Abdullah bin Salim al Shueili –
The threads of dawn sneak into the land as cool breeze blows from far north where remnants of winter snow began to melt down from the highest peak of the Alborz mountain range.
The vehicle that picked us up from Khomeini International Airport cut through a long stretch of road. It was tasked to bring us to our hotel which is located at a corner of the heart of the country’s capital – Tehran (meaning the flatland in Farsi).
Our guide who speaks Arabic fluently told us that the hotel was built some forty years ago next to the biggest park located in the city centre carrying the same name.
From my room window, I viewed the Milad Tower embracing the clouds as it stands as tall as the mountains covered in white. The tower has, for a long time, watched over the 32nd capital of Iran after king Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar decided to move the capital from Shiraz to Tehran in 1795.
Tehran has plenty of everything. It teemed with people and is rich in history and civilization. The country’s capital has a population of twenty million out of eighty million people who are distributed in the rest of the cities and governorates.
Tehran is a busy city that never knows quietness even at midnight or in the early hours of the morning being the centre of industrial, trading, investment and touristic activities. It is also home to various ethnicities such as the Persians who make up seventy-five per cent of the city’s population. Other ethnic groups are Arabs, Armenians, Baloch and Kurds. In Tehran you will encounter people from diverse heavenly religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as the other faiths like Zoroastrianism and Baha’i.
Our journey began here, at the capital located at the foot of Alborz mountain and it will take us to the most interesting of places not many people know about.
Our visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran as members of a media delegation coincided with the Persian New Year or Nowruz (New Day).
Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring when the land gets covered with greenery and flowers begin to bloom. Iranians have high regard for Nowruz observing the occasion for two weeks.
During this day, they set a table with seven different items. It is essential for these items to start their letters with Sin-Seen (“س”). Every item should also be a symbol of love, fertility, abundance, wealth, luck, safety and childbirth. The families, in celebration, also make sure to read some poems of the great Iranian poet Hafez al Shirazi.
As our journey was about to begin, I got mesmerized by the scene of people on the street. From the outside looking in, I observed that the people live together in peace without any sort of fanaticism. It was easy to deduce that all they seek is peace and security amongst themselves and their neighbours. They welcome everyone and provide help to strangers.
Khosh Amadi (Persian for welcome), said our host — an employee at the ministry of culture and religious guidance. After the greetings, he elaborated on the ancient relations binding Oman and Iran until the present day and he discussed ways of enhancing the two countries’ relations.
Coming from the media, we had the opportunity to exchange information with the ministry employee.
When we asked him about the Iranian press, he surprised us with the fact that there are nearly two hundred newspapers and magazines published in Iran. Some of these are published in Farsi and some in other languages. Later, we met editors of some of these newspapers and discussed some journalism-related matters with them.
At the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we were received by Bahram Ghassemi, the ministry’s spokesperson. Our conversation with him was candid and transparent and it is during this conversation that he affirmed to us that the relations between Oman and Iran are based on credibility and openness. He said that the ground is paved for these relations to be further developed.
We met with Dr Abdulrahim Kurdi, Managing Director of Chabahar Free Trade-Industrial Zone, who told us about the common trade and economic interests and prospects of cooperation between Oman and Iran.
He said that the Chabahar free zone is a common area between Oman and Iran and a significant leap is expected shortly which will serve the interests of both countries including two major petrochemical projects with a capacity to produce 20 million tonnes of petrochemicals.
The Iran not many people see
After the formal meetings, we were able to catch some free time and explore some of the sites of Tehran.
The country’s National Museum is considered to be a huge repository of memories. It houses many documents and artifacts that cover the history of the region since 500 BC as we were told by the person in charge of the museum.
The museum curator also shared that it contains more than 800,000 artifacts, the oldest of them came from the Sasanian period.
Forty-five minutes away from the city centre, our delegation was also shown Iran’s fantastic ski slope. Riding cable cars that took us to the top of the mountain, we saw the enormity of the country’s unique attraction. With the mountain still covered in snow, we understood how rich the country truly is when it comes to tourist sites.
Before wrapping up our trip, our host insisted that we should visit the city of Isfahan. He explained that we will be missing half of our lives if we didn’t.
Isfahan is a city sleeping on the lap of a hill which safeguards it from her foes. Its location is significant since it is on the caravans’ roads and for it, it was chosen by the Safavids as a capital for more than two centuries.
This wasn’t my first visit to Iran. Several years back, I travelled to the country with my family and last year, also went back twice. It is interesting to note that for each of the trip, there is always something to discover about the country — there is much to learn from its people and too much information to process from its history.
It’s seldom that you see travel stories about the country. But from my experience, even the sight of the Alborz mountain in March and the cold breeze caused by the melting snow in early spring make the visit worth it.