Be Certain, in the religion of love,
there are no believers or unbelievers. Love embraces all
—Mowlana J. Rumi
If there is a word to describe my trip to Iran, it would be “inspiring.” The majority of the people I saw and spoke with, were ordinary people – people who still have tremendous love for their country and try to make the best of every moment.
I saw these people in all walks of life – from the lady at the airport who looked at me kindly and said your hejab is not quite appropriate and they might make trouble for you on the other side – to the taxi drivers who poured their hearts out as soon as they knew I had come from overseas – and the old woman at the Ramsar bazaar who said “you didn't bring anything for your granny from overseas?” and I went to the other side and bought her a scarf, which she took and kissed in disbelief.
I felt the generosity of these people in our wonderful drivers in Shiraz who made the trip extraordinary and who knew so much about the history of Fars and Shiraz and from our hosts, friends of my family who truly represent the warmth of Shirazi people; from the friend of a friend whom I saw for only a drive and who wanted to take me to the Friday prayer, from a jewelry store owner who went out of his way to take me to the Bazaar, from the little girls and boys who reacted so innocently and in their shy manner when I asked to take their photos, from the little boy who was selling Faleh Hafez for 200 toumans to make a living for himself and maybe his addicted parents, from the women in Chaboksar who Told me that it is alright to take their photos and the women near Saadi's tomb who asked me to take their picture.
The warmth of the people in Iran was apparent in the relatives of my father who were so gracious and came to the airport and opened their home to me; it was apparent in the sea food restaurant owner who had lost an eye in the war and had breathing problems from Saddam's gas; in the photo shop owner who was so disenchanted with the current state of affairs and yet did his job so professionally; in the guy at the noon Sangaki who told me to take a closer picture of their store; and in the young guard at the Museum of Iran Bastan who asked to take a photo with me.
Everyone I met touched me in various ways: from the young worker in Sarvelot, who took me to the airport in Ramsar, whose brother brought tea from Lahijan, and whose cousin was so courteous and took money from me to buy a tunic I had liked from a Store in Ramsar and brought it back to the airport just in time; to my friend's young colleague who works hard at a company making barely enough money to survive but was so gracious with her beautiful smile and insisted on paying for tea and hookah; to the caretaker at Ahmad Abad who knew every detail of the Great Man's life and has tried to take care of the place for the last 40 years, despite interference from the authorities; to our tour guide in Takhte Jamshid who knew the history of every single piece there and got mad at the kids for not paying attention to him; to the driver who stopped in three malls so that I could buy a birthday gift and another one who took me to 5 different bookstores to find a book I was looking for; the editor of a monthly literary journal who, despite a case of asthma and financial pressures, works, even on Fridays, to put out his journal; the young husband and wife who took care of the house in Guilan province where I was staying and made the most wonderful guilaki food; the driver in Rasht who cursed the present regime for all the problems; my friend the film maker who is working hard and making great documentaries; an old friend who was in prison after the revolution and now teaches at the university, his wife who is full of enthusiasm; my cousins who were so full of energy and who love every inch of Iran; the guys in the café who did not want their pictures taken and the guys in Tajrish who did want their picture taken; my beautiful aunt who opened her home to me and made me feel at home; and finally, to the longest political prisoner in Iran who is on leave and whose devotion and courage is astonishing – I am grateful to you and respect your resolve and honesty.
To the endless variety of people who are doing their job, functioning as well as they can, and living their lives under constant pressures but still hoping for a better tomorrow, I take energy from you and hope someday, we can have our country back.
There is tremendous goodness in Iran that has not gone away even with the daily struggles people face. When I asked them what they wanted for the future of the country, most said they just want to live their lives freely and have the basic economic prosperity that they deserve; they don't want to see the riches of the country in the hands of those who have no love for Iran; those who are making lives difficult and miserable in order to stay in power for a bit longer.
These are the people of Iran and to them I say, you are inspirational, you have not lost your soul, and you deserve better!