Welcome to Iran

One of the amazing things about Iran is how friendly the people are, there is a real culture here from the past, rooted in the desert history of Islam, that the traveller should be assisted as a matter of honour, not just of the person but the city and the country. Hundreds of people in shops, toll booths, garages, and in the street have saluted me or left me with “welcome to Iran” it is said with a smile and real warmth and seems to be genuinely meant. In discussion with my friends here they tell me that looking after the traveller is a historical thing which comes from the importance of finding welcome at Oasis for the desert people so this was enshrined as a holy duty in the writings of the prophet. They have a belief that any help you give to another specially a stranger will be given back to you manifold in this life and that you can measure to some extent the character by the generosity of their spirit not the value of their wealth.

I was in a small town call Kashan at the day of the ending of Ramadan, which was a bit of a misjudgment as the town was mostly shut and there was a big party at the camping area I choose for a quiet night, I also had a sore ankle as I had lightly sprained it by missing a pothole in the dark as we came back from a BBQ in the hills over Tehran. So I was hot, a bit lost, and cross with my self as I was realizing I could have driven rather than walked the 1km between the sights I wanted to see in the town. I was looking for an historic house with a normal façade but inside supposed to be beautiful when I came across a small Mosque courtyard and peeked timidly inside the entrance.

To my surprise a strong voice called out “welcome to our shrine my friend!” I was faced by a friendly Inman, with full formal dress, a smile, and a neatly trimmed white beard. Taken a bit aback, I was aware this was a very important day, so did not want to offend, I gingerly crossed the threshold leaving my shoes behind and shook his offered hand. It is common that a handshake is the polite way to start even a casual conversation here, he asked “where do you come from?” and followed with “welcome to Iran, do you have some time to learn about our shrine?” I readily agreed and there followed an hour of conversation about the shrine, which was the burial place of a grandson of the prophet who had brought Islam to that region, and Islam (our colour is green for peace not the black you see on some flags in the news etc) and my views of visiting Iran. I was able to be very honestly positive about the people and the country and he seemed genuinely pleased. As far as I could tell he was not a tour guide and it was not his job to show odd foreign visitors around the shrine, he was just being friendly waiting on the end of Ramadan which would be that evenings sunset a few hours later. I left the little Mosque and with his directions was able to find the historic house which was interesting as you can see from the pictures below, but the lasting impression of Kashan for me was the Inman of the shrine, his warmth and genuine welcome for a tired and sore footed stranger.

About Gerry Mulligan

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