalyan, and stay open only four hours a day. Voices are low, relationships are being formed — and deals are being made. Continue Reading »
Traveling to Iran as an American citizen may sound complicated and dangerous. It’s not. We’re here to dispel the myths and answer the questions piling up in our inbox based on our visit to Iran just a few weeks ago.
Our aim in the following Q&A is to answer actual reader queries and to help demystify the process of traveling to Iran. Continue Reading »
I’m going to show you something like you’ve never seen before.
– Our guide, just before entering the Shāh Chérāgh Mosque.
The Shāh-é-Chérāgh Mosque. It’s a mausoleum, a funerary, one of the many places of worship and pilgrimage in Iran. But this one looks like a giant disco ball turned inside out. Continue Reading »
This is a story of a woman I met on a train in Iran and a letter she wrote to me — a letter I now read through tears.
My heart sank as I watched the news from Iran this morning, scenes of the British Embassy being charged by an angry mob in Tehran. It saddens me – angers me, really – that narrow groups like this who define the world’s perception of Iran and the Iranian people are in reality such a small percentage of the country’s population.
My experience tells me they are the outliers, yet circumstances conspire to convince us on the outside to see them as the norm. Continue Reading »
Although Persepolis is one of Iran’s top archeological and tourist sites, I was careful to keep my expectations in check before visiting. After all, what would remain of the 2,500 year-old capital of the Achaemenid Empire? Amidst crumbled columns, I found great detail that blew me away and a surprising connection to the present.
When I first entered Persepolis through the Gate of All Nations, I was struck by the scale of it all – the statues, the columns, the great stone. I tried to imagine the process of transporting the raw materials to this place, constructing the city and palace, and fashioning it all without the mechanical means we have today.
The Gate of All Nations.
But more than this, I was struck by Persepolis’ detailed carvings and the stories they told. In them, I felt like I really began to understand the greatness of ancient Persia.
And I also got the sense that ancient Persians were onto something in pursuit of an ideal that still eludes us today. Continue Reading »