In my entire travels I jump over the big cities and stay short only when I need to. I would never imagine that I would stay in this huge city for almost three weeks. The main reason was the great people I came across here. I was so much enjoying and learning from all experiences with them.
Tehran with its 15 million residents in the whole metropolitan area, is the most populous city in West Asia. This view from north Tehran (below) is showing its largeness and the heavy air pollution which the city suffers from. Nevertheless I found the city plan systematic, not irregular as in many other big cities. I loved the green boulevards and the parks. I loved the view of the mountains that surrounds the whole city. Mount Tochal (almost 4000m) is just in the north part of Tehran and the highest mountain of Iran that is Mount Damavand (5610m) can be seen from some suburbs of the city in the clear days.
Lets start with some attractions of the city that I like the most. Saadabad Complex (below) with its beautiful huge forest-like gardens is an escape place in the city. It is so calm and peaceful. The complex consists of several palaces and museums which are like an introduction into the life of last Shahs of Iran in 19th and 20th centuries.
There are countless examples of mosques in Iran but I really like Imamzadeh Saleh mosque (below) of Tehran. It is a local pilgrimage site and one of the most popular Shia shrines in Iran. The shrine houses a fine example of mirrored interior which is common to Iranian mosques.
Golestan palace (below); became the seat of government of Qajar family which came into power in 1779 and made Tehran the capital. The complex consists of beautiful gardens and eight palace structures mostly used as museums. It has exceptional interior and exterior facade decorations.
In Iran in each city or big town, bazaars are one of the main attractions. After seeing the gigantic historical Tabriz bazaar it wasn’t that much fascinating to see Tehran Grand Bazaar. In its narrow and so crowded alleys I witnessed many children working, carrying heavy loads of goods from one place to another in a rush. I observed their harsh conditions and the ungracious attitudes people show them. This fact of life broke my heart.
Another bazaar in Tehran is Tajrish bazaar which I liked more. It is full of diversity and is a great place for observing daily life and people. The old and the young, the rich and the poor, the women in black chadors, the women in high heels and transparent hijabs. . . You can also see traditional medicine shops (atari) here that sells dried goods as well as plant extracts for many illnesses and they diagnose free of charge!
There is also Jomeh bazaar (below); that is only open on Fridays at a five storey building. To me it is the best place to buy souvenirs and gifts. It is full of many interesting stuff, antiques, second hand goods, cloths, old objects. The stalls of Turkmens exhibit a large variety of ethnic clothes. It is a must see place.
They say couchsurfing really works in Iran but I had no need for it at all. The people whom I have met helped me greatly to find homes wherever I travelled to. Panda (Mohammed) was one of my highly social hosts in Tehran who helped me a lot when finding homes to stay. Below you see him, his grandfather and his bird Kelog. Sharing the house with a crow was unusual but I really enjoyed to be in a lively ambience of youngsters, mostly art students at their early twenties. It gave me idea about the lifestyles of young educated Iranians. They are all rebel in a way but the most friendliest and warm rebels ever.
I also stayed at the house of my dear friends Sara and Hossein and their adorable cat Pupek. The tiny little elaborate details in their peaceful house reminded me of my homes in the past. Whether in a city or in a small village, many years have passed in between the details of a settled life. Then through a strong inner call of the heart, the time had come for the change which inevitably throw me on the road. There was no other way. I gave away most of my belongings and all the remainings are fitting in a small closet in my family house now. And now I am in an unsettled life, as light as possible, floating from one place to another, from one experience to another in the unknown. I am drawn to explore life in broader, open ended fields.
Photo on the left: Sara Zandevakili
The photo above is from the memorable night at Sara and Hossein’s house. That day I cooked joyfully all day long for my dear friends and invited them for a Turkish dinner night. It was such a pleasure to make people happy through food. In Iran ‘Sofra’ is the name given to a piece of cloth on which food are placed at meal times. In the tradition sofra is seen as a symbol that unites people. In some houses people hold from the corners of this cloth and pray and bless the food and the unity. Sometimes stories and poetry accompany this experience. And of course music. As we had two highly talented musicians amongst us, that night continued with beautiful melodies of Iranian music.
In Tehran I falled into the lap of a big social circle. Events, gatherings continued one after another. Music gatherings, sufi gatherings, poetry readings, drum circles, council meetings, workshops on universal dances of peace or on contemporary dance followed eachother.
After a year in deep solitude, this year is full of social encounters, without me designing! The ground in which my spiritual realizations came into being shifted through; from the times of ‘learning from pain in aloneness’ to the times of ‘learning from interactions in communion’. I surrendered and eventually found love in both ways.
Amoo (uncle) Majid, the man you see above is a blessing in my life. I am so grateful to all the energies that linked me to him and to the community I met through him. His dargah like space became my home. I believe he is a karma yoga (selfless action) master. He is a great example that wisdom can be attained through service. He is a pure soul who opens his heart or anything he has to each and everyone without any distinction. He helps and supports everyone unconditionally. His talk is sweeter than honey. He is a creative artist as well, writing books, painting, sculpturing, singing. I met many many people in his space that are all dear friends to me now. To this beautiful space I gifted a corner of Tara (female aspect of Buddha) with the blessings for well being, love and wisdom of every being.
He takes these words of great Persian mystic Abulhassan Kharaqani as the greatest teaching:
“Whoever comes to this house, feed him and do not question his faith. For whoever is given life by God, deserves to eat from the table of Abul Hasan.”
Photo: Sara Zandevakili
In my travels in Nepal, India and Thailand I had the chance to dive deep into the discovery of wisdom by the gifts and blessings of many teachings and teachers in Buddhist, Yogic traditions and Advaita Vedanta. I learned meditation and I have greatly benefited from having meditation as the main practice in my life which gave me an immense inner peace and showed me the reality. A deep call blossomed in me to invite people to this space where they can discover their true nature and experience themselves as part of something greater.
So for some time I’ve been offering sessions and meetings on meditation in the places I pass by in my travels. I talk about the fundamental foundation of meditation, give guided meditation sessions. Another reason why I stayed in Tehran this long was that I organised an event; ‘Introduction to Meditation’ meeting.
2 Photos Above: Sara Zandevakili
We were more than 60 people in 2 workshops which showed me once again how people need it, how it is significant and meaningful to share this knowledge. Having Ramana (my Guru) as my companion, I let myself fully into the power of service. It was two magical meetings for all of us.
I am so thankful to all the people who supported me during the preparations, who presented their service gracefully even to the smallest details. I am more than happy to hear the feedbacks of the participants who have meditation in their life now. These all touches me deeply. I bow down to this flow which enables me to serve life through my heart’s calling.
As Tehran was like a base to depart to all four directions, I would be coming back here for couple of times more. Now it was time to head to south, a little bit closer to the deserted central Iran, to Kashan and Abyaneh.
The magical days in Tehran also gifted me another dear friend and his angelic voice. He is Makan Ashgvari, a singer, songwriter, actor and director working in Tehran. There is something special about his voice that discloses the great love and joy within me. Below is one of his adorable songs, Bodo Bodo that reminds me of the delightful tone of Tehran days in the company of intimate friendships.