Iran: A Nation Shrouded In Mystery
The capital city has been described as beautiful, historic, and yet has the ancient feel that evokes thousands of years of history. The city is located in the northwest part of the country and nestled in the valley of a great mountain range that keeps this urban and primal city cool in the winter. But there is more to Tehran, Iran than we read about or see on television.
There has often been political strife between the United States and Iran, with the latter accused of various human rights violations. But there is another side of Iran, which lies in its history, culture and people. One former citizen agreed to give a tour of her former country, however wanted to remain anonymous, still fearing any type of repercussions from the current regime. She called herself Negin.
Negin and her family left Iran in 1986 when she was 14 years old, and have not been able to return. Negin’s father bought their way out of the unstable and now repressed Persian country, and purchased a new life in Sweden. Born in Tehran and raised in the northern part of the city, Negin comes from middle to upper-class family, which is how they were able to escape. However, other Iranian families were not as lucky, even aunts and uncles of Negin remain in Iran. Negin says she would love to go back to visit her homeland and is eager to share her version of Iran. Speaking with Negin via Skype, one gets a sense of the warmth in the Iranian people, with her infectious smile and hearty laugh. Negin is now married and lives in Sweden, where her family immigrated 26 years ago. Still, the pride and love of her former country shine through, as she winds her way through her description of her former residence, even displaying the former flag of Iran, now illegal to have in your possession in that country.
Negin began by describing the capitol city of Tehran where she grew up.
“You will also find very beautiful parks and squares in Tehran like the very famous Azadi [freedom] tower”, said Negin.
Not the hot and sweaty Tehran that can be portrayed in American media. With its modern skyline, modest skyscrapers and bustling shopping centers, Tehran could be almost any city in America.
Once you are outside of Tehran there is a lot of country to cover. Iran is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and there is a lot of history to see. One place to start is the city of Shiraz, where the Shirazi wine is produced. It is also home to the old palace where King Darius and Cyrus the Great once ruled. Heading 340 kilometers south of Tehran is the city of Esfahan, which hosts some of the oldest mosques, dating back over thousands of years. Esfahan also has a famous tourist attraction in the Chehel Sooton, which means forty columns and is one of many palaces in this old city. Heading to the Caspian Sea and the resort island of Kish, the diversity of Iran is in full focus. Kish is home to plenty of shopping centers, five star hotels, and of course, the Persian Gulf. Iran has many things to see and do, but it is the people of Iran who can grab your heart.
According to Negin, a typical Iranian is generous, giving, and their homes are always open for guests. She recalls a story of a Swedish man that had it on his heart to go visit Iran and really experience the culture. The man met a family on the streets of Tehran, and ended up staying in their home for three weeks. This is the kind of the hospitality that beams from Negin as she says, “The Persian tradition says that a guest is a friend of God and you should treat them according to that.” Switching gears, Negin also reflects that those who have left Iran, even if they have been away for many years, still feel suspicious of meeting new Persian people, fearing they are from the new regime and are there to take them back to Iran where they are likely to be killed.
Negin can’t go back to Iran, even for visit, as most ex-patriot Iranians cannot. Today, Iran is unstable, as much of the ever-changing Middle East is. Can historic change come to Iran? As Negin holds the former flag from her birth country, she is hopeful of the future.
“Right now there are a lot of things going on within the government, strife between different fractions of the government,” she said. “Some want more freedom, some want less freedom. We can only hope that this is a way for a new revolution of freedom to take place in Iran.”
Negin left one last impression on Iran and its culture. According to Negin, Iranian people are very self-conscious of their pronounced Persian noses, and it is very common to have surgery throughout the country and correct what God gave them. The similarity in American and Iranian culture is tied up in a plastic surgeon’s bow, which is one more thing to discover about Iran and the country that has been shrouded in mystery.