Iran Diary: Day Sixteen-October 25, 2009

Shiraz > Persepolis > Shiraz

This morning I noticed that the fabric of my pillow was covered with images of the Disney character Mickey Mouse. In this trip I have seen images of American cartoon characters in many places. Perhaps these characters were introduced before the revolution and still retain their popularity.

Today we visited one of the highlights of this trip: Persepolis. It is about 40 miles north of Shiraz. This vast ruin, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on a hillside on the edge of a fertile plain. It was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenian Empire (ca. 550-330 BCE) but was burned down by the soldiers of Alexander the Great perhaps during his drunken victory party. Even in ruin the remaining gigantic columns, statues, capitals and reliefs show the high degree of cultural and technical accomplishment attained by the advanced Achaemenian civilization.

The keen observation and amazing skill of the artisans who must have spent years to build this carving-filled palace is evident. Especially their depiction of animals and of the legendary griffins is remarkable. One of many treasures is a relief of a procession of subjects bearing gifts to the king from all over his empire. One of the gifts is a mother lion and her cubs. The distress and concern of the mother lion for her cubs are shown in the gaping of her mouth and turning of her neck as she looked back at them.   What a powerful description. I felt as if I could hear her sad roar echoing in the magnificent ruin from over 2,500 years.

Good morning Mickey and Minnie! おはよう ミッキーとミニー!

Persepolis-the ambassadors gate ペルセポリス—大使の門

A photo shoot-ladies in local nomads’ dress 写真撮影−この辺りの遊牧民のドレスを着た女性達

Griffin capital-a lion’s body with an eagle’s head グリフィン柱頭−獅子の体に鷲の頭

Only a fraction of this vast ruin 広大な遺跡のほんの一部

Zoroastrian symbol of the vernal equinox 拝火教の春分のシンボル

European tourists have left their marks ヨーロッパからの旅人が残した跡

A mother lion and her cubs 母ライオンと子供達

Achaemenian imperial tombs アケメネス朝の王達の墓

Tourists from Greece-Alexander’s successors ギリシャからの旅人—アレキサンダーの後継

The herbs in this appetizer I never had before or since. Fragrant and flavorful, it goes well with goat cheese and delicious flat bread アペタイザーに出た香草は始めてでその後も出会っていない。香り高く味がよく、ヤギのチーズと美味しい平たいパンと素晴らしく合う。

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Iran Diary: Day Fifteen-October 24, 2009

 Yazd > Pasargadae > Shiraz

The road west from Yazd to Shiraz follows the route taken by Marco Polo. That fact made me feel excited to be retracing part of the ancient Silk Road.

By the side of the highway we saw a number of earthen mounds with holes in the center looking as though giant moles made them.  They form part of traditional irrigation systems (called Qanats) that bring water underground from the mountains to farms and towns on the plains. These systems need constant maintenance to function and many are falling into disrepair.  In their time they enabled Iranians to thrive: “ Wherever there is water there is life.”

In what seemed the middle of nowhere (actually the site of ancient Pasargadae) we came upon a massive stone structure, the tomb of Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE) the founder of the first Persian Empire. Its simple, massive beauty and dignified appearance are remarkable. Amir told us that the tomb is the symbol of the Iranian nation and called it “Iran’s birth certificate”.

Later on the bus we watched a DVD of a recitation of the events of Ashura, a narrative in song of the death of the third Imam. It was a dramatic and passionate performance. It was startling to see hundreds of men weeping. The camera zoomed in on a man who was sobbing and wiping away his tears. It was Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Entering Shiraz I noticed many portraits of Martyrs on the buildings and on the tops of walls. Martyrdom is one of the most important elements in understanding Iranian culture. Martyrs are guaranteed admission to heaven. There are portraits (paintings and photographs) of martyrs all over Iran. Most are of casualties of the Iran-Iraq War.

The hotel we stayed in Yazd had a beautiful traditional ceiling. ヤズドのホテルの部屋の美しい伝統的な天井 

We took the route taken by Marco Polo マルコポーロが旅したルートをたどる

Bumps in the foreground are Qanats 前景に見えるでこぼこがカナート

Peeking in a Qanat カナートをのぞく

We see this box all over in Iran. It is a charity box and announcing a charity feast. Sign on the left says, “ Prayer is a weapon against the enemy” この箱をイラン中で見た。それは慈善箱で慈善の祭りを知らせている。左のサインは『お祈りは敵に対する武器』

Posters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left over from past election. マフムード アフマディーネジャード大統領のポスターが選挙の後で残っていた

Lunch under the gaze of the Ayatollah アヤトラに見つめられてランチ

Iran’s birth certificate-the tomb of Cyrus the Great イランの出生証明書−サイラス大王の墓石

Entering to Shiraz シラーズに入る

Martyrs 殉教者達

My sister lives in San Diego 姉がサンディエゴに住んでいます

For a change I had a shrimp kebab for dinner 気分を変えてシュリンプシシカバブ



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Iran Diary: Day Fourteen-October 23, 2009

Yazd > Taft > Yazd

Yazd was a major stop on the international caravan routes to Central Asia and India. Its architecture is perhaps the most traditionally Persian that we saw. The ventilation systems called wind towers originated in Yazd.

This was a day devoted to the pre-Islamic religion of Persia, Zoroastrianism.  First we visited a Tower of Silence, a depository for the remains of the dead.  Formerly Zoroastrians washed the corpses, wrapped them in a white shroud that left their faces exposed, placed them so as to face the sky, and let scavenger birds pick the skeletons clean. The cleaned bones were gathered and placed in an ossuary. Thus they avoided contaminating the four elements — earth, air, fire, and water — that were sacred to them. The Shah’s government forbade the use of the Towers of Silence.  Now the bodies of the Zoroastrian dead are encased in concrete. According to Amir there are about twenty thousand Zoroastrians remaining in Iran with larger populations in India and elsewhere.

We visited a rather touristy Zoroastrian fire temple in Yazd. The fire is supposed to have been burning since 470 AD.

Then we visited the small Zoroastrian village of Taft, and the modest temple that is an active religious site for the village. The village is set in handsome groves of pomegranate trees and at many intersections in the town there are niches where a fire with incense is kept burning.

Returning to Yazd, we walked through the Zoroastrian quarter of town. It is still an active urban community. The whole area looked as though it was quietly hiding behind its brick walls.

The Friday Mosque in Yazd has the tallest twin minarets in Iran ヤズドにある金曜モスクのイランで一番高い対のミナレット

This Tower of Silence (hill) was only for the corpses of men. Another hill nearby was reserved for women この沈黙の塔(丘)は男性の遺体用。近くのほかの塔は女性用になっている

This fire has been kept burning since 470 CE この火は470年から燃え続けている

The attendant at the Zoroastrian temple in Taft タフトの拝火教寺院の付き添い

A Zoroastrian Altar 拝火教の祭壇

Pictures of ancestors 先祖の写真

This local architecture reminded me of Mondrian paintings モンドリアンの絵画を思い起こさせるヤズドの地方建築

The only “Kick out the Jews from Jerusalem” we saw on this trip この旅行で見た、ただ一つの「ユダヤ人をエルサレムから排斥」ポスター

An Iranian invention to deal with desert heat 砂漠の暑さに対策したイランのアイディア

A Zoroastrian district in Yazd ヤズドの拝火教地区

Local college students 地元の女子大生

It was nice to see pickled garlic again ニンニク漬けにまた会えてよかった




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Iran Diary: Day Thirteen-October 22, 2009

Kerman > Yazd

In the morning we visited the local bazaar in Kerman. A book binding shop in the covered bazaar attracted me. It was a beautiful shop filled with intricate leather and cloth book covers. Two gentlemen said hello to me and we struck up a conversation. After a few minutes, the owner introduced the younger man to me as a “ Hero of 1979 Iranian Revolution”. He seemed to be a shy and humble person.

Kerman is about 200 miles from the Afghan border and seems to be a haven for a substantial number of refugees from the wars. In the bazaar I noticed two men in ethnic Afghan clothing and said hello to them. We asked each other where we were from. They said that they were from Herat.

Traveling with the same group for 10 days, I began to learn about the personal histories of our fellow travelers. That day I found out that one of our members was a retired CIA officer. This man usually sat in the front of bus while I sat in the back, so I hadn’t talked with him much before. Another traveler told me that he was ex-CIA. At that moment I understood why this man displayed such great “people skill “. Whenever there were local people around he struck up conversations with them with great ease and friendliness. I guess that is one important qualification for his former profession. In our bus he was usually very quiet.

At the entrance to a small local museum, I saw Mr. ex-CIA talking to a young soldier who was guarding the entrance. The soldier saw my camera and asked me to take his photo with Mr. ex-CIA. I was amused because Amir had told us never to take pictures of uniforms.  Now a uniformed man had asked me to take his picture.

A hero of the Iranian Revolution イラン革命の英雄

In the bazaar  バザールで

Afghan Refugees アフガニスタンからの難民

Some American film posters いくつかのアメリカ映画のポスター

At a rest stop ハイウエイストップ

Syringe 注射器

In the middle of the desert there was a large electric generating facility 砂漠の真ん中にあった大きな発電所

Every hotel room has a marking on the ceiling indicating the direction to Mecca ホテルの全ての部屋にはメッカの方向を示すマークがある

New Friends 新しい友達

One of my favorites was this eggplant dish. It goes very well with rice or with the amazing Iranian bread この茄子の料理は私のお気に入りのうちの一つだった。ライスとも素晴らしいイランの平らなパンともよくあう


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Iran Diary: Day Twelve-October 21, 2009

Kerman > Rayen > Kerman

Kerman is an oasis town in southeastern Iran in the Dasht-e lut desert. In the region temperatures have been known to reach 62° C (144° F).

Drug smuggling from Afghanistan is a serious problem in this area. Our bus was stopped by police on the way to Rayen and inspected for drugs, though not very thoroughly. A kilo of opium costs about $200 in eastern Iran. In the US the street value would be about $200,000 (in 2009).

Rayen Citadel is a remarkable mud brick fortification. A similar and more significant site is Bam, farther to the southwest, but sadly it was largely destroyed by a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in 2003.  About 27,000 people were killed.

As our group approached the restaurant that had been selected for our lunch, I noticed three well-dressed men watching us from the third floor balcony of a building across a narrow alley from us. An older man in a tweed jacket and wearing a white turban said something to a young man holding a video camera. The young man moved closer to the edge of the balcony while making a video of us. The third man wearing a black suit kept watching us. Mysterious! I just walked on as though I hadn’t noticed anything.

Two thirds of Iran is desert イラン国土の3分の1は砂漠である

At the Citadel posters discouraged greeting with a handshake. There was an outbreak of Swine Flu in the area. 城塞遺跡のポスターが握手をしないよう指示している。このあたりではH1N1インフルエンザが流行していた

Rayen Citadel (or Rayen Castle) made of mud bricks, is at least a 1,000years old泥煉瓦で出来ているライエン城塞は少なくとも1000年前に造られた 

Three mysterious men made a video of us outside this restaurant このレストランの外でミステリアスな三人の男がわれわれのヴィデオを撮った

This family owns the restaurant レストランのオーナー家族

The tomb of Shah Nemat-ollah-e-Vali, a Sufi saint and poet スフィ聖人で詩人のシャー ネマットオラエーヴァリの墓 

Iran has a many traffic accidents especially among highway truck drivers. The sticker shows the driver is seeking Allah’s protection イランでは特にハイウエイトラックドライバーの交通事故は多い。このステッカーはこのドライバーがアラーの保護を求めていることを示している

Automobile row in Kerman ケルマーン自動車業者通り

A mysterious building-its builders, age and purpose are unknown but it is very old不思議な建物—建てた人、年齢、目的は不明だけれどとにかく古い 

Bagh-e Tarikhi Gardens are lovely examples of classical Persian gardens バゲエー タリキ庭園は古典的なペルシャ庭園の素晴らしい例である

A young couple we met outside of the Garden 庭園の外であった若いカップル

The buffet of this restaurant looked like it was meant for the United Nations このレストランのバフェはまるで国連のようだ








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