Call Me Persian, Iran, October 2023

You have to admire a country of people whose national hero is a poet. There is a saying in Iran that every household should have at least 2 books at home- the holy Koran text of Islam and a handbook of poetry from the 14th century Persian poet Hafez. You guessed it – I have just completed a journey from south to north in Iran across the heartland of the ancient Persian empire in Shiraz to modern day Tehran the seat of the isolationist Islamic government currently in power since 1979.
Even the name Iran was only instated in the 1950s as the government sought a new image for the modern country which had been embroiled in oil scandals with Britain. But for a people with a rich history that spans over 2500 years since the first Persian Empire they know themselves and their traditions as Persian.
Crazy authoritarian governments and regimes come (& hopefully go..) and I will leave you to read elsewhere about the radical Islamic rule that still grips Iran currently and pervades geopolitics. There are definitely plenty of brainwashed foot soldiers in religious pockets of Iran but I was genuinely surprised that the thread which runs through the people I met in my travels is not religious. Highly educated (more so than rates in the USA or Australia) they have grown up on poetry, music and rich arts which transcends their current day government predicament. In truth travelling across Iran is as refined and sophisticated an experience as any European country.
My fascination with Persia has originally stemmed from my travels across the Silk Road .. the soaring architecture and decorative arts that I knew was by the hand of Persian artisans. I was excited to travel to the source of this inspiration and it will remain an enduring highlight. Glorious mosques and palaces covered in glazed, coloured tiles harmoniously set around squares and courtyards. Formal gardens and cooling pools and fountains are integral to design of spaces… the fragrant blossoms of fruit trees later laden with hanging fruit (orange, quince and persimmon) the popular choice. The perfect setting for a poetry recital!
The city of Isfahan was the jewel in the crown of the Persian empire in the 17th century and now has a special place in my heart. It was awe inspiring the scale and detail of every surface of buildings covered in intricate richly coloured geometric and floral designs – truly places of grandeur. The city has leafy tree-lined boulevards, many formal gardens and decorative bridges that span the Zayendeh river.
The artistry lives on and hand worked crafts are another highlight to Iran. If the Persian carpets don’t seduce you the persistent carpet sellers will. There is exquisite silver work and engraving, intricately enameled copper work, decorative inlaid arts, miniature paintings and beautiful woven textiles. A feast for the senses and a wonder of human patience and creativity.

Carpet Shop Shiraz

And so I have come under the enchantment of Iran – an unexpectedly welcoming and easy place to travel. I have no doubt Persia will try to woo me again.
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