All posts by Nasrin Naraghi

Iran: A Journey Into The Heart and Soul

I called my mom in Iran to give her the good news. “Mom, I’m coming home for Nowruz for 10 days. She said, Besalamati (in good health) enshallah (Allah willing) khoshhalam kardi (you made me very happy) But what about your family, your husband and your boys? “Mom they will be fine. It’s only for 10 days. She said, “I know, it will be over soon. Like last year that you came. It was too short only for 10 days, it felt like a dream.”

 

I came to US at the tender age of 18 like many other Iranians to study at university and go back home. As a young person it was very fascinating for me to meet other young people like myself from all over the world and see how much we were alike despite our differences. I felt I can be true to myself and appreciate the diversity around me. It was the celebration of our differences, which was an awakening experience for me and nurtured my interest in cultural studies.

I became very interested in learning more about Iranian culture after I got married and had my two boys. This new-found interest turned into a real passion which has kept growing into my academic interest.

And now my journeys to Iran have made me feel more at home.

I arrived at Imam Khomeini International airport around 2:00 AM a few days before Chaharshanbehsouri. My sightseeing itinerary included: Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. I was ecstatic to go to Shiraz and visit the ruined palaces of the Achaemenid Empire.

We took an early morning flight from Tehran to Shiraz. I was accompanied by my sister and my niece. As soon as we were on-board, the flight attendant announced the name of the captain: Mrs. Shams. A female captain (Khanoom Khalaban)? We were all very pleasantly surprised! My niece suggested that I take a picture with her at the end of our flight. Good idea, I thought. The prospect of showing the picture to my students was a cultural education in of itself. I recalled my students’ perplexed reactions when they saw women driving in Iranian films. “Do women drive in Iran?” They asked.

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We took a taxi from Shiraz airport to our hotel, Homa Hotel. The cab driver greeted us with the famous Shirazi hospitality. “Ghadametoon sabz. Baroon Avordin Ba khodetoon.” Your steps are green. You brought rain. Shiraz like the rest of Iran has been dealing with drought in the last few years. When my sister told him she lives in Isfahan, the driver praised all the new modern buildings in Isfahan and added, “We Shirazis like to take it easy. That’s why we have the poets and gardens here. The tall buildings will come. We’re in no hurry.” He organized our sightseeing schedule with my sister starting in the afternoon for the next two days. He dropped us off at our hotel to freshen up and get ready for our afternoon tour into the center of the Achaemenids. We were greeted by the hotel manager and his team. They brought us freshly baked bread noon (bread) Taftoon with yogurt and sesame seeds as ingredients, Shirazi style. Umm yummy! (Kheili khoshmazeh)


Day 1

Our first stop was Pasargadae, the capital city of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great, the founder of the empire. (580- 530 BC)

The tomb of Cyrus the Great, resting on high platform is the main point of attraction in Pasargadae.

Although the palace is in ruins, we can envision its past glory. An amazing feeling of being connected to the past!

 

Cyrus the Great

Finally my dream of taking a picture in front of Cyrus’s tomb is coming true!

 

Persepolis (Takt-e Jamshid, the mythological king in Shahnameh, the Iranian epic) The entrance into Persepolis reminded me of Disneyland. It is surrounded by tall trees with beautiful landscaping, gift shops, and restaurants. But as you set foot in the monuments, you’re reminded by signs and guards on duty not to touch the tiniest gravels. You realize you’re standing inside a very sacred place. At this moment so many storybooks pop up in the head as one starts ascending into the main platform through the double stairways to Apadana, the main audience hall.

lion devouring the bull (2)

Lion devouring the bull symbolizing the arrival of spring, the Persian New Year.

Day 2

Hafez Mausoleum

hafes mausoleum 2

Restaurant at Tomb of Hafez

Restaurant in Tomb of Hafez

Eram garden- In Shiraz built during the Ilkhanid dynasty in the 13th century.

Eram garden waterway

 

Bazaar Vakil– Shiraz

bazar vakil

Isfahan

My sister’s Haftseen – The arrival of spring, Nowruz, new day.

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Khajoo Bridge, Isfahan, a marvel in bridge engineering built by Shah Abbas the Great, Safavid in 17th century.

Khajoo Bridge Isfahan

 

Tehran

I returned to Tehran one day before my departure. My brother scheduled the itinerary for the day: Milad Tower in the morning, lunch, Ab & Atash (Water & Fire Park), Tabiat, pedestrian bridge, and Taleghani Park in the afternoon.

 

I left Iran the next day. The trip feels like a dream in some ways while the reality of my family’s love, the people’s hospitality, even the merchants’ ta’arof, ghabeli nadareh ( it’s not worthy ) made me feel at home.

 

 

Tehran Stairways

tehran stairway

Tehran stairways take me back to my childhood.  With so much change in Tehran, I can hardly recognize the alleys, streets, and stores of my younger years.  Yet the stairway walks remain a constant for me.  These stairways are the holder of some of my finest memories!  Their sight  gives me a feeling of assurance.  Assurance that I know this place.  I’ve taken these stairs thousands of times.  They always trigger excitement of something new while recapturing the good feeling of refreshing the faded memories of the forgotten times.

 

As I step down the first set of stairs, I step back into a Friday afternoon, the weekend in Iran. My brother is racing me and my sister down the stairs.  My mom is admiring the tall cypress trees and my father is telling us about the history of the park as his face lit up with pride. As I take the last step down, I’m in Park Saee.

 

Park Saee was also known as Jangal Saee ( Saee Forest).  It was founded by Dr. Saee a very visionary engineer in 1950.  Nestled on Valiasr Street ( the longest street in Tehran) along with wide stone bedded stream ( joob) with the romantic sound of the water. To me this park has always been the most beautiful park in Tehran with its terrace garden along the stairway, which descends into  wide sidewalks along with benches lined with cypress trees.  The park still remains one of the most beautiful parks in Tehran: an oasis of peace and serenity in north of Tehran in the midst of a very busy commercial area.

 

Parks play an important role in Iranian culture as they are associated with the concept of “garden” (bagh).  They provide appropriate spaces for children’s play area, fitness equipment for all ages, and walking space away from hustle of the city.  In addition, Park Saee offers a small zoo for various types of exotic birds.

 

I’m in Park Saee on Chaharshanbeh Souri, the last Tuesday of the year and a few days before the arrival of spring & the Persian New Year, Nowruz.  There is no one here in the park and I have this beautiful place all to myself.  I pass by the birds exhibition and keep walking.  I see  the beautiful spring flowers, the yellow forsythias, which you can find all over the parks and street boulevards in Tehran and other cities in Iran at this time of the year.

 

As I am getting out of the park and heading back to the stairway, I am very much in the present.  I’m imbued with this indescribable feeling of being connected to all the colors and sounds around me. Of experiencing spring like never before!

 

Perhaps the stairway walks have always captured my sense of imagination and anticipation as to what it leads to. Tehran stairway walks of my childhood have resonated the great love for stairway walks everywhere for me.

 

Stairway walks are very popular around the world and are frequently visited by many people, which shows the fascination with stairways in the middle of a city & crossing through different neighborhoods.

 

 

 

 

 

New York City Is Calling You!!!

             New York, “the big apple, the city that never sleeps.”  New York city has been a legendary city since its heydays, the port to America, the symbol of the New World.  The place for making dreams come true.  It is debatable whether it is the people or the place that makes NYC the unique iconic city that it has become.  After all, there is only one New York which offers us unique experiences which we can’t have in other cities.

Here are my suggestions of day and night activities.   I have limited these activities to NYC.  New York is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens.  Manhattan and NYC (New York City) are the same.  The Subway trains in NY take you to all the five boroughs.  It is good to know the street numbers increase from south to north and the avenue numbers increase from east to west.  This information comes very handy if you are coming out of a subway station in the dead of winter so you don’t have to go in the wrong direction!  So keep this in mind as you’re getting out of the subway station to find your address.

Now without any further a due, here are my suggestions of things to do in NYC.

Day 1

Stroll along 5th Avenue from 45th and up to 58th to see many attractions and fashionable shops:  Saks Fifth AvenueRockefeller CenterSt Patrick Cathedral church, this is where John F Kennedy and Jackie got married and where all the Kennedys funeral ceremonies were held. They have daily masses and it’s quite majestic and awe inspiring both inside and outside the architecture of the building. Along the way you will see many designer fashion houses and flagship stores and sporting goods such as Nike and others.  Don’t forget to check Trump Tower building a very handsome building with restaurants inside.  Around 59th and 5th is Bergdorf Goodman a very fashionable department store. Close to it, you will find Tiffany.  This is where the movie, Breakfast in Tiffany was filmed with Audrey Hepburn. Close by there are nice restaurants, hangout hotels, namely Plaza Hotel which is owned by Ivana Trump.  This is also the beginning of Central Park which is always very crowded.

Take a stroll through Central Park.  You need to have a Subway Map which is also the map of NYC.  Your entry at 59th and 5th Avenue is the eastern part of the city.  Central Park is a huge park with paths that connect east to west and south to north and vice versa.  Inside the Central Park is a zoo, a rather small zoo without admission cost.  You can rent bikes to stroll through the park or ride a horse carriage which is very charming and very touristy.  I found out the restaurant Tavern On the Green has been closed for good. What a bummer!  But you can visit the site.  I read it has become a site for commercial, touristy stuff.

Stroll through the park to the west side to see the Columbus Circle and Time Warner attraction, mall, and restaurant to shop, eat, and relax.  The top of Time Warner offers spectacular sightseeing and picture opportunities.

Stroll through Time Square to see the neon lights and billboards and the crowd.  There is always some spectacle going on.   Next, go to the Empire State building located in Midtown Manhattan around 44th street or so.  Take the elevator to the top floors named for the Observatory level.  You need to buy the tickets at lobby.   There are two observatory levels and each offer the most magnificent views of NYC, harbor, Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge.  I really recommend this.  There are other events at the Empire State for which you need to buy tickets and are interesting.   It is worth mentioning the top of Empire State has been the site for many movies along the classics such as “Meet you on top of the Empire State” and  “Sleepless in Seattle’.

You can also go to the Top of Rock (Rockefeller Plaza) and see the most amazing views of the city.  Rockefeller Plaza isn’t far away from the Empire State.  You can take a cab or take Subway.   Subway map marks all the sightseeing with connecting trains to take.

Day 2

1. Metropolitan Art Museum is located in the uptown of NY.  This is the biggest and most elaborate museum in NY and if you can only go to one museum, this is it. The museum staff is very helpful in guiding you and your family (party) with regard to your interest and time constraint which exhibitions to see.  There is a spectacular roof top garden with breathtaking views of the city and a great restaurant to eat and relax.

2. Take Subway and head toward Wall Street.  You can walk through the Wall Street and head toward Sea Port.  This is like the Fisherman’s Wharf in SF.  You will see the ocean cruisers and shops and restaurants.  There you will see a mall where you can eat and go to the deck to see the most spectacular views of Brooklyn Bridge.

Day 3

Take the Subway to Grand Central Station which you must’ve seen it in many movies.  Outside the Grand Central station is the famous Helmsley Hotel which you may want to see it.   Broadway Shows and Off Broadway Shows.

Soho— is the popular place among artists and for yuppies and young people.  It’s the center of art, entertainment and nightlife and dining.  It’s also called Greenwich Village,where many artists (affluent ) have condos and apartments.

Chelsea neighborhood is a good area for food and entertainment.

 

Day 4

 

New York City Freedom Tour–  A boat ride takes you to Ground Zero Museum, the site devoted to the memory of the tragedy of 9/11, Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty.

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For more fun stuff in NYC, please click on this link.

http://www.hugotalk.com/new-york-city-is-calling-you.html

 

Love In Spring

I saw you in that café on a spring day
With music in the scene, love in the air

Your good look and charm dazzled me away
And you became the one and only fair

So worry and despair came to my heart
That I thought that I lost all of your love

Then the day came that you called me your art
I thought that I could fly like a bold dove

When it was time for us to leave, I plead
To see you soon, that would make me so gay

My hour of ecstasy came true, indeed
When you arrived with flowers on the Bay

Since I met you on that warm afternoon
I see the shadow of love in the moon

The Land Of Enchantment

Your sky is blue and heavenly glowing

A turquoise dome that shelters every creature

Like the Pacific Ocean, awesome nature

What glorious sight to view, upward flowing?

How your splendor follows every star that’s blowing?

Take the tram up the peak; watch the feature

You will see lush and birds beyond any bleacher

Take the tram down, and the sun baked land growing

The soil wrinkled same as the grandmother’s hands

Turquoise, Adobe resembling the union of sun and land

And when walking around eddies and tumble sands

You see in the Land of Enchantment, you are very close to stand

A celestial place for us earthly residents

A majestic soil for our soul’s presidents