22 Kasım 2013 Cuma

İsfahan Nas-ve Cihan (Half of the World)-English Edition

Put aside all the prior knowledge and judgements that you have been collecting from the Earth about Isfahan and Iran. Forget any fears you have. The reason is so simple. None of them are going to be helpful during your journey in the lands of Persians. 

Isfahan is a Persian city with wide streets, giant squares, fairy-like-palaces, extraordinary architecture, chaotic traffic, ancient bazaars, multicultural life athmosphere, friendly people and active women in all aspects of life. It is almost impossible not to be amazed by the whole picture of this unusual part of the World. Isfahan is just like a model city which has been designed carefully in a workshop and replaced in these fertile lands of Iran. This city, the former capital of the strong country called the Safavis in the history, has always carried the pride and the beauty. The visitors have always felt it. Isfahan is a city of peace which reminds us the philosopers; Rumi and Shams.  The city and the people are the good reasons to feel the peace, and the serenity. Isfahan deserves the simili; ‘Nas-ve Cihan’ which means ‘Half of the World.’ 

The Persian Spring had started in here very earlier than the others springs. However, the Persian people
would like to gain more freedom and end the spring with no blood dropped on the streets.  The motivation for that is having the tragic and bloody near past. The tragedies Persians experienced during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the brutal war between Iran and Iraq have left deep wounds in the bodies and hearts of every person. So, the next revolution or changes have to be peaceful and calm. Just like their way of life. That’s the reason why they do not rush to come to the happy end.
It was suprising to see plenty of museums, contemprary art galleries, monuments, squares, palaces and parks not only in Isfahan but also across the country. Also, it was interesting to witness the people’s curiosity, helpfulness, modesty and kindness. The bonds they have set up with the city seems unique. The city and the people suit each other well. 

The Queen of the River: The Khaju Bridge
The Khaju Bridge, built over the Zaranderud (Life Giver) River with 133 length and 33 (Siosepol) Sarches, that runs calmly through the city is the most spectacular masterpiece of the city. When you look from a distance you think the bridge is not real and the time is not now. Watching the city and the people through the arches, sitting down and leaning against the cold stones with deep thoughts and taking photos on this long, wide and high bridge built by Shah Abbas II in 1650 makes you forget the country you come from. The bridge is only for pedestrians and the has already turned out to be a social area
where young people, (male&female), families and travellers get the chance to enjoy themseleves or fool around.

The heart of the City Story: Naqsh-e Jahan Square (Imam Square)
I have never seen such huge square and interesting rhythm of life around which arouses the feeling of admiration and smallness. This is Nakş-ı Cihan Square. Shah Abbas I. of the Safavis created this magnum opus soon after he moved the capital city to Isfahan.  
I would not want to blink my amazed eyes once I saw the huge pools in the middle of the very green square
where I watched the scene of the phaetons, the various faces coming from different economical statues and the glamorous architecture with rectangular shape around. Four different buildings replaced in four directions stared at me trying to present each other rather than closing their sights. The Shah Mosque with blue tiles is in the South, the Ali Kapu Palace in the West, the Sheik Lotfollah Mosque in the east and the Grand Bazaar of Isfahan is the North of the city.

One can always meet travellers coming from all around the World in this grand area which is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The Naqsh-e Jahan Square is also noted as one of most beautiful  square in the list of squares of the World. The Eastern smell of the Bazaar dragged me into the deeper sides. The Isfahan carpets and kilims caught my eyes when passing by hundreds of shops. By the way, I noticed the interesting amblem called Faravahar of Mazdaism. Even if it was the amblem of Iran until the Islamic Revolution, it is still used on most of the products of the bazaar and other things in Iran today. Faravahar consists of human face and three wings which mean “Good Deeds, Good thoughts, Good words.”

A Great Sacred Armenian House in Isfahan: Vank Cathedral
When I entered the Armenian neighbourhood, I, all of a sudden, noticed the upstanding, elegant and plain
appearance of the Vank Cathedral with no other buildings spoiling its siluette (law forbids buildings higher than 3 floors). I guess the majority of the people in the World would never believe that there can be such cathedral in Iran. The prejudies and lack of knowledge do not give any possibility that different beliefs and lifestyles can exist in this Islamic country. However, it is so usual for a Persian to live with non-muslim communities face to face. By the way, Assyrians, Jews and Zerdosts (with a small number of population) also live as the Shi’a neigbours. I entered the Cathedral as if it belonged to my own religious community. The statue of the
Bishop Khachatour Gesaretsi who brought the first printing press machine to Iran met me just across the gate. The fact that a religious man was the person who brought this important innovation into the country seemed to me interesting.

As I was trying to sort out the thoughts related to the innovations in Iran, I found myself in the museum sharing the same yard with the cathedral. I couldn’t help opening my eyes very open when I came closer to the breath taking works such as 1000-year old Armenian Bible, first printed book in Iran, the imperial orders written for and against the Armenians by Shah Abbas, the old paintings, clothes and household materials. When I moved a few steps forward I realised that I was in front of the Genocide  Section of the museum. It was a shocking scene for me. I could not move further, stood still and even swallow. The painful history of human being which is as old as the humanity went past my eyes like a movie while I was watching the books, films, photographs
and bones of some victims displayed in the window. I could hardly leave the Ottomon map and move to the next section of the museum.

When you come back from a journey changed at least a little bit it makes the journey very precious. I had a big changing process in during ths unforgetable journey to the lands of the Persians. I felt myself like the fish in one of Samad Behrangi’s  books called Black Little Fish. I swam in the different waters of Persian lands, got suprised many times, experienced, did mohabbat (sincere conversation) with local people and eventually felt a big change in my mind and body.  However, the story is not over yet. I could only swam a few meters in these waters yet.

More Notes about Iran:
Regime: Learning from the ‘Springs’ of the World the government loosens the pressure on the people day by day. For exmaple; the police has just stopped to watch the dressing of the women recently. Big reformsa are expected soon in the country.
Women: Freer than we think. Very visible on streets and in working life. Very keen on fashion and make up. Cover their hair only partly. Open to the World. Usually charming with their pretty Persian eyes, vivid face color and smile.
Traffic: Usually chaotic. Cheap taxis. Convinient metro network in Tehran. Lots of motorcycles everywhere.
People&Streets: Usually friendly, have time to help and drink a cup of tea with you and reliable. Streets are safe even after midnight. Even for women. Something usual to see women walking on the streets alone late at nights. Felt safer than in İstanbul.
Foreigners treated kindly (Americans included). Life is cheap for travellers (bus/metro ticket 10 cent/USD). Hard for them to travel abroad cos of their cheap money.  Art and music are very popular. Have two faces of their lives; seems conservative on the streets but liberal at home.
Strongly recommend to visit Iran more than once.

A Persian Family (friends)

Mohammed, my dear friend

Mehmet Ateş

Servas Peace Secretary of Turkey, 2013

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