Iran, day nine

We had breakfast with Gilles and said “see you in April”, then Abass, the driver, came to pick us up at 8.

We drove for kilometers and kilometers of deserted land, between muddy hills on the left and taller snowy peaks on the right. I dont know how long you would have to walk (in case the car stopped or in case you had to go seek help) until another human being would see you. Certainly the roads see plenty of traffic, so your best bet would be just to hitchhike and not venture to the sides. I dont know why I was thinking of walking, you wouldn’t get anywhere!

Qom is the pilgrimage place for Iranians as the daughter of one of the Imams was buried here. The reason for us to go see a place like that is the same that takes you to the Vatican city: its opulent beauty and the immense variety of human beings, caught in the special moments of prayer or seeking miracles.

I had to rent a chador to be able to enter the holy shrine, as it happened in Shiraz last week, but, while every woman was in a black chador, the ones they rent are colorful! How disrespectful! Why would I want to drag attention on me? Why can t they give me a black one as well? They probably want to put shame on whoever doesn’t have a chador at all (well, non-Iranian women mainly, therefore tourists).

A clergyman escorted us through the different yards, gave us some historical and religious “notions”, and made sure we wouldn’t enter the prayer hall, where Fatima’s grave lays and people go and get mystical (some sort of Lourdes, maybe?). We got invited into the “international affairs” room, a pompous living area that was once used for royal visits(!). The guy asked us if we had questions about Shia or Islam, if we liked Iran etc.

My most favorite thing about the mosques, besides when they are stunning, is the open space both inside and outside. The courtyards that simulates the real square of a village and the prayers halls that have no benches or fixed places, just carpets for prayers to relax, take their time, pray a bit.

There was quite some action this morning with the protests against Saudi Arabia and the killing of the pacific activist that happened yesterday. To top that, a group of chanting people, carrying a dead body in bandages walked past us – they like for the dead to get as close as possible to the sacred grave of Fatima.

A date smoothie later we got back into the car and to the airport…

Yes, its time to go home, save the pictures on the hard drives, settle in Berlin again and re-think about this trip with a little more distance.

I am going to write down some more after-thoughts on Iran and explain why everyone should go and see it.

Wow moment of the day: the view of the minarets of Qom.

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