Are you ready for 1396?

Are you ready for 1396?

The Iranian new year, or Nowruz, is starting March 21. Iranians world over will ring in 1396 with their loved ones, enjoying the beginning of the season of spring, around the sofre haft seen. A setting made of seven things that start with the Farsi letter “seen” or س.

Living as a foreigner in Iran, I’m not too keen on the traditions, but I’m looking forward to my 2 weeks off from school, getting to sleep in and relax. 

Right now we are fighting crazier-than-normal traffic, and stocking up on essential food items. Because during Nawruz break there will be less good produce and fewer items on the shelves. Iranians love their Nawruz. And they should – it’s the celebration of the season of spring and new beginnings. 

Interestingly this year the first of the new year also coincides with the birth anniversary of Lady Fatima Zahra (sa). It falls the day before the eve of the new year. 


Hoping this new year brings more blessings to everyone, and helps us come closer to the Almighty! 

Here are a few pictures from around the shrine of Hazrat Masooma in Qom.

Advertisements
The art of tarof

The art of tarof

It’s a beautiful part of many Eastern cultures. The warmth and welcoming gestures. The feeling that you are friends even with a complete stranger.

I might have grown up in America, but I am Pakistani, and we always saw our parents treat our guests and others like they were the most important thing. And likewise, it’s a big part of Iranian culture, too.

One thing many joke about here is the way Iranians greet others. You can’t just say, “Salam, how are you?” and call it a day. Nope. This is how an average conversation might start. And not with your neighbor. But even with a mechanic, or a pharmacist.

Salam. Khaste nabasheed.” (Salam. May you not be tired)

Walaikumsalam. Salamat basheed! Zindeh basheed!” (Be healthy, be alive!

Shoma khoobeed? Khanvadehtoon khoob hasteed? Khoda hifzish koneh!” (Are you well? Is your family well? May God protect them!)

And then comes the real tarof. Like when you happen to stop by a friend’s house for something and they invite you in for tea or a meal.

“Befarmayeed!” (Please come in!)

And you start thinking, no way, I can’t impose. But they insist. And insist. And insist…

Some might say, how very pretentious. Because naturally how can anyone just be ready and willing to host a guest at a moment’s notice?

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-3-27-05-am

But in many Eastern cultures, especially those that adhere to Islamic customs, there is a concept that guests bring sustenance. That even if you don’t have enough, but if you share, there will be enough in the end. Personally I have witnessed this many times in my own life. Hosting spur-of-the-moment guests that actually brought more benefits to our home, than headaches. It’s really all in how you take it.

And there is an understanding among people that even if someone insists on inviting you, you politely decline, and they insist, and still you decline….

Do we really need all that? No, not really. Hence the “art of tarof.” And, yes, at times it might be too much. But it really does build a culture of love and warmth. And Iranians are some of the most welcoming people I have met.

One of our first neighbors is such a man that when he says, “Qorboonet beram!” (I will be sacrificed for you), he really means it. I remember one day he and his family were traveling to Tehran and he stopped by to tell us they wouldn’t be all home all day, but that his house was our house, and if we needed anything we could go and take it. Even though we are no longer neighbors, he remains one of our greatest friends.

My husband recalls a time when he was younger and living in Pakistan, and they had guests visiting them from abroad. When the guests arrived, he and his family stood up to welcome them, and didn’t sit down until the guests were seated. After seeing this, one of the guests responded at how “ridiculous” this tradition was.

While sometimes it may seem like too much, for example the constant insisting to take one more serving of food, or the barrage of questions about your family, or the fighting to pay the bill for another, these traditions do build brotherhood and love. Something we seriously lack in many other parts of the world.

What happened to caring for each other? What happened to looking at those different than us as just friends we haven’t met yet? What happened to the art of being nice? I am not talking about trusting everyone, but there is something to be said about thinking about others, instead of just ourselves.

22 Bahman in pictures

22 Bahman in pictures

Today marked the 38th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We went out for the rahpaymah, or procession, in Qom.

Below: “The movement continues…”

20170210_105158_resized

 

Today those of us in Iran answered Trump’s threats by coming out on the streets in large numbers.

No, we don’t fear you. Bring it on.

Groceries delivered to my door? Yes, please!

Groceries delivered to my door? Yes, please!

On Friday I did something I have never done, even when living in America.

I ordered my groceries online! Yes, folks. This is the new Qom.

After using the mobile site, www.kowsareshop.com, I signed up as a new customer/user and submitted my order. Within an hour we got a call from a customer service representative who confirmed the order and told us to expect delivery within 1-3 hours.

20170203_192717_resized

Here is our delivery! Comes with a free tote bag!

20170203_192837_resized

Only a couple of things ended up going out of stock after my order, but the representative called again to let us know.

We were able to pay via card or cash upon delivery. Yes, the delivery guy comes with a card reader.

Did I mention this was FREE DELIVERY?

I found the site easy to navigate with a drop-down menu of all things related to shopping for household items. It was not only grocery, but as you can see I ordered wooden skewers and what you can’t see, is the laundry detergent (it’s in the green tote bag).

Looking forward to doing this again soon!

Having friends from all over the world

Having friends from all over the world

One of the greatest blessings of being in Qom is meeting people from all over the world. We get a chance to see what life is like in different countries.

In school, we are surrounded by so many languages! You can hear people conversing in English, Urdu, German, Spanish, Arabic, among others. It’s given me a chance to practice my Spanish again, which I had unfortunately forgotten when I started learning Farsi. Even now, when my Venezuelan neighbor talks to me in Spanish, I reply in Farsi, even though I want to reply in Spanish!

Besides getting a taste for different cultures, perhaps the biggest blessing is being able to learn about life and culture, and how Islam is practiced around the world. Sitting in our little bubbles in the West we hardly had any exposure from the outside. Living in America even though we are of different ethnicities, since we are raised in the same environment speaking the same language, we end up sharing the same experiences, with little exposure to our respective ethnic cultures.

But here it’s different. I actually run into people surprised to see I was born and raised in America. But then how did you get here, they ask. It’s not like all of America is what you see and hear on the news. And that, unfortunately, is the case for most parts of the Eastern world, too.

I remember kids in school asking if Pakistan had roads and cars. Uh, yes, I would reply, totally stunned. And even now, when folks ask about Iran, I stand completely baffled at what the media portrays about this country, and what I see on a daily basis. It’s not the same.

I am grateful my children have friends from different places. When we have summer break and many of us go back home to our respective countries, my children will excitedly want to point out on a map where their friends are going home.

Exposure to many cultures and countries is often lost on many of those living in the West. People think if you just travel to Europe, you’ve seen it all. You really haven’t seen anything. Travel and experience different cultures, if not yourself, at least for your children. Share the world with them, and help expand their understanding of other cultures. It is imperative, if we desire a better relationship among the youth of the next generation.

What is the date today?

What is the date today?

I used to be able to answer this question quite easily, but since moving to Qom, I am usually left searching frantically for my phone.

Today is the 5th of Dey. Year? 1395.

You see in Iran, they go by the Iranian calendar. The Iranian calendar coincides with the seasons, so the first day falls on the 21st of every Gregorian (or miladi) month. The new year, Nawrooz, starts with the first day of Spring, or March 21.

The countries of Iran and Afghanistan both follow the solar Hijri calendar. (But the Afghan months are named differently than the Iranian months). The year count starts with the migration of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) to Madina.

The year is divided into 12 months. The first 6 months have 31 days, and the next 5 months have 30 days. And the last month, Esfand, has 29 days in a common year and 30 days in a leap year.

I found this awesome app to help me figure out what day it is.

screenshot_2016-12-25-14-17-12

So now that I regularly converse in three different languages, I am also fluent in three different calendars – the Gregorian one, the Islamic one, and now the Iranian one.

Here is the breakdown of the Iranian calendar:

  • Spring (Bahar)
    Farvardin
    Ordibehesht
    Khordad
  • Summer (Tabestan)
    Teer
    Mordad
    Shahrivar
  • Fall (Payeez)
    Mehr
    Aban
    Azar
  • Winter (Zamestan)
    Dey
    Bahman
    Isfand

The different calendar makes for interesting conversations regarding birthdays or other important dates. Usually when you sign up for something you are asked for your birthdate or the day’s date. And it’s not the Gregorian one or the Islamic one they are asking for. To make life easier I have converted our kids’ birthdays to the Iranian calendar so I am not left struggling at the last minute.

Dates are really important in Iranian culture, too. Often you will see roads named for important dates, like 15 Khordad, 19 Dey, etc.

 

Saying ‘no’ with your eyebrows

Saying ‘no’ with your eyebrows

It caught me totally by surprise. Here we were newly arrived in Qom, and we had to visit a local shop. I asked the owner if he had a certain item (can’t recall now what it was). He didn’t have it, but instead of saying “no,” he just raised his eyebrows.

So I started looking for the item in another direction.

“Na, na daram.”

My husband (who knew a little Farsi before we moved to Qom) says to me,”He doesn’t have it.”

Sometimes if you’re lucky, the raised eyebrows are accompanied by a little click from the mouth, and moving the face in upwards.

My younger daughter has, of course, learned just the eyebrows.

“Marium, did you put away your toys?”

All I get are raised eyebrows.

One day, after Fatima Zahra had started school in Qom, she came home and responded to one of my questions with the click and eyebrows. Uh no, not in this house.

I calmly told her that in our house when you need to say no, you will say no.

Suffice it to say, I have never had to remind my kids again.

It definitely takes many people off guard, especially those with no prior experience with any Iranians.

While I first found it quite rude, especially when my daughter responded to me in that manner, since almost everyone does it, you pretty much get used to it.