Isfahan, city of poets and engineers

Here we are in the beautiful city of Isfahan, recently designated as the Islamic Cultural Capital of the World. While it has many amazing works of Islamic architecture and the population is predominanlty Muslim, we visited the Armenian quarter today and the Vank Cathedral. On the way to and from this church, we passed at least 2 synagogues.

The highlight of the day, however, was the Blue Mosque. It is a georgeous mosque with striking blue tile work all throughout. Our local guide, who is also a poet and an engineer, gave a great presentation on the history of the building and a demonstration of the accoustics. Being an engineer he came prepared with a diagram of sound waves and the effect of them bouncing off the dome at various angles – it really was very interesting and informative, and to further demonstrated the sound carrying qualities, he recited a poem. After he was done, a young man applauded him with us then apparently offered to also demonstrate the accoustics of the building by singing- turns out he was a very well known vocalist who also happened to be visiting the mosque. In just a few seconds the small crowd that had gathered to watch and hear our guide’s presentation quadrupled in size when the Iranians visitng realized who was now singing! There were probably a hundred cameras all pointed to the center of our circle we had formed. It was really quite a treat and very amazing. Even our guide, who was quite humbled to see this man ( I forget his name now!) was excited to have him participate in the demonstration. I noticed he made a phone call to someone and held the phone out to capture the singer’s voice – probably calling a friend and saying “you won’t believe who is here at the mosque with us right now!”.

I really wish I could download the photos from my camera but I don’t have the right cord so the photos will have to wait until I get home. The sights we have seen the last week and a half have been amazing- ancient Persian to more recent sites and sounds. It is hard sometimes to wrap my head around the expanse of Persian history. And many things which we have thought of in the west as Arab, actually came from Persia. I just learned today the Sheherazad and 1001 Nights is originally a Persian tale! Chess and Backgammon – not Arab, but Persian! And there is more.

I really wish that more Americans could see and experience this things we have done on this trip – particularly our elected officials and diplomats. I am glad we have moved away from the previous administration’s policy of not talking at all to Iran, but our two countries actually have many shared interests (opium from Afghanistan is a huge problem in Iran, for example) that it would make more sense to be allies rather than enemies. We have much in common, too. And both have much to learn from each other. And as allies it would be much easier to reslove the nuke issues.

OK, more to come later, and I will definitely do a recap once I get home. There is so much going on that I can only sit here for a few minutes and give you a brief picture of what we have done and my impressions for the day. I hope to be able to give a more thorough picture of the tour and our experiences once I am at home with unlimited computer time. Bye for now!

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