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Feb. 17, 2020 | Monday
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Hometown Traveller: Centuries of history and the welcoming people of Iran
Persepolis, capital of the Achaemerid Empire 530 BC to 330 BC. (Nick Cannon photo)

The news has been full of tragedy and war-mongering in Iran lately. This story from NOTL residents Pam and Nick Cannon's trip to Iran in April 2018 shows that people the world over are the same. The Cannons have escorted groups of seniors all over the world through Toronto's Craig Travel. They have visited over 90 countries – and counting.

Pam Cannon

Special to The Lake Report

This quote sums up our feelings for Iran since our return from a wonderful tour of this country in April 2018.

“You can shake the sand from your shoes, but it will never leave your soul.”

In light of all the news these past weeks I felt that it may be appropriate to recap our travel there.

The scenery is stunning, from the snow-capped mountains to the UNESCO gardens in the middle of the desert, but it is the people who are the “soul” of Iran.

In every village, town and city, we were greeted with hugs, handshakes, smiles and requests for photographs. From young children on school trips, to senior citizens sitting on the sidewalk, the welcome was “Thank you for visiting us” and “We are happy to see you” –  always delivered with a smile. From the younger generation we were usually asked “Where are you from?”, “What is your name?” and “How old are you?” 

Every meal was a delight. Our guide found the most interesting locations and the food was wonderful. We ate in an old Armenian bath house and in a “caravanserai,” a roadside inn where travellers can rest and recover from the day’s journey, especially along the Silk Road.

I cannot describe the feelings as we gazed at artifacts that were 5,000 years old, or heard the history of this country. The mosques, palaces, historic houses defy description.

An unexpected link to Canada occurred when we visited the Tabait Bridge. It was designed by Leila Araghian. She has a master of architecture degree from the University of British Columbia, where she won the UBC Architecture Alumni Henry Elder Prize.

We had an excellent visit to the Tower of Silence. Until 40 years ago corpses could still be found on top of the Tower of Silence in Yazd, slowly disintegrating and being picked apart by the desert vultures in Zoroastrian tradition. What an interesting way to dispose the bodies of the dead.

A visit to the Fire Temple also in Yazd again emphasizes the long history of this country. The flame is behind a glass wall and has been burning for 1,100 years. A priest is always on duty to keep it lit.

On arrival at the Abbasi Hotel in Isfahan there was a huge crowd around the main entrance and barriers holding people back. We thought it was all for us! They did cheer as we got off the bus, but they were waiting for the Iranian soccer team to arrive.

This building is a 300-year-old palace that was converted to a hotel 80 years ago. It is a living museum, built around courtyards with fountains and gardens.

After dinner, a surprise: We went by bus to a sacred place” – Zoorkhaneh (House of Strength), a round room with seats looking down on a ring where men performed push-ups, juggling with huge weights and exercises. The entire presentation is accompanied by a man with a drum and singing religious songs to exhort them to greater effort.

We were amazed at the length of time each activity went on, and the strength shown by these participants. There is no competition and no one is allowed to pay to see this. It is strictly prohibited as it is considered a holy exercise.

Throughout the tour we were overwhelmed by the welcoming of the Iranian people wherever we went. In one of the mosques we met two lovely young women who were students at the time. We have kept in touch with them – one of them is now married and the other is an engineer.

I am constantly reminded of the marvellous Maya Angelou quote: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

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