Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Christmas in Isfahan

It was difficult being away from my family at Christmas (my first ever away from them!).  However, we took along some Christmas cheer in our suitcases.

We made sure our stockings were hung...

and lo and behold, Santa seemed to make it all the way to Isfahan!

Too bad Christmas is a work day for some...

Luckily there's time to party later on.

Though there's no place like home for the holidays, my new Iranian family made pretty good Christmas companions, especially for first-timers!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Christmas in Iran

In honour of Christmas in July, here is a post about Christmastime in Isfahan.

 In New Julfa, the Armenian Christian neighbourhood of Isfahan, there were signs of Christmas around.  Shop windows were decorated for the season:

Even the locals were getting into the Christmas spirit:

Above is a tree set up in a luxury mall in Julfa (note the Dolce and Gabbana store!).

At the Vank (Armenian Orthodox) Cathedral the visitors were excited to take photos with the Christmas decor:

Even my inlaws were eager to take their photos with the Christmas decor!
 And several shops were selling Christmas gear:

We even bought some Christmas balls at this shop to add to the small tree we had brought from home.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Inside the Blue Mosque

The famous Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Imam) or Shah Mosque (Masjed-e Shah) sits at one end of the expansive Imam Square, the large public square in Isfahan.  It is covered in hundreds of thousands of hand-painted blue tiles. 

I thought it was the most beautiful mosque I saw on my trip (and not just because my favourite colour is blue!).

The original entry door is massive!

Here's my sister-in-law trying to reach the handle.

Inside the mosque are several sections of outdoor courtyards and indoor areas.

It is still used for Friday prayers.  These are the carpets that are spread out on Fridays.

This is a perch for leading prayers from.

A beautiful place for spiritual enlightenment!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Blue Mosque of Isfahan

At the head of Imam Square in Isfahan is the beautiful blue mosque.  It's not the only blue mosque, but it's the largest and most famous one.  It is huge both inside and out (about 140 000 square feet!).  It was built in the 1600's by Shah Abbas, hence the original name of the Shah Mosque (Masjed-e Shah ).  After the revolution it has become known as Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Imam).

And that's all just the outside of the mosque!!  I'll feature the inside on another post.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Early Bird Catches the Bread

Travelling halfway around the world can give you some pretty intense jet lag. Actually, the jet lag I experience wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Mostly, I was just waking up super early (4 AM, then 5 AM). However, an afternoon nap every day was an absolute necessity. I tried taking melatonin for jet lag, but I really didn't notice any improvement.

Being up early allowed me to enjoy some truly Iranian experiences, such as hearing the beautiful pre-sunrise call to prayer .

Another way to spend an early morning in Iran is to head to the local bakery to pick up some fresh bread.

Every neighbourhood has a few bakeries like this. They are only open at certain times throughout the day (generally before mealtimes).   They are very efficient operations.

Bread is called nun (nan/naan) in Farsi.  It is the original naan that you may have heard of in Indian cuisine. The Persians introduced it to India!  There are several different types of Iranian bread (more pics to come!) This one is the most basic and readily available type.

Outside each bakery is a rack like this where the fresh hot breads are laid out to cool off a bit before being sent home with you.  During busy times the customers themselves will come here and spread out their breads for a few minutes before taking them home.  Bags are not usually provided, so many people just carry the bread in their hands or bring their own bags.

Breakfast was always tea and a yummy spread of feta, butter, jams and honey to top the fresh bread with.  Deelish!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ashura in the City

During the holy days of Moharram there's a lot of activity at night on the streets. 

One tradition is for people to make a pilgrimage to light candles at various makeshift stations around the city near mosques. 

The candles are just stuck on nooks in nearby walls.

It didn't seem that safe to me...

Some people aim to light candles at 40 different stations around the city.  When lighting a candle you're supposed to make a wish.  If your wish comes true, the person will often pledge to make food to distribute to others during the month of Moharram next year, like this lady serving sholo zard:

The food is meant for anyone.  It's not aimed specifically for the less fortunate or anything.  In fact, eating this donated food is thought to be especially holy.  One person I met had his dinner every night at stations like this during the holy month.  A good way to save money!!

Some people set up elaborate stations and staff them with their entire families.  This one is serving tea:

I ended up going into a religious building that was all women.

It was overwhelming to be surrounded by so many chadoris in one room! 

These women were tying strings around a holy shrine to make wishes.

After I had taken a few photos, we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker which even with my limited farsi I understood to be prohibiting photos.  In my defense, I wasn't the only one.  Many younger women were taking cell phone photos as well!