When time is limited, you have to make tough decisions. In Alexandria, Egypt, I decided to hit the streets of its old town rather than going deep into the ancient catacombs. I was looking for interaction, for life on the streets.
And rather than heading down the main street, I found the loneliest alleyway to take me in a different direction. I ended up in a vein of street markets that wasn’t so lonely after all. Continue Reading »
Coptic Cairo. The name alone exudes ancient, mysterious, almost mystical. People still live, work and worship in the same place as they have for thousands of years. It’s a humbling walk back in time in this secluded Old Cairo neighborhood, whose tranquility belies the 22-million strong bustle of modern Cairo just outside.
One of the highlights of Coptic Cairo: The Hanging Church, suspended above firm ground on palm tree trunks connecting two ancient Roman fortress towers. Continue Reading »
You guys are the Perception Busters.
– A comment on our Facebook page in response to our arrival in Cairo earlier this week. And a label we’re happy to embrace.
Egyptian man on the streets of Alexandria, Egypt.
If you’ve been following us on Facebook or Twitter recently, you’re probably aware that we’ve been in Egypt this past week.
Egypt? But isn’t it unsafe now? Continue Reading »
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 »
This is a very short story about music. In Iran.
I dont know that I’ve ever been so happy — or oddly surprised — to hear Stevie Wonder in my entire life.
I should explain. Continue Reading »
There’s nothing like early morning light falling through a stained-glass window…casting designs on a Persian carpet…amidst immaculately tiled pink columns.
This is the winter prayer hall inside the Pink Mosque in Shiraz, Iran. Continue Reading »