Persian Immersion

Last November, Molly and Margit traveled to Iran to experience the context and creation of Gabbehs. Our impressions were countless, and this is the first of our Field Notes: a partial list of first impressions, assembled on a 5-hour van ride from Shiraz to Esfahan (more on Iranian driving to follow).

Impressions and Surprises about Iran:

People are thrilled if you’re from America. “You are Welcome!” they say, or, “I love America.” Many study English literature. They like the Blues, country, and rock. They like Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Law & Order.

Tea breaks are wonderful and frequent, as people relax and share tea. The tea is black, and mostly Iranian or a mix of Iranian and Indian. People drink it with heaps of sugar or saffron sugar, or with a sugared sesame wafer melting on their tongue. Sweet!

It is acceptable for women to work, and the money they make is theirs alone. Husbands are responsible for household and family expenses, and if they need more money, they have to ask their wives. 

Persian culture is ancient but unlike other original societies, it never practiced slavery. Builders of Persepolis, for example, in 500 B.C. earned wages, and were provided insurance and childcare. 

In 50 BC, the global population was about 100 million, 40 million of whom were members of the Persian empire.

Persians invented polo, the wheel, the arch and the aquaduct.

Iranian traffic is nuts–three to four cars for every two lanes. It might appear to possess a frenzied order, but in fact; 27-30 people a day are killed in traffic accidents. Luckily, our driver was a pro. Also worth noting, “truck stops” along the highways sell real food (including burgers) like mushroom stew, fresh pomegranates, pistachio ice cream, carrot juice and, of course, freshly brewed tea. More on food in a future chapter!