The most courteous and hospitable people in the world
Much has been heard about Iran in recent times: political turbulence, ruthless power games, deaths on the streets of Tehran. It should not be forgotten that the country also has a rich ancient culture, an overwhelming nature, and one of the most courteous and hospitable people in the world. Hugo Copes visited Iran in the weeks leading up to the elections.
"The word you hold within you is your slave; the word that escapes you is your mistress". (Persian proverb)
Kashan! Kashan! Someone taps me on the shoulder, and jolts me out of a deep sleep. I'm on a night bus, crossing central Iran, on my way back to Tehran. The time has flown by. I decide to travel to Kashan, to visit the residences of the nobility of the old days. Completely dazed, I get off the bus, and immediately fall prey to the taxi drivers. Nightmare. I look around, and see the guy sitting next to me, with whom I had exchanged a few words during the trip. He walks slowly, about twenty metres away, and every now and then he turns around to see what's going on. I turn to him, and I look like I need help. You, my home? Yes, please!
I end up like this in some suburb of the city, in a medical students' flat. As has become my habit, I am greeted as if I were an important representative of something. Orogoei? Ollandi? Svedia? Never mind, I come from far away, and that's what's interesting.
The following days would be filled with intense social activity. Chatting with people in English and FarsiI am in Iran, the genuine Iran, I suppose, or perhaps the Iran of the students. I am in Iran, the genuine Iran, I suppose, or perhaps the Iran of the students. Gone are the coffee, the chairs and the beds.
The teacher remains very relaxed
Visit the royal garden. Lunch in a restaurant consisting of high platforms covered with the famous Persian carpets. The floor is made of stone, and is criss-crossed by gutters through which fresh water from a spring flows, and which serves as a cooler. We eat traditional ice cream and kebab. We walk through the large square, shaded by huge trees. Families are picnicking, groups of girls are discussing a book they are reading, the boys, in pairs, are busy making sms dates with the girls of their desires. Difficult to meet in public, in a country where the segregation of the sexes is so marked. Hossein invites me to a psychology lesson at his university.
In the classroom, the girls sit on the left, the boys on the right. The boundary zone is a zone of conflict, because they immediately start flirting. The teacher, dressed in her chador, looks patiently and indulgently at her students. She interferes when a boy is overcome by pheromones and seems out of control. She orders him to sit elsewhere, amid the loud laughter of his fellow students. The laughter continues, and the noise and whispering continues, taking about ten minutes to calm down. The teacher remains very relaxed, chatting with a student above the din. I don't quite understand how this works. People arrive late, others leave, others stop to talk about something.
I get a lump in my throat
Finally, the teacher announces that she is going to do a surprise test. There is a shout of protests, just like in my high school days. The test is failed and we move on to the lesson, which basically consists of a long dictation. I do my best not to fall asleep, but I fail in the attempt. I don't know what the teacher will think of my Western example. After the lesson is over, Hossein asks me if I want to meet his girlfriend. Girlfriend? I look at him in surprise. How do you have a girlfriend in this country? It's easier to do spiritualism and contact the afterlife!
Of course I want to meet her.we go to the library, and there is a girl sitting alone reading. Classic Iranian beauty, and when the people here are pretty, well, it seems the Creator spared no effort. We sit down at the table and Hossein introduces me to Bahare. A slight nod, and the huge almond eyes radiate intelligence and kindness. They speak in very low tones, and from time to time they glance to see if someone is coming.
Then silence. The two lovers just look at each other, so intensely and intimately that I have to lower my head, because I'm ashamed to be a spectator. At one point, the boy holds out his hand to her. She reacts in alarm - the controllers are in the other room! The boy doesn't withdraw his hand, and she finally plucks up courage and holds out her hand, for a brief moment.
Suddenly, everything is immeasurably tragic and romantic. I get a lump in my throat, and spend the rest of the time struggling to control my tears. Life is an enigma to me. In the midst of so much that is forbidden, I am an eyewitness to an intense and pure love, which only manifests itself in the sparkle of a glance.
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