From the technicolor world of India I step in a world that seems black and white, but soon I will appreciate the conversion.
A geopolitical introduction seems mandatory, for all those worried I was going somewhere dangerous.....
First thing to say: Switch off the TV, Iran is an amazing country, overflowing with culture and hospitality!
All the crap that we hear on television about Iran it's all part of the FictionPolitics, a game set by the well-known leaders of the world, smart enough to keep the whole mass-media empire in their hands.
Iran is not a nuclear power, and most of all it's not a threat for humanity.
Between the two World Wars there was a country called Persia, whose president was elected, as we would say, democratically.
In 1953 CIA started a Worldwide Terrorist Politic made of coups d'etat made to overthrow governments that not follow the right rules. Everybody knows about the Vietnam War, many people know about the Allende coup in Chile, some know about US involvement in the domestic politics of the Congo and Indonesia. Not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But few people realize that this policy of violent interfence began in Iran, the first of the American Secret Expriments. America....
But I also stopped blaming US for all the crap happened in the last 60 or more years.
Of course I know it, but I also know that this game repeats itself in cycles: yesterday it was the British Empire ruling the game, today the States and tomorrow, quite probably, some billion of asians with almond eyes and brush-cut hairstyle.
Anyway thanks to that smart move the Yankee were able to start playing with oil together with the British cousins and hated-loved Russians, amazing eh?
Other smaller facts, chain reactions, lead to the Islamic Revolution in 1979 where Ayatollah Khomeini built this religious regime in which Iranians live today.
President Ahmadinejiad (whom I appreciate for never wearing a tie) it's no more than a pedina of the Islamic Supreme Leader, who actually does have a lot of power, but ironically plays the game of the US, who now have an easy easy enemy to point their nuclear and mediatic weapons to.
If foreign politics is just a cover, Iranians do suffer the closure of the country against the rest of the world, and everyday they face a regime who don't let much space to fantasy and immagination, especially for women.
A good 60% of Iranians are totally against the president, some 30% knows that the game is held by the Ayatollah. Very few manage to see the stuff from afar and see the American Imperialism as active part of the game.
Being Italian I'm not surprised by numbers, reasons and explanations, and especially of how come things don't seem to change.
Too many high positions are too confortable with this situation, alternatives are too hidden or weak and life has to be lived anyway, therefore beside the freedom of expression there's much beauty to discover in Iran. Indeed these problems make the discoveries real treasures.
Tehran is a sprawling megacity of some 14 million people, a huge city crowded with people and cars, traffic jams and pollution, but also nice parks and places to enjoy free time; on the metro you can easily reach the high mountains to the north and touch the hot desert in the south.
The walls of buildings are decorated with proper paintings depicting nature, fantasy, Islam and from time to time unfriendly battle-cries against USA and Israel; as usual in the contrast we find energy.
Life is fast and chaotic but there's always time for cinema, theatre and open air performances.
Iranians have a strong and deep feeling for arts, especially poetry.
I ride the 5 lanes-highways on friendly bikes looking at how modern and interesting is Iran today. Embargos are not enough to stop them. Some people come close and tell me softly "We hate Ahmadinejad" or "Bad government". Islamic guards are always at work, in disguise of course; never talk about politics, a deep glance is more than enough to understand.
Talking with youngsters and elders I realize that eveyday problems, of course, are not that far from our world; if we wrongly think that life here is hell, on the other hand most of the people think that outside the borders lies heaven, and chasing westernism is the only way people conceive the future. I've seen this attitude eeeeverywhere, we'll realize it too late, west is not heaven, we just have different problems, covered with a nice dress.
Luckily life goes on, and every day laughing over cups of tea sweeten up the problems
Of 75 millions of Iranians more than half are below the age of 30, and women are the ones pushing the limit of legality, they want to break the rules: if the rigid Islamic Law (Sharia) allow them to show only face and hands in public, it's fact that chador (the ghost-stlye black linen) stays always more often in the wardrobe and the manteaus become narrow and body-shaped
As result I walk in Tehran downtown and before my eyes I see rivers of pretty girls in jeans, high heels and fashion gadgets. Shy scarves cover their heads (otherwise it's prison), but blonde strands and modern hairstyles lean on delicate Persian faces full of make up and red lips.
I easlily imagine an ancient Persia and a future Iran full of life, today it's just a time bomb!
But I joy in living private life with Iranians and see how they enjoy it!
Evenings with persian traditional music played live at home, far from unwanted eyes where finally the veils fall down and we all sing and joke in happiness. We talk about poetry and freedom, dreams and life, God and revolution. Green is the colour of the revolution and green I see the future, green is in the heart of the people. Green. Green. Green. Green. Green.
The warmness, hospitality and friendship of eveybody is overwhelming, I'm invited for hundreds of teas and relaxed pic-nics. Amazing Iran.
These are Iranians by default standards, and foreigners deserve deluxe treat: everybody wants to make it clear that Iranians are not the evil depicted by medias, and I'm treated just like a son and I really feel at home.
Hitchhiking, I easily move around the counrty, always submerged by edible stuff, and I finally reach Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia that stole the heart of Alexander the Great who in turn stole everything else. Good or bad that was the point where Greek and Persian culture merged in a unique style, influencing culture and architecture of orient and occident.
It's amazing to be inside the history, sweating out of stones.
Zarathustra was the philosopher who started one of the first monotheistic religions on earth, some say even prior of Judaism. Ahura Mazda was the God whom rituals were dedicated, and worshipping natural elements such as fire, water earth and wind Persians were doing very good karma, from nature to nature, from ashes to ashes like the mithological Phoenix.
In Shiraz, Yazd and Esfahan I enjoy the glory of many Kingdoms of Persia, where Islam coming from Arabia blended joyfully with existing tapastries, bringing new air, new faith, holiness and depth.
It's a big pity that today we easily deny the our culture shares with Islam, ignoring its positives.
Allah is just an Arabic word meaning God, and according to what I learnt in India, God exists, indeed!
I enter a beautiful mosque in Yazd ggg and things gets clear: walls and ceilings are totally covered with small mosaics made of mirrored glass, perfecly cut in geometrically perfect patterns, typical of Islam.
The light coming in from windows of coloured glass is amplified by thousands of mirrors and becomes infinite energy.
I'm in a kaleidoscope of light, I see the light!
I sit barefoot on beautiful Persian carpets, I close my eyes and fall into the prayers and chants of the Imam, whose evocative voice is sometimes choked by tears coming out from inside. The depth and poetry of the words of the Qu'ran are able to touch the right chords and its strength is able to move mountains. Indeed Mohammed moved many of them.
Behind me a man is totally submerged in the prayer, he cries and sighs, in a trance. Divine power descends and takes hold of those who open up to him.
The visages of the worshippers are at same time serious, deep, clear and happy; I see in them what I have seen many many times in Asia: Divine consciousness.
This is the basic concept of every religion taught by the original enlightned messiah, either Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed: the private sphere. Sadly enough once these messiahes are gone and the sphere becomes public and dogmatized, the mystical becomes political. This is the only side I knew, the only side most of us grew up with. I hate politics.
Outside of the mosque, locals starts chatting with me sympathetically, asking about Italy, football and food; we slowly move toward religious topics and when asked "What's your religion?" I just quote what an Imam told me once in Burma (a strongly Buddhist country): "God is one, if you know God it doesn't matter how you call it, religion is one".
Some smile back and shake my hand, some are a bit skeptical and taken aback from my observation. With a honest Allah'o Akhbar I pacify everybody and somebody shows up with boiling tea and sugar cubes for everybody. I'm part of the crew!
Esfahan is stunning, the pearl of the Islamic world, somehow comparable to our Florence. Craftsmen work on silver and ceramics inside Caravanserais at least a millennia old and still standing.
Some artists are teenagers, others with tiny blue brushes are drawing nonchalantly splendid patterns on vases and frames. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue.
Inside a small shop two men are stiching black carpet with inscriptions from the holy Qu'ran green, gold and fluorescent yellow.
Yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Yellow.
Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold. Gold.
Green. Green. Green. Green. Green.
Fatima, Mohammed daughter, is gifted to me on a piece of cloth. I feel deeply thankful.
The silk road was a long caravan full of spicies and crafts, linking orient and occident in a time where the cultural and social exchange was from both sides. Now it's my turn to keep the balance intact. I proudly accept this responsibility.
At sunset we climb of the rooftop sipping hot tea and smoking qualyan (nargileh), the sun slowly dies at the horizon of these beautiful desert towns surrounded by mountains...and emptiness.
Everything is orange.
Orange. Orange. Orange. Orange. Orange.
This is how from an apparent black and white i managed to find colours in Iran.
If not as explosive as in India, of course, here the whole experience is a real challenge just like finding a treasure: following steps, treading my own, reading, studying, being helped by people, being confused by people, feeling amazing feelings. Feeling alive. Once more.