Day 6 in Iran

Post by Harry Huebner, Professor of Philosophy and Theology, Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg

Harry Huebner shares a light moment with Iranian guide, Morteza Chavoshi

Harry Huebner shares a light moment with Iranian guide, Morteza Chavoshi

In a book of Persian poetry we were given in Tehran it says: “Plant the tree of friendship that to fruit the heart’s desire bringeth.” In many ways these words capture our reflections as our visit to Iran comes to an end.

Our last day was without formal meetings. We traveled to the beautiful city of Isfahan, about 4 hours by bus from Qom. The environment is quite distinct. Here it was very warm, even hot, and culturally more diverse than Qom. For example, women wore more colorful attire and seemed less concerned about the black hijab.

We arrive late Thursday evening and after checking into our hotel we immediately headed to the famous “33 Bridge.” Legend has it — symbolized by the name — that, “If you build one arch to me, I will build 32 back to you.” The bridge was quite stunning in its orange glow at night. We walked over this bridge as well as a second one called Khajan Bridge. These bridges are famous for an enthusiastic nightlife with vibrant music.

After breakfast on Friday we visited Emam Khomeini Square—a very large rectangular court with many small shops and important historic buildings. We estimated that, from end to end, it measured well over half a mile, with a water fountain in the middle, two mosques and a palace. There were several horse-drawn carriages ready to give shoppers and strollers a ride around the square. Along the outer wall were a myriad of shops. Unfortunately for us all but a handful were closed. The shop closure was a mystery to us, although people speculated that it was some sort of tax related day. The mystery was never resolved.

At the square, we visited a Museum of Natural History, the Ali Qopu Palace and the two amazing mosques—the Emam Mosque and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. The architecture, the colorful artwork, and the Arabic/Persian calligraphy, inspired us to sit and meditate—a practice our busy schedule was not otherwise conducive to.

The famous "33 Bridge" in Isfahan

The famous "33 Bridge" in Isfahan

We were served a lunch at the Traditional Banquet Hall seated on an elevated floor and leaning against pillows. Immediately below the restaurant were several shops and particularly one satisfied many of our desire for souvenirs. The proprietor seemed delighted with what was apparently a rather quiet day for him.

We checked out at our hotel at 3:30pm and were off to the airport on a big multi-lane highway, flanked by low mountains and dry, dusty fields. We stopped for pizza on the way and by 11pm we arrived at our last stop—the airport, where we said goodbye to our driver and guide for the week, as well as to Dr. Rasoul Rasoulipour, from the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.  This blog is written at the airport after all but me are already off to their respective homes.

Someone commented on the way to the airport that it seemed a bit strange how being in a foreign land, often so reviled by leaders of our home countries, could seem so ordinary. Perhaps that is because we were able to connect enough with the people to experience what is rather ordinary to them; and yet one thing we can say emphatically, they were not at all ordinary in their hospitality. For this we were deeply grateful.

This is the last blog from Iran. Cindy Byler will offer a post-trip reflection in the next blog entry.


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