TasAvir-e Iran

Khoosh Amadid!

Below are some photographs from my trip to Iran in 1995. I am an American born citizen and traveled to Iran on an American passport. Yes, the Iranian government does grant visas to Americans! Iran is a beautiful country full of history and culture. My experience was very good; I was well received and well treated by many kind and hospitable people in Iran. If you find the opportunity to visit Iran you will not be disappointed. Check out the Lonely Planet travel guide for comments of other travelers to Iran.

The first step in traveling to Iran is securing a visa. As you may know, there is no Iranian embassy in the United States. However, there is an Interests Section in Washington D.C. which can assist you in obtaining a visa. They do not have authority to issue visas directly so your application will first be sent to Tehran for review by the Foreign Ministry. After receiving approval from Tehran the Interests Section will then stamp your passport. The staff at the Interests Section are very helpful although usually very busy. If you go there in person, be prepared to arrive early in the day and wait several hours. Interestingly, as part of the agreement with the U.S. which established the Interests Section, the staff are all either U.S. citizens, themselves, or they are legal permanent U.S. residents.

This is a picture of the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini which is located south of Tehran near the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery where martyrs from the defense of Iran against Saddam Hussein are buried. The Mausoleum is very beautiful at night. The dome and minarets are well lit and can be seen for many miles. In the darkness the only competing lights are from the flares of the refineries a few miles away.

One enters the mausoleum from one of two entrances (one for men and one for women). There is a room to leave one's shoes and then one enters the large marble tiled main area. The tombs of Khomeini and his son are located in the very center of the room. Carpets are laid out on the floor for migrants and poor travelers to spend the night. The structure is quite modern with painted steel columns and overhead lights strung from a steel framework looking much like a modern warehouse. Quite different from the impression one gets from the fabulous exterior.

Outside there are kiosks where one may purchase refreshments, mementos, copies of various texts including Khomeini's writings. Surprisingly (at least to me), one may also purchase cassette tapes of popular music and there are coin operated amusements for children.

This is a picture of the Hosseiniyeh-e Irshad located in Tehran.

The following photographs are from Isfahan, one of the former capitols of Iran which reached its greatest prominence under the Safavi kings. These pictures are not terribly good for various reasons including the fact that it was a cold, rainy day when I arrived.

This is a picture of the Si-o-Seh Pol over the Ziyandeh Rud. The bridge is named for the 33 arches which comprise the structure. This is one of several bridges across the Ziyandeh Rud river which cuts through the city.

This is a picture inside the Masjed-e Imam (aka Masjed-e Shah) which is the most prominent mosque on the Naqsh-e JahAn, a large open square built by the Safavis. The masjed is magnificently covered with multicolored tiles typical of the work from the Safavi period. Behind the photographer is a dome constructed in such a way that it reflects and seemingly magnifies sound to a point in the center of the room.

This is a shot of the center of the Masjed-e JAme. Although tiled during the reign of the Safavis, this masjed predates the Masjed-e Imam by several hundred years, constructed during the reign of the Saljuqi kings.

Surrounding the central open court are myriad vaults inscribed meticulously with caligraphic script. Although plain in color and appearance, the fine engraving and detailed brickwork are testament to the immense labor expended in constructing this masjed. The masjed suffered damage during the Iraq/Iran war when Saddam's pilots dropped bombs on the site.

You may have noted the background tile pattern which I created for this page which is inspired by the work in this and other masAjed (mosques) in Iran. The "stars" in the background contain the names of Mohammad or Ali written four times symmetrically. Outside the stars is written Allah.

The KelisA-ye Vank is an Armenian Christian church located in the Christian sector of the city south of the Ziyandeh Rud. The facade bears a date of 1655. The Armenians in Isfahan were moved to the city during the reign of Shah Abbas. The exterior of the church appears much like a masjed (without the minarets) but the interior is covered with elaborate paintings of medieval scenes of martyrdom. Adjacent to the church is a museum housing a collection of Armenian cultural and historical items.

Miscellaneous Recommended Sites
Iran Travel Information and Links
The Golestan of Sa'di
Molla Nasreddin (aka Nasreddin Hoja) Stories
The Iranian
What is Gol GAv ZabAn?
Interview with Bruce Laingen
Payvand News of Iran
Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Christian Science Monitor
State Department Briefings
Tehran at Stanford (Iranian Cultural Information Center)
Dept. of State Foreign Affairs Network
Congressional Record (Thomas)

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