The most important points you need when traveling to Iran

You can read the most important points you need when traveling to Iran on this page. We have tried to answer your most important mental concerns and the most vital information you need.

 

Security in Iran

Contrary to the negative propaganda of some Western media, Iran is a safe country and does not pose a threat to citizens and tourists. In recent years, despite the rise of terrorist groups such as ISIS and the Taliban in the Middle East and some of their attacks in the heart of Europe, Iran has become immune to such human rights abuses and has become known as the safe island of the Middle East. Despite the relative insecurity that prevails in the world, not a single case of widespread terrorist incident has been reported in this country.

Iranian money system

You can use Euros, Pounds or Dollars to pay for major travel expenses such as your accommodation or the taxi that will take you from the airport to the hotel. But for more detailed expenses, you need to convert your money into Iranian banknotes. There is a money exchange office at Iran’s international airports. Hotels have the same possibility. Reputable exchange offices are also operating in all major cities of Iran, whose services you can use.

The currency in Iran is officially known as the Rial, and is valued at roughly 40’000 IRL to USD$1. That’s a lot of zeros, so what the locals have started doing is dropping a zero and calling the new value a Toman.

1 Toman = 10 Rial

Residence in Iran

In the tourist cities of Iran, it is customary for the natives to rent their houses to travelers. This type of accommodation may cause problems with accident insurance. Therefore, stay in places that operate under the auspices of the Tourism Organization of Iran. Licensed local hotels, guesthouses and houses are among the approved places. If you are traveling with a tour, trust your tour guide about accommodation.

The Persian New Year “NOWRUZ”: March 21 and the first day of spring

In the Persian language called “Farsi”, Now means “new” and Ruz “day”; the term Ruz is the result of the contraction of the name of Hormozd, in turn derives from the name of Ahura Mazdah, the “Wise Lord” the divine figure of the Zoroastrian religion. This festival coincides with the first day of spring (March 21-22), when the sun enters the sign of Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. According to the mythical Iranian and Zoroastrian traditions, Nowruz is the day in which the universe was created which in turn can also mark rebirth.

For most Iranians, the most important non-religious holiday of the year is Nowruz, the euphoric and well-practiced period of celebration on the occasion of the Persian New Year. Since the Achaemenid era, the arrival of spring has been celebrated with majestic feasts in all the satrapies of the Persian Empire. In fact, even today on the walls of Persepolis you can admire the symbols of Nowruz and the Iranian New Year. They are the witnesses of the rebirth and renewal of Nature. These are two animals: the lion and the bull / unicorn. According to archaeologists, the first is the symbol of heat and the sun and the other is the symbol of cold, the moon and the night. These carvings on the walls show us the battle in which it seems the lion is about to win. The victory of the lion is the emblem of Nowruz and the arrival of the new year. The rest of the engravings show armed troops gathered around the Achaemenid king as they celebrate the end of the cold and winter.

Omar Khayyam in his work Nowruz-nameh which means “New Year’s letter”, wrote about the holiday: “the reason for the appearance of Nowruz derives from the fact that the sun has two cycles: one of these is that 365 days, a fourth after which he returns to zero degrees of the sign of Aries, on the same day and in the same minute he left it “. This is why every year lasts 365 days.

Family preparation and tablecloth decorations

The Nowruz period, before and after the event, consists of a series of traditional events and rituals. On a private level, a few days before Nowruz, the families carry out an important cleaning of the houses. From the beginning of March, the lentils or wheat are bathed to make them germinate on a plate that creates a small carpet of green grass, called sabzeh. The latter is one of the most important symbols of the festival which will then be placed among the seven objects on the table. During this period before the holidays, families buy new clothes, especially for children.

On the streets, in the last days before the New Year, it is possible to meet Hajji Firouz, a traditional character dressed in black and dressed in red, equipped with a tambourine who sings and dances, wishing his best wishes for the new year.

Nowadays, in general, he is a street musician, but he is still a symbol of the arrival of Nowruz. In the neighborhoods and between the queues, the men who disguise themselves as Hajji Firouz pass through the streets and cars in front of the red lights, dancing and singing: Hajji Firouzeh sali yek rouzeh; literally: “it’s Haiji Firouz, he only comes once a year”. People then donate their offerings to help him on New Year.

Public celebrations begin the night between the last Tuesday and the last Wednesday of the previous year, with the rite of Chahar Shanbeh Souri.

In the last days before the new year, in the intimacy of the homes of families of Iranian origin, the Nowruz table is set up, which is called “sofre-ye haft siin” (literally, “the tablecloth with the seven Ss”): the table it is decorated with a tablecloth (sofre), where we have seven objects, whose names begin with the letter of the Persian alphabet “س” (siin), which corresponds to the phoneme [s] of the Italian alphabet. Among the elements of the seven siin, we can find, in particular, the sib (apple), the serke (vinegar), the somaq (sumac), the sekke (coin), the sonbol (hyacinth), the sabzeh (the cat grass , obtained from wheat germs or lentils) and sir (garlic). These elements symbolize the wishes for the new year, such as prosperity, health, wealth, strength, etc. On the table you can also have other objects, such as candles, a mirror, a jar with red fish, colored and decorated eggs, cakes, sacred books, which also have symbolic auspicious meanings. We recall that the number seven is mentioned in the Koran, in at least seven suras and verses; the Holy Text speaks on various occasions of “seven days”, “seven nights”, “seven seas”, “seven heavens” etc.

Also according to the Zoroastrian religion to respect the angels who are around AhuraMazda (Unique God) and their names begin with “S”, for this reason seven types of food products that in our language begin with “S” were placed on the table by the ancient Persians, thus the famous Haft-sin (Seven S) was created.

In this period the Nowruz buying ceremony takes place, purchases of the products and food that will be used for the day of Nowruz. In the last moments before the transition to the following year, that is, on New Year’s Eve, the streets are very busy. The next day, Farvardin’s first day (March 21), the first day of the new year, the traditional “eid didani,” family visits “begin. According to tradition, it is always up to the little ones to visit the older members of the family. By visiting their family’s grandparents, uncles and aunts, children receive gifts or sometimes even money.

The traditional dish of the first day of Nowruz is “sabzi polo ba mahi”. This dish is then accompanied and served with fish and “koukou sabzi” which is the herb omelette – the same herbs as sabzi polo -. When the clock indicates the arrival of the new day, the first day of the new year, family members, often in new clothes, gather around the table, near the shelf where the Haft Sin has been placed. At the start of the New Year which falls at a precise moment, everyone hugs each other, wishing each other health and well-being. Even on the street when you meet the neighbors they say “Sad sal bé in sal-ha” (which is a hundred years better than this) and other wishes of this kind.

And then the Nowruz symposium which is New Year’s lunch or dinner – it depends on which time the precise time of the new year falls – a table that has its own infinite courses from appetizers to desserts and dried fruit, comparable to dinner on the eve of Christmas. The typical dish of the Nowruz is the Sabzipolo mahi which is a dish based on basmati rice mixed with chopped aromatic herbs such as parsley, dill and chives accompanied by the delicious meat of a Caspian fish, the Kutum or Caspian White Fish. in Iran as Mahi Sefid – sefid in Farsi means white due to the meat of this fish which is very tender and white.

Then the older members distribute the eidi (small gifts and presents) to the grandchildren and the youngest of the family: generally, depending on the financial resources, they offer new banknotes (a gesture of benevolence also used in the workplace, in favor of employees or subordinates).

Sizdah bedar: the thirteenth day of spring

The Nowruz celebrations last almost two weeks, the schools will remain closed, while the offices follow public holidays ranging from March 20 to 24. Sizdah in Farsi means thirteen in fact the thirteenth day, a public holiday, is called sizdah bedar; the day is spent outdoors, in short, a sort of picnic with the usual rituals. In a certain sense, this period also corresponds to what in Italy we know as the April Fool’s Day, also because on the day of sizdah bedar, there are similar attempts. On sizdah bedar day, families go out to have a picnic and enjoy the arrival of spring; it is a very serious picnic, and it prepares everything from food to desserts. Most people leave their homes to go to a park and spend the day in nature. According to the Iranians, contact with nature, starting in spring, is a reopening towards a new phase of life, which brings good luck for the rest of the year. Members of the same family eat together and chat during this picnic in nature to conclude the party. At the end of this day, the sabzehs, the cultivated shoots “, are thrown into running water, for example into a river to make the year’s evil and misfortune disappear. It is also customary for young unmarried girls to tie a knot on the grass itself before throwing it, crossing their fingers, expressing their desire to get married before the next sizdah bedar.

Sufism

Sufism, desert and poetry in Iran

The Persian mystical tradition assimilates the spiritual search to the crossing of the desert valleys. Sufism lists seven of these valleys: search, love, knowledge, detachment, unity with God, wonder, and annihilation. The road is dangerous. Asceticism in order to purify the soul; the denial of carnal passions; the renunciation of earthly desires: all these thorns await on the path of the mystic.

Gold, the possession of goods that flatter the eyes and the heart and arouse envy and desire – all the vanities in the world – appear like mirages on the path of the thirsty traveler.

All caravans need a guide to cross the desert; no one would be foolish enough to venture out onto the sandy expanses without someone to guide them. Similarly, the Iranian mystical tradition calls on the seekers of truth to seek the help of the “Pirs”, teachers who can show them the way. No disciple would venture on the path of devotion without the help of an initiator to instruct and impart the necessary knowledge. Like a caravan leader, the spiritual master is in charge of the proselyte’s chain of instruction.

Sohrab Sepehri

Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980), prominent Iranian poet and painter, was born in Kashan on October 7, 1928. The talented Iranian artist made his name and became notable with the publication of “Sound of the Passage of Water”, which marked a milestone in his poetic activity, to which two other volumes were added. In 1969, he participated in the Paris Biennale and shortly after exhibited his paintings in a gallery in New York, where he lived for a brief period.

Having been born into a family known for art and literature, it led him to also fall for art. Sohrab’s father was a post office clerk, craftsman, and builder of a traditional Persian musical instrument, the tar, while his grandmother was also a fairly gifted poet. Kashan and the surrounding villages played a significant role in both his poetry and his paintings. In fact, in his poems his hometown stands out, which, among other things, has a rich and glorious history:

Simorgh

Simorghand Mount Qaf

Attar, the great Iranian poet of the twelfth century, describes in The Language of the Birds the journey that these birds undertake in search of their king. Guided by the hoopoe, a bird rich in mythological associations that was Solomon’s companion and can avoid mirages and spot pools of water from a distance, they set out for Mount Qaf, where Simorgh, the king of birds, lives. Many of them cannot bear the heat, hunger and thirst and, for fear of the unknown, they prefer not to overtake any further. Others show the courage to face dangers. Due to the lack of food, water and shade, many die on the way. Only thirty birds (in Persian, si-morq) reach their goal, flying over Qaf and discovering their “inner self”

And so these thirty birds saw the Simorgh’s face reflected in their own face and realized that the Simorgh was nothing more than themselves.

The differences between phoenix and Simorgh:

1- Phoenix is ​​not considered a mythical Iranian creature and should not be confused, as Phoenix originates from Greece not from ancient Persia. On the contrary, Simorgh belongs to Iranian mythology.

2- Phoenix is ​​the only bird that has to die to be born, but Simorgh is a bird in its prime also known under the name “Homa-e Saadat”.

3- Simorgh is the symbol of unity, of the superior world, the bird of God and the manifestation of the soul and that of the perfect man; but phoenix is ​​the symbol of immortality.

4- Simorgh, according to Iranian poems, is a supernatural, abstract, theological, and omniscient creature. Notably, Attar Nishapuri also considers the phoenix to be an imaginary creature. Nima Yushich, a contemporary Iranian poet, has dedicated a poem to Qoqnus (phoenix). Nima has used the phoenix metaphorically in her poem, presenting his desire for literary rebirth and breaking with the norms of classical Persian poetry.

5-For Iranians, Simorgh is not just a bird, but a spiritual and mystical being. However, phoenix is ​​considered an eternal creature. Of course, this could be a reflection of the human subconscious, which wishes for immortality. However, according to Attar, phoenix is ​​also considered deadly.

Ahmad Shamlou

Shamlou, famous Iranian poet, was born on December 12, 1925 in Tehran. His father was an army officer from Kabul, Afghanistan. Indeed, Ahmad, having to follow his father, spent his early school years in different cities: Zahedan in southeastern Iran, Mashhad in the northeast, and Rasht in the north. In 1938, Shamlou left the institute and enrolled in the Tehran Technical School, one of the best of the time, where he also learned German. In 1942, his father took him to northern Iran, then occupied by the Soviet army. Shamlou began to write his revolutionary ideas, so he was arrested by the Red Army for his political ideas and sent to Rasht. He was released from prison in 1945 and moved with his family to Azerbaijan.

In 1948, he began writing for a monthly literary magazine called “Sokhan.” Two years later, his first story was published: “The woman behind the bronze door.” The second collection of poems, “Manifesto”, was published in 1951, where he showed his clear inclination for socialist ideology. In 1952 he got a job at the Hungarian Embassy as a cultural adviser. Meanwhile, he published his third book “Iron Poems and Feelings” which was banned and destroyed by the police.

In 1956 he became editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Bamshad. He separated from his wife with two sons and a daughter. In the spring of 1962, he met Ayda Sarkisian, from an Armenian-Iranian family who lived in the same neighborhood as him. They were married after two years, despite opposition from Ayda’s family, who did not like Ahmad because he was older than her and had been divorced twice. Despite everything, they were together until Shamlou’s death.

Ahmad Shamlou was undoubtedly an important figure in the field of poetry and translation (The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). He always lived a poetic life and put poetry at the service of the highest human values. Ahmad was the presence and historical memory of a generation that, for almost half a century, flourished in many fields of thought and literature, lifting human myths from the darkness of time by piercing with its innovations the mystery of the little charm of friendship. For this reason, Shamlou considered poetry as a tool to establish freedom. In addition to poetry and translation, Ahmad, who had a theatrical voice, narrated and read classical Persian poems, recorded his translations and the famous quatrains by Omar Khayyam. Precisely because of the existence of that free vision in poetry, at the end of the 50s he chose his poems, totally ideological, to turn them into an audio tape with his voice. This tape later became the title of a collection of poems.

Saadi

Musleh al-Din Abdollah Saadi is one of the most recognized poets in Persian literature. His long life spanned the entire 13th century, considered the classical period of Persian lyric poetry, which historically coincides with the first Mongol invasions, begun in the autumn of 1219, which caused the fall of the Abbasid caliphate.

The new Mongol rulers formed new courts far removed from local populations and showed little interest in the Ghasida (eulogy) literary genre, then in full swing. Rather they were interested in alluding to his political and territorial conquests in the prose of historical works. In the process of lyrical poetry production, the genre of Ghasida lost its importance in favor of the poetic genre of ghazal (sonnet), which reached its technical perfection with Saadi.

A century earlier, poets expressed their loving feelings and emotions primarily in the introductory part of Ghasida, devoting little attention to ghazal, but devastating Mongol invasions changed the social landscape and fostered mysticism and the desire to escape from the world. On the other hand, the new Mongol rulers stimulated the literary genre of historiography, eager to have their exploits passed from generation to generation. Against this historical and literary background, Saadi was born in 1184 in Shiraz, in the Fars region. What we know about him is based on compilations of biographical information on poets, along with an anthology of poems and autobiographical information on his works. His father died when he was only 12 years old.

Saadi, already initiated into Sufism by the great mystic Suhrawardi, spent the last period of his life in serenity and died in Shiraz in 1291. Saadi’s literary output is varied. He only achieved fame after his return to Shiraz in 1256-57, when he composed Bustán (The Orchard) which is written entirely in verse and, a year later, Golestan (The Rose Garden), the majority of which consists of prose, considered as his main works.

Rudaki

Abdollah Jafar Ibn Mohammad Rudaki, founder of Perso-Tajik literature. Rudaki was born in 858 in the village of Pandj-Rudak, near Pandjikent, situated between Samarkand and Bukhara (in Transoxiana, Central Asia). From a young age he began to write verses, he liked to play the lute (chang in Persian) and had a beautiful voice. He was one of the first poets to use the newly developed Persian alphabet, a transcription of the Pahlavi language with the Arabic alphabet. Rudaki’s poetry captivated the hearts and minds of his contemporaries. His Ghasidas  were the adornment of the parties of the royal palaces and of the meetings of scholars whose philosophical content surprised any listener. The poet reflected on the essence of phenomena and the constant movement of natural and social changes through his poetry at times at specific times. According to some documents, Rudaki’s literary heritage included more than one hundred thousand beyts (verses) of poetry. Rudaki died in 941 AD.  and his tomb is in his native town marked by a blue and white marble mausoleum. His poetry is simple in style, as court poetry should be, reflecting the charm of pre-Islamic Iranian poetry. Avoid Arabism and do not use verses from the Qur’an. Above all, his poetry is accessible to today’s schoolchildren who can enjoy his verses without the need for explanations or interpretations.

The Poetry and Classical Poets of Iran

Main forms and rhythmic patterns

The ancient Persian language of the Achaemenid Empire, preserved in numerous cuneiform inscriptions, was an Indo-European language with strong affinities with Sanskrit and Avestan (the language of Zoroastrian sacred texts). After the fall of the Achaemenids, the ancient language evolved into Middle Persian or Pahlavi (a name derived from Parthavi meaning Parthian) in the province of Pars. Pahlavi was used throughout the Sassanid period, although little remains today of what must have been considerable literature. About 100 texts are preserved in Pahlavi, most on religion and all in prose. However, the Pahlavi novel collections provided much of the material for Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh.

After the Arab conquest, knowledge of Arabic became necessary, since it was not only the language of the new rulers and the State, but also the religion that they brought with them and, later, the new knowledge. Although Pahlavi continued to be spoken in private life, Arabic dominated in official circles for a century and a half. With the weakening of the central power, a modified form of Pahlavi emerged, with its Indo-European grammatical structure intact but simplified, and heavily infused with Arabic words. This was the modern Persian spoken today.

Persian: the language spoken in Iran

Indo-Iranian is one of the main branches of the linguistic family whose speakers are one of the first Indo-European peoples integrated into history. One of the languages ​​of this family has become the classical language of a culture as ancient and special as that of Iran. In the first millennium BC, the Indo-Iranians appeared definitely divided into its two branches, Hindu and Iranian, and settled in a continuum from Iran to India, passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan. From this moment on, the two peoples must be considered separately. Therefore, one of these languages ​​is precisely Persian, that is, modern Persian. Farsi is of Indo-European origin and completely different from Semitic languages ​​such as Arabic or Hebrew.

Iran became Islamized in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, after the Arab conquest, when the Arabic alphabet replaced the Persian. However, this language retained its grammatical forms, so from a morphosyntactic point of view, Persian remained the same as before and did not become a Semitic language. Iran’s pre-Islamic history was so opulent and radical that it has left clearly recognizable traces, beginning with the language. Before the Arab conquest, the Persian language went through two phases of evolution: Ancient Persian and Avestan.

Old Persian was the official language of the Achaemenid dynasty during the Persian Empire. Darius the Great (521 – 486 BC) introduced writing for his language, a simplified form of the cuneiform system.

Avestan is the language in which Avesta, the sacred text of the Zoroastrians, is written. Long transmitted orally, it was not written until after the 3rd century AD, during the reign of the Sassanids, and underwent a significant simplification compared to the old. He had not only one alphabet, but two: the Aramaic alphabet and the so-called Huzvaresh.

Even today, the various Iranian dialects continued to evolve until, in the 10th century, they emerged in the form of modern Persian. The main literary work of modern Iran is the epic poem “The Book of Kings”, whose author, Ferdowsi, lived until about 1000 AD. Today many dialect varieties are still spoken. Among them are Persian, the national language of Iran; Pashto, the official language of Afghanistan; Kurdish dialects, spoken in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq; and the dialects of the Pamir, on the Pamir Plateau, northwest of Afghanistan. Finally, the Iranian languages ​​of the North Caucasus, Ossetian, and Caspian dialects are the inheritors of the language of the last remaining Indo-European elements on the steppes, whom we call Scythians and Sarmatians.

Parvin Etesami

Born in Tabriz, she is a 20th century Iranian poet. From childhood, Parvin learned Persian, English and Arabic from her father. From an early age, she began composing poems under the supervision of her father and talented teachers such as Dehkhoda and Bahar.

Persian and Arabic literature always amazed her and at the age of eight she began to write poetry, especially structured and delicate pieces that her father translated from foreign books (French, Turkish and Arabic). In this way, she naturally experienced her literary talent developing a particular multilingual style.

In her poems, Parvin follows the style of the pioneers, especially Nasser Khosrow, and her poems contain mainly moral and mystical themes. She expresses wisdom and moral issues with such simple and eloquent language.

Parvin’s poetry, from the point of view of the expression of concepts and meanings, has rather the form of a “debate” and a “question-answer”. There are more than seventy examples of debates in her Divan (collection of poems) that made her eminent among Persian poets in this regard. In the power of words and the dominance of industries and rituals of speech, she was above famous speakers, and in the meantime, she paid special attention to debate and revived this method, which was that of the poets of northern Iran. .

Parvin’s life was accompanied by various socio-political moments, such as the constitutional revolution, the fall of the Qajar dynasty, the return of Reza Shah, and the First World War. All these events made Parvin become aware of the problems of her time and create a social atmosphere in her poems. Due to the absence of newspapers and other mass media at that time, the only way to become familiar with political issues was through dialogue with her father. Parvin’s poetry deals with themes such as oppression, the fight against poverty, justice and idealism. For this reason, some have considered her as one of the architects of Iranian history and political thought.