How Long Here II

Lutfullah Mosque
March 17, 2011

I took a final walk around Naqsh-i-Jahan Square this evening. That's the enormous central plaza which is bounded by not just the bazaar, but also a palace and a couple of the finest mosques on the planet.

Persian New Year, Nowruz, will be celebrated in just a few days. It's really a festival of spring, so the actual holiday won't be until the vernal equinox. Already, certain traditions leading up to the big day are playing out. The night before last was a significant date, Chaharshambah Suri, marking the eve of the final Wednesday of the year. That evening, the city buses were nearly empty; traffic actually flowed. The streets of Isfahan were the quietest I've seen in my nine days here. Many people had left the city to light bonfires in the countryside.

Inside Isfahan Bazaar
Fire seems to be at the core of the celebration. Some of what few people were left on in the city celebrated by lighting off the odd firecracker; a couple men doused a broken old wooden chair with gasoline and torched it along one of the main streets. Most festive was a character dressed entirely in shiny red with his entire face painted black. Atop his head was a tall dunce cap, also shiny red. He skipped about beating a tamborine, darting in and out of what shops were still open, bringing festive cheer.

Love this city as I do, nine days in Isfahan should be enough. I could linger longer, taking in more of the architecture. But it's time to move along. In the morning I leave for a small, ancient city three hours down the road: Kashan. That's probably where I'll be for the first day of spring.

I'm curious to see how traditions continue playing out in the advent to Nowruz. I found that was a huge festival for the Uyghurs over the time I was living in Xinjiang. But the way I've heard anybody from Iran talk about Nowruz it sounds like it will be even bigger here, the most important holiday of the year.