Visiting Iran

Visiting Iran

Tehran (source: PIxabay, CC0)

Images in words from a travelling in Iran

Prof. Alexander Fedotov

This text is given to the Persian Bridge of Friendship blog by Professor Alexander Fedotov’s widow – Snejana Todorova-Fedotova. Alexander Fedotov was a Bulgarian orientalist of Russian origin, who was a specialist in East Asia, but also in the Mongolian and Tibetan space. He also had mutual sympathy for Iranians, Indians and other Eastern nations.

Unfortunately, both my trips to Iran were official. I say “unfortunately” because I never had the opportunity to walk around Tehran, Isfahan or Shiraz on my own. I realized long ago that if you want to feel the spirit of a country, of a people, you have to “go with the flow”, try to swim with the current, not “fight” the onslaught of local traditions, customs and tastes.

We landed in Tehran both times at night: the plane flies over the city for 30-40 minutes and you say to yourself: what must this city that has no beginning and no end be like. Tehran turned out to be almost endless; you can neither walk around this megalopolis of ten million people, nor see it all. I found a few places “for me” in it: the central part, home to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some magnificent museums around it, including the Koran Museum; Tehran Square, of which I probably saw only a fraction; the Museum of Modern Art. Overall, Tehran is a somewhat faceless city; you won’t find any mosques or historic mausoleums, except perhaps for Ayatollah Khomeini’s tomb, which has become a place of pilgrimage for millions of Iranians.

I recommend anyone who decides to visit Iran to go to Isfahan, a city of world renown and universal beauty. You feel good there and sometimes, at the right temperature, even like in paradise! Its shady streets are an ideal place for a sweet chat, and the many teahouses with aromatic hookahs are something to remember! I must add here the famous swaying minarets, the Hasht Behesht Palace, the unique bridges, the oldest dating back to the 13th century! The gardens of Isfahan are exceptional with their lakes, in the water of which you can see magnificent palaces! Just as the blue sky looks into the blue domes of the countless mosques.

The most striking thing in Isfahan is the seemingly endless market in the city centre. Iranians call it meidan-e Imam. It is said to have been one of the largest squares in the world in the 19th century – 500m by 165m. Here is the Great Mosque, also called Masjed-e Imam or Masjed-e Abbasi. Another unique architectural monument in the square is the Ali Kapu Palace, which was built during the reign of Shah Abbas I. Nearby is the Chehelsotun Palace, whose “forty-columned” name is conditional and symbolic. In reality, there are only eighteen columns, but they are arranged so that, reflected in the water, they create a visual illusion of forty.

The Isfahan market is also located in the aforementioned market, where, unlike the Tehran market, craftsmen continue to work as they did hundreds of years before I saw them. Dozens of books have been written about this market. I am convinced that even if dozens more were written, the description would not be complete. The Oriental Market, the Oriental Market, is the quintessence of the Orient, it is the soul of the Orient, its heart, its muscles and lungs, its wounds and pains… Isfahan is the city of imams and masters, and Shiraz is the city of poets.

It greeted us with a barely perceptible evening chill, a black sky with millions of twinkling stars and the hope of seeing the mausoleums of the most famous Persian poets and, of course, Persepolis – “The City of Persians”. Like Isfahan, Shiraz has a unique air: here are its paradise-like gardens, the exquisite mausoleums of Hafez and Saadi, who contributed, along with Omar Khayyam, Firdousi, Rudaki, Nizami and others, to the world fame of Persian literature, the beautiful streets and squares. As Natalina Ivanova, who wrote the most wonderful book about Iran in our country, says, “Persia is the land of poetry. Through poetry, the Iranian man expresses every feeling, every thought; there is almost no life situation that he cannot repeat in verse.”

Persepolis is located 40 km from Shiraz. The journey there is pleasant, especially if it is made in the morning, before the sun has taken over the entire universe. Approaching the beloved place, I realized that, as always, the real picture far surpasses any assumption: even after 2500 years, the city looks majestic. The architecture of the surviving buildings or fragments of them is impressive; the technique of the sculptures and bas-reliefs is unique. The influence of Hellenistic culture is best felt here. An influence that often bears the name of Alexander the Great. However, this is only an influence, as Persian civilisation continues to develop its essential characteristics today. They are endless; you can see them with your eyes and feel them in the words of the Iranians. Iran continues to be one of the most important cultural phenomena of the time. The picture of the world is not complete without Iran.

Photo: Persepolis as seen from a hill above it (source: The Persian Bridge of Friendship)

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