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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 08:36 | SYDNEY

A portrait of Iran (part 2)

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28 February 2011 13:09

Vanessa Newby is PhD candidate at Griffith University who is studying Arabic in the Middle East. The photos in this post are her own. Part one here.

In Iran you cannot fail to notice, especially around Kashan and Isfahan to the south and Mashhad in the West, that many people are deeply religious. The chador is not compulsory, but many women choose to wear it. For this group, surely there must be a fear that any change would mean a marginalisation of religion. 

I found Shi'ism to be a very exotic form of Islam, with incredibly beautiful mosques, elaborate shrines and numerous festivals throughout the year. I was fortunate enough to be present for two festivals. The first was the event of the Mahdi's birthday in Shiraz, a very big celebration for many people with crowds on the street, drums beating and trumpets blasting. Free food, cooked in people's homes, was being handed out to everyone on the streets and there was a carnival atmosphere.

The Mahdi's Birthday Celebrations in Shiraz.

The second festival was in Mashhad, commemorating the death of Ali, the first Imam. As we drove through the streets, black flags waved from every pole. The taxi driver had the radio tuned to the commemoration service and the sound of a weeping narrator could be clearly heard. The following day in the central market I noticed the fountain had been dyed red to symbolise the blood of Ali.  

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