A spontaneous trip to Iran (Part 1 of 3) - Overview

Taking lots of photos.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I think it’s important to know the culture and history of the places where our dance originates from. But it could be hard to know where to begin, what countries to choose, not to mention to have a guide with enough knowledge to bring you to the most notable places. Since I’ve come to deepen my training in Persian classical dance, Iran has been of big interest for me and Helia has – to say the least – convinced me.

This will be a blog in three parts that focuses on different subjects of the trip. Part one will give a general view of the trip, part two will provide details of three specific places and part three will focus on my thoughts and reflections before and after the trip.

Part 1 – Overview

It all happened a bit fast from the moment in June 2017 when we decided I should join Helia for her summer trip to Iran. We booked the tickets and five days later I was on a plane on my way to Amsterdam to meet her and together continue to Iran. There was no time to get a visa from the embassy of Iran in Stockholm (it was also really hard to get in touch with them) but it was easily sorted when we landed at the airport of Teheran.

         We stayed in Teheran for three days, had a look in the bazaar, met some of Helias really sweet friends and even had time for a photo shoot. The next day we ordered a car and a driver to go to Isfahan, which was the capital of Iran for hundreds of years until Teheran was growing and finally became the capital in 1795. We went to see the Bridge of Kaju - Pol-e Khāju - ”The Bridge of the 33 arches”, that was built in the beginning of the 17th century and reaches over 300 meters across the Zayandeh River.

Pol-e Khaju "The Brigde of the 33 arches".

Meidan Emam.

         The following day the main attraction was Chehel Sotoun* ”The 40 colons” with lots of original paintings from the Safavid Dynasty, picturing battlefields and dancers and everything in between. We also visited Haasht Behesht – ”Eight Heavens” – close by, with even more paintings from the same era. Last but not least, we paid a visit to Meidan Emam* that was built in the early 1600s and can be described as a framed square that includes two big mosques; the Shah Mosque and the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque as well as the Timurid Palace from the 15th century.

Meidan Emam.

         Then it was time to move on to Yazd and the Garden of Dolat-Abad*, created around 1750 to show a classic model of Iranian architecture. Next stop was the enormous ceder tree that is about 4000 years old and is an important part of the Zorastrian religion. Helia and I said to each other ”This tree has probably seen a lot…”


The 4000 year old Ceder tree in Yazd.

At Delgosha.

Cooling paloodeh.

         The same evening we continued by car to Shiraz, to Helia’s parents’ home. Even though we arrived in the middle of the night, we ate dinner and talked about history and more places worth visiting.

         The first day in Shiraz we went to the Garden of Delgosha. It belongs to a pre-Islamic era, the Persian Sassanidian era and during the Safavid Dynasty it was one of the most important gardens of Shiraz. Inside of it is also a building from the Qajar Dynasty.
         After a couple of beautiful but warm hours in the garden we deserved some treat of cooling paloodeh. I found it to be like a super sweet popsicle shaped like real thin and short spaghetti, topped with some lemonade.

         What more did we do in Shiraz? Well, of course we paid a visit to the town museum and later the bazaar, with its narrow alleys filled with all the things you can think of between carpets and souvenirs to beautiful fabrics and gorgeous jewellery. Of course we also visited the tombs of the poets Saadi (1210-1292) and Hafez (1315-1390). There were beautiful buildings with gardens and amazingly beautiful tombs made of marble for everyone to pay their admiration to the poets. According to the custom, you should put your hand on the tomb of Hafez at the same time as you read a part from the Qoran, something that Helia’s friend Hassan – who just happens to have a master in literature – gladly did.

Outside the room of Saadi's marble tomb.

Painting at the Shiraz museum.

Painting at Shiraz museum.

Outside of Persepolis.

         ”You cannot go to Shiraz without visiting Persepolis” Helia’s parents said. I was thrilled to go see this magnificent ruined city about eight miles from Shiraz. I’ve always been fascinated by historical places and the thought that people actually lived there and made these kind of buildings a long long time ago, in this case about 2500 years ago. Helia was mumbling, kind of angry, that Alexander the Great burned the city just because of jealousy. I replied that he didn’t manage to destroy the place, because after all, he made it a world known tourist attraction that shows the rich culture of Iran.

I guess this would be the most classic picture of Persepolis.

Beside the starue of Shapour I.
(And yes, I was allowed to be this close to the statue.)

         I’m listening quite a lot to a Swedish history podcast and that’s where I heard about a statue situated in a cave about two hours car ride away from Shiraz. The statue is a monument of Shapour I, a Persian king who lived the years 241-272 A.D. Of course I wanted to visit the place and got accompanied by Helia’s friend Hassan. The warm and long walk up the mountain was totally worth the trouble.

         The same evening as we visited the cave of Shapour I, we went back by flight to Teheran and came closer to the end of this trip to Iran.

I almost couldn’t believe what I had seen and experienced. I understood that it was going to take a while to process all the impressions. This blog in three parts is a part of that process. I hope that you’ll enjoy the reading and that it might give you another view of Iran, a view that is not shown in the media…

*Unesco World Heritage List

Who is Helia?

Helia is a Master of Persian dance, my main teacher in Persian dance and also a very good friend of mine. She was born in Shiraz, Iran and decided to dedicate her life to Persian dance. Like no other, Helia possesses the ability to connect with the hearts of her audience, by sharing the art of Persian Dance.