Isfahan, one of the most historical cities of Iran, and was once one of the largest cities in the world and it served as the capital of the Persian Empire in the 16th century. Although it is considered the third biggest city in Iran, with a population of approx five million people, its a small city in terms of how exposed the people are. People are traditional, and when I asked an Iranian girl, what is the difference between Iran and Mashhad for instance, because the latter is one of the most traditional and religious city since one of Iran’s biggest Imams is buried there; Imam Reza, and one of the most bedazzling architectural phenomena as his mosque . She said, “The difference is in the mentality of the people. In Isfahan, people hardly get accustomed to any new trends that evolve in the society. They want to live according to an old set of rules, that their ancestors lived by ages and ages ago. These rules are not necessary religious, they are mostly social, which means they lack flexibility.” As for Mashhad she said, people take any social norms old or new, and apply them through religion, they always ask does these rules align with our beliefs or not? An Isfahainan well traveled friend, has a different opinion he said that although he doesn’t agree with everything in the Isfahanian culture, like the fuss and details of the marriage traditions, but he feels like ,”you can’t rule out all the culture because these rules are also part of our identity,” he said.
In Isfahan, people can ask you all sorts of questions in the first five minutes, like, how old are you? What are you doing here? How long you have been here and how long you are going to stay here? Are you married? Do you have babies? ending with the most popular question in all Iran; “Do you like Iran? Or what do you think about Iranians? Or Isfahanians?
Today I went to visit the Chehlstone palace which is very close to Meydan Naqsh Jahan nowadays ( Imam Khomeni square), I was mesmerized by how colorful the patterns and the drawings were, even the mosques in Iran are one of the most colorful I have ever seen. The famous combination of the Shia mosques are grades of blue and yellow tiles that are so beautiful, along with their mirror work. The thing about these beautiful colored mosques, that they stands in sharp contrast and almost obscured by the people who come to pray. The women are mostly dressed in in a black chador; which is a loose, , full length, black gown, that is from the top of the head till the toes and usually open. Sometimes the streets, and monuments are obscured by the amount of women WILLINGLY wearing black in the streets of Isfahan. When I asked about the reason, “we mostly wear it out of tradition, than religion.” However, what I figured out later, that there is a very fine-line between tradition and religion in Isfahan, that at the end you won’t know what is what.