A year late, I want to share a most excellent travel blog of a trip in Iran by a friend of mine.
I have been to Heaven on Earth and it is called Esfahan. . .
In all honesty, Esfahan is the only human-made place that has had the same affect on me as some of the natural wonders I have seen in this world. Entering the Jameh Mosque, I was rendered breathless for the first time since I watched the northern lights dance above the trees of Killarney four years ago. Although I had seen photographs, this is a wonder that no photograph can do justice to. Nothing compares to standing beneath the centre dome, your heart racing in awe as you try to fixate on the millions of intricate tiles that seamlessly weave together into tapestries of flowers, Qu'ranic verses in exquisite calligraphy, and patterns of colour. The dome is really a luscious medley of curves, arches, and gracefully ornate windows that invite the sun's light to dance playfully on the blue-green walls. Doves flutter in the vaults, the flapping of their wings echoing sharply in the otherwise silent expanse. In fact, it is a waste of my time to even try to articulate the beauty of this place; it is one of the most exquisite things I have ever seen. As a non-Muslim, I would think that the best I can do is to say that it is a testament to the faith and devotion of the hundreds or thousands of people employed in creating this work of art. Typically mosques are meant to be beautiful but not so much as to distract the people from prayer. Often, elements are deliberately left incomplete in order to draw attention to the fact that only Allah is perfect. But this place is as close to heaven, as much of an expression of devotion, and as near to complete perfection as there must be on earth.
In Esfahan, the people are insanely friendly. In fact it is hard to get much done because you are constantly approached by Iranian families and English students alike, desperate to talk to someone foreign, or to invite you home to dinner. . . they really are just English students or curious families, wanting to talk to someone from another country. I'd imagine it would be very difficult to learn English in Iran. Cut off from the English speaking world, even media, movies, television and books are hard come by - unless you're rich. Without exception, they all want to know what we think of Iranians. When we tell them - in all honesty - that they are the friendliest people we have ever encountered, they are deeply honoured. They know how the Western media portrays Iran, and many of them are both truly bemused that we would venture to their land regardless, and determined that we hear another side of the story, which we most certainly have. It is a wonder what the American propaganda machine and the media have done to the reputation of this incredibly hospitable, gentle and friendly nation.