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Happy Nowruz!

Today at 4:15pm GMT Iranian all over the world celebrated Nowruz, better known in the Western world as the Spring Equinox. Nowruz, meaning new day is the start of the Persian year and signifies new life and fresh starts.

Celebrations start on the eve of the Wednesday before New Year, better know as Chaharshanbe Suri. Adults and children alike light bonfires and carry on the age-old tradition of jumping over them. With music playing and families singing and dancing, the celebrations go on into the night.

Haft Seen

The Noruz table is a significant part of the ancient celebrations. Called Haft Seen, the table consists of seven items beginning with the letter S, all of which symbolise different aspects of life.

1. Somagh (sumac) : symbolises the color of sunrise
2. Serkeh (vinegar): symbolises age and patience
3. Senjed (dried fruit from lotus tree): symbolises love
4. Samanoo (sweet pudding): symbolises affluence
5. Sabzeh (sprouts): symbolises rebirth
6. Sib (apple): symbolises health and beauty
7. Sir (garlic): symbolises medicine

Haft Seen tables often also include painted eggs and a goldfish!

Little boy peers over a counter behind the Iranian Haft Seen table at New Year
Haft Seen table at my mother-in-law’s home.

 

Haft Seen at the Tower Building Museum, Tabriz
Haft Seen at the Tower Building Museum, Tabriz
Iranian women stands behind her haft seen table for Nowruz
Latifa shows off her Haft Seen table.

 

The exact moment of Nowruz differs every year. This year Iran celebrated at 7:45pm local time. The day would have been spent preparing the delicious traditional dish of dolmeh (grape leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat) which is often left cooking as the new year passes. Last year I had great delight in preparing this traditional dish with my Iranian family in Tabriz.

Two ladies prepare dolmeh for Nowruz
My sister-in-law shows me how to prepare dolmeh the Iranian way.

 

plate of dolmeh cooked for the Iranian New Year, Nowruz
Dolmeh

After Nowruz, days are spent visiting family, eating great food and sharing stories. During my visit to Iran we spent many hours at our relatives houses and each time I was offered a vast array of sweets, nuts, chocolates and fruits. Every household wanted to display the best hospitality and it was a real treat to see how welcoming the Iranian culture really is.

Little boy sits cross-legged waiting for lunch
Elman waits patiently for his Nowruz lunch.
Hannah prepares a bowl of sweets for guests at her home.
Hannah prepares a bowl of sweets for guests at her home.
vibrant selection of treats available for Nowruz
Food offered at my partner’s Nana’s house.

If you ever get the chance to celebrate the Iranian New Year, please, don’t turn it down, you definitely won’t regret it!

The Eynali Mountain Range, Tabriz

While staying in Tabriz, I was lucky enough to be situated in the Eram area, North of the city. From my balcony I could see the distinctive red sloped of the Eynali range, and couldn’t wait to climb the beautiful mountainside so I could look out over this wonderful city.

When we were finally blessed with a warm, sunny day (it had been cold and wet for a week or so!) we decided to start our voyage. From Eram, we climbed the steep slopes up to the main highway and then caught a taxi to the main tourist entrance of the range.

From here we could have caught the telecabin up to the summit, however, decided a short hike would be the best way to see the sights. It wasn’t long before we reach the top and it was definitely worth it.

The blue skies and red landscape were something more akin to another planet. I probably would have believed it if I was told I was on Mars. For the return journey to ground level, we took the famous telecabin ride, definitely not for the faint-hearted! We drifted along canyons and caverns taking in the most wonderful landscape.

If you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful city, go and experience Eynali for yourself, it’s not one to miss!

 

Dand, highest peak in the Eynali Range
Dand standing at 2,378m.

The Eynali cable car line looking over Tabriz
The Eynali cable car line looking over Tabriz.

Yellow perimeter fence contrasts against red rock and blue sky
Perimeter fence for the nature conservation area.

An old watch tower sits against a dark blue sky
An old watchtower.

Cable car suspended against a blue sky
Telecabin ride.

Looking out over the tabriz landscape from the Eynali mountain range
The view of Tabriz from the telecabin station.

winding road leading out into the Eynali mountains
A long, winding road through Eynali.

deep valley of red rock in the Eynali range
A deep valley of red rock in the Eynali range.

Rock formations on the way up Eynali
Rock formations on the way up Eynali.

The start of a travel sensation?

Travel is always something I have loved. The thought of exploring foreign lands, immersing myself in ancient cultures and experiencing incredible natural wonders, follows me every day and every night.

I recently had the opportunity to visit somewhere not many people would consider for their first adventure. Iran. The ancient Persian country has a lot of bad press but what people don’t understand is the media probably wants us to hate every country that isn’t England or America. To be fair they probably don’t want us to like ourselves either.

Anyhow, I decided a trip to Iran would be the best way to immerse myself in a culture unknown in the western world. They are a first world country with third world values. Family comes first, no matter what. Technology is great, but it doesn’t rule their lives as it does here. Boys and girls still play outside, teenagers enjoy studying for a better future and adults do everything they can to make sure their family, brothers, sisters, children and parents, have everything they need to be successful in life.

Responsibility of their children doesn’t disappear when they hit 18 and leave for university. Parents will provide for their children for as long as they can, regardless of their age, marriage status or job.

Similarly, children spend more time with their parents. Family doesn’t just mean your siblings. It means cousins, aunts, uncles, your parents cousins, their cousins and even their cousins. If you are introduced to someone, there is a line of relation connecting your friend and the person in front of you, even if you are in a different town, city or village.

Ok, so lets relate this back to my trip to Iran. I stayed with my partners family. While I was there I must have greeted over 100 family members, all of which my partner knew by name and easily gave me a brief outline of his connection to them. (This is my cousins, uncles, grandmothers, daughter). It was incredible to be amongst such a large and loving family.

Ross and Ali cooking BBQ in the Garden

The scenery in Iran, especially in Tabriz, is absolutely, incredibly out-of-this-world, amazingly, beautiful. I was in Iran for a little over three weeks and I cannot wait to go back! Keep checking back for my next few posts which will highlight even more beautiful areas in Iran such as Sahand, Dik Darak and The Colourful Mountains.