Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

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Last Day in Tehran – End of Iran Trip – April 25th

I was so excited this morning because Nadereh actually arranged for me to visit a local synagogue.  I went to the lobby at 7:00 am  and we took a taxi to the neighborhood where the synagogue was located.  We were going for morning prayers.  The synagogue was not open when we arrived so we walked around the area for a while.  Naderah had never done this before so I took her upstairs where the women would be.  There were about 3 or 4 women there.  Naderah was very nervous about my taking photos but I asked the women and was given permission.  A man came upstairs to talk with us.  It wasn’t the man that had invited me for Passover, but he knew we were coming. He welcomed us and assured me that photos were be okay.

It is hard to explain the feelings I had. Although I do not attend a synagogue at home and the prayers are all in Hebrew so I don’t really understand the words, I loved being there.  The only way to explain it is that I feel connected to my grandparents, great grandparents, and my cultural history when I visit synagogues in other countries.

I have visited many synagogues in other countries, but I think this is the first time I have been there when they took the Torah out to pray.

After we left, I asked Naderah the name of the synagogue, but she didn’t know.  I am so glad that I pushed Naderah to assure that this visit to the synagogue happened both because it was wonderful for me and I think this morning was an education for her.

Writing posts over a month after I return home is really crazy.  I completely forgot to include something important in my last couple of posts so I am going to write about it today.  On the 23rd, Bob was not feeling well at all.  We were very concerned about him.  Sally also decided to rest on that day.  By the time we arrived back at the hotel, Bob was doing very poorly.  Naderah took him to the hospital in an ambulance.  Phil went with them.  It was not until the end of the day that we got a report about from Phil about how he was doing.  The were rehydrating him and the doctors were taking good care of him.  He had to rest for several days.  We were all happy to see him back at the hotel and ready to travel home on our last morning. I  am writing about this because it is an example of how we were taken care of on the Road Scholar trip.  This is the second time on this trip that Road Scholar assurance program took care of medical needs of people in our group.  Others Americans (and perhaps Bri

This is a letter I had the opportunity to read from a person who traveled in Iran in March – about a month before our group.  Since it was posted on the web already, I feel okay about sharing it on my post.

An American Casualty of US Economic Sanctions on Iran

By David Hartsough,

March 6, 2019

I went to Iran with a peace delegation of 28 Americans organized by Code Pink, a women-led peace activist group.

The first day in Iran we had a very fruitful hour-and-half conversation with Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran. He listened to our thoughts and concerns and then shared his perspectives about what is needed to help move our countries to a more peaceful and mutually respectful relationship.

Unfortunately, during that day I got increasingly severe chest pains. Friends encouraged me to go a hospital to have my heart checked.  We went to the Shahram Hospital where they quickly did tests and discovered that there was major blockage in the arteries of my heart. The doctor in charge encouraged me to undergo surgery immediately (angioplasty) to avoid having a heart attack.

My heart was heavy in more ways than one. I had been working on and looking forward to this trip to Iran for many months. I hoped that our delegation could contribute to moving our government from extreme economic sanctions and threats of war toward building peace and mutual understanding.

The hospital was ready to do the medical procedure the next morning. My health insurance in the US is with Kaiser Permanente, and Kaiser tells all their members that they are covered for any medical problems while traveling outside of the US. However, when we checked with Kaiser, I was told that they could not send the money to cover the procedure because of the US economic sanctions against Iran.

We appealed that decision but were told the decision was final. No money could be sent to Iran for medical care, even of an emergency nature for US citizens. The doctors also told me that if I were to fly back to the US without surgery, I could very possibly have a heart attack – which could be fatal.

For each of three days they prepared me for the surgery, but for three days the answer came back “NO. No money could be sent to Iran for this procedure. It was not permitted by US government.”

Fortunately for me, two wonderful women at the US interest section of the embassy of Switzerland in Iran, heard about my situation and were able to convince the US embassy in Switzerland to loan the money to me to be used for my medical procedure. Within hours I was moved to The Pars hospital, which specializes in heart work and the procedure was done by Dr. Tiznobeyk, a very skilled heart surgeon.

I spent another night in the hospital and then went back to the hotel to recuperate.  I am, of course, very grateful to be alive but am acutely aware that people in Iran can’t turn to the Swiss embassy for help.

While in hospitals in Iran I talked with doctors and nurses, and heard many stories about people who could not get needed medicines for their illnesses, and died as a result. For example, one person had cancer and the medicines were available in Europe, but they could not do the financial transactions to buy them and she died.

The economic sanctions have also caused extreme inflation and the cost of food, medicine and other necessities grows almost daily.

I have come to understand that economic sanctions are indeed acts of war. And the people who are suffering are not the government or religious leaders of Iran, but the ordinary people.  I hope my personal story may be helpful to assist Americans to realize the violence of economic sanctions in which millions of people of Iran continue to suffer and die because of our government’s policies. I fully agree with what the Iranian Foreign Minister told us: You cannot get security for one country at the expense of security for other countries. We badly need to learn that real security can only be found when we have security for all nations.

I come back home with a heart which is much stronger but also with a much greater commitment to stop US policies of economic sanctions which I believe are acts of war.  I will continue the work of getting the US to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement and get on the track of peace-building rather than threatening acts of war.  I hope you will join me.

David Hartsough is a Quaker from San Francisco, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist, Director of Peaceworkers and Co-founder of World beyond War and the Nonviolent Peaceforce

For more info on the trip see:

For more info on the effect of US sanctions on Iran see: and

Throughout this trip, I have had contact with warm, friendly people in Iran.  I am still overwhelmed with the insanity of what our governments (both of them) are doing.  I am embarrassed by mine.

Now for our last day both in Tehran (actually the last day in Iran). We visited 3 sites.

  • Azadi-Tower (Freedom Tower)
  • Former US Embassy
  • Golestan Palace

The Azadi-Tower (Freedom Tower) formerly known as the Shahyad Tower was commissioned by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran to mark the 2500th year of the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran.

Of course we took a group photo.

These plastic sculptures were across the street from the Tower.

I loved the sculpture of the man taking a selfie.

we drove to the former US Embassy.  It was a bummer not to be able to get out of the bus and walk by it especially since there weren’t even any demonstrators near the site.  It is quite interesting that the sign in front of it says, “US Den of Espionage Museum – Former US Embassy.”

These are other photos of the walls near the former embassy.

These men were playing music outside of the “embassy.”

Again, we had a lot of traffic.


The place were we had lunch served the strangest drink made with Hershey’s syrup.

There were some cute decorations around our lunch place.

I loved watching the children practicing with a soccer ball.

The last place we visited on this trip was Golestan Palace.It is a masterpiece of the Qajar era. These people stopped to talk with me ad take my photo. Of course, I took a photo of them.

The walled Palace, one of the oldest groups of buildings in Teheran, became the seat of government of the Qajar family, which came into power in 1779 and made Tehran the capital of the country. It was built around a garden featuring pools as well as planted areas.

Here are my photos.



The palace complex houses the Versailles-inspired, mirror encrusted Marble Throne Hall used for the coronation of the last Shah and several other mirrored rooms.


All of these mirrors made us dizzy.

I enjoyed talking with this woman and her daughter when we were inside.

This woman is getting water from a public source near the complex.

Here are more photos from the palace area.

These men were doing repairs.

This is the Crown of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar (the first king of the Qajar dynasty – 1788- 1790). It is copper-enameled.

More mirrored rooms and chandeliers.


Even the ceiling where they were attached was beautiful.

We returned to the hotel to get packed and ready for our final dinner.  I wore my new tunic.  Sami, Jane, and I took a photo in the lobby.

It was such a treat to see a bride and groom enter the hotel.

These adorable children were at the hotel for the wedding.

Tonight at our final dinner, we celebrated Bob’s and Kay’s anniversary …

… and Sally’s birthday.

These men were in the hotel restaurant with us.  Somebody asked me to find out what they were smoking.


Of course I did.  They were from Eastern Turkey (Mardin, Sanliurfa and other eastern cities) – all places that I visited when Elaine Newland and I were traveling in Turkey.  When they told me they were smoking Nargile or Turkish Water pipe with different flavors of Turkish tobacco.  I laughed out loud remember all the Nargile centers we saw in Eastern Turkey.

Of course I had to take a photo with them.  I have no idea what the man in the background was doing when we were taking the photo.  He was not one of the men from the group.

When dinner was over, I asked Sami if he wanted to go meet these men.  He declined.  I sure hope it wasn’t because they were Kurdish.

Well after dinner I called Mahsa, another Servas representative, to tell her that Naderah had gone home with her Mom who she had brought to our dinner.  Mahsa told me that she lived way on the other side of Tehran and it would take her way over an hour to get to the hotel because it was Thursday night – the beginning of the Friday holiday.  She suggested that I wait in my room, but I told her that I enjoyed sitting in the lobby.  I am so glad I did that.

I wandered around for a bit and entered a room where the wedding was being celebrated.  There were all men in the room and some of them were dancing.  I was given permission to take a photo ..

…and then I left to sit in the hotel lobby.  A man walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to see the women. What I heard him say is “Vomen” and I didn’t understand him.  He said it a couple of times so I decided to follow him. I was thinking, “Now I may get myself into trouble.”  He took me to the 2nd floor, pointed to a room and said that he couldn’t go into the room with me.  Finally I understood that it was where the women were celebrating.

When entered the room, I was warmly greeted by many women.  They were laughing and dancing.  We took many photos but I was advised not to post those photos because many of the women were not wearing scarves.  It was okay for them because no men were in the room, but posting the photos would not be okay.  It was okay for me to post the photos of the children who were dancing and having a wonderful time …

… and the mother of the bride with bride’s aunt.

They invited me to eat with them and even though I had already had dinner, I sat down with a group of women.  I was at the party for over an hour.  Words do not express how wonderful this was for my last night in Tehran.

And it wasn’t over.  I sat in the lobby and had very brief conversations with many of the guests as they were leaving.  At about 12:00, Mahsa arrived and we talked for about an hour.

I wasn’t even tired.  I was again so thankful that I belong to Servas and that Servas representatives from Iran were willing to drive all the way to my hotel to meet with me.

It was after 1:00 am when I went to the room. We had to get up before 3:00 to be in the lobby in time to leave in time to get to the airport by 4:30 am.

I have been home for 6 weeks and finally finishing the posts to this blog.  I wish I could have remembered more details but I am happy that I at least was able to upload many photos and memories.

Although there are many parts of this trip (size of group, big bus rides, restrictions on our movement, being too short, not having enough time to be in small villages and to talk with people), I am very happy that I took this trip to Iran.  I am incredibly privileged to have had this opportunity to see sights that many Americans will never see.  The Iranian people are exceptionally friendly.  Almost every time I made any I contact, just by saying “Salam,” they would greet me back. Chetori (How are your) and Hoobam (I am well), they would smile and repeat the same to me.  When somebody actually stopped to talk with me or take photos and I said, “Iran zibast,” which means. “Iran is beautiful,” they would show their joy.   I loved the times when I met people who wanted to take photos with us using their cameras.  If there was any conversations in English, it usually was about how the people of Iran and U.S. are wonderful but the government is not. These brief interactions and connections with the people of Iran showed me once again that people to people contact is what we must have to even begin to creating peace in our crazy world.

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Tehran 4/24

The pool and hot tub in the Espinas hotel had limited hours for woman but I managed to find time to use it early in the morning before breakfast.  It would have been closed by the time we got back from our day.


Then I went to Sally’s and Diane’s room because they had a better view of the mountains around Tehran. I was a little late because the clouds had already begun to cover them.


We drove across Tehran this morning to go to the Sa’adabad Complex.  It was a long drive and I took photos from the bus.

We were in a wealthy part of town  I think Nadereh said the apartments are about 1200 sq meters.

The Sa’adabad Complex includes 18 buildings, 10 of them are opened for public. 4 of the buildings are at the disposal of presidency organization, 3 buildings host administration of the complex. Because of the size of the area we rode in a open tourist vehicle across the area.  First we visited Green Palace (Shahvand Palace) which was built during the last years of Qajar era and rebuilt by Shah Reza. He used it as a residence for his guests and a place for receptions. I took many photos.  The landscape of the area was quite lovely.


When we left the Green Palace, almost all of us decided to walk through the grounds rather than being in the vehicle.

Of course I had to photograph this beautiful cat.

We met up with another group of students.  Of course I talked with them and took photos.

We had a good laugh when we noticed this group of students taking photos of us.

We also toured the White Palace which was built in the early 1930s by Reza Pahlavi and served as a summer residence.  Now the palace displays furniture, decorations, paintings, and carpets in the same state as they were during the reign of Shah Reza.

I laughed when I caught a photo of Bill’s shadow because I know he didn’t want photos of himself posted on the web.  But he said this one would be okay.

These Anglo Indian carved hardwood pieces of furniture were so beautiful.

This is an Anglo-Indian elephant statue in carved hardwood and inlaid bone.

The flowers on the property were beautiful.

Then I met more girls who talked with us and took photographs.

As we were walking back to the bus we heard music playing in the distance.  I used my zoo lens to get a photo of the instruments.

When we stopped for lunch, we walked by this hamburger place.  I thought the sign was funny.

We had Tah dig for lunch and I think that was the name of the restaurant.

Then we visited the Tehran Market. Markets are one of my favorite places to be. We were allowed to wander on our own for about 30 minutes. Wandering in markets is my happy place and  I took many, many photos.

Jane helped me search for a place to buy more pistachio nuts and I purchased 2kg.

Some people were roasting corn.

These people were enjoying theirs.

There was a view of the mountains on the outside of the market.

We couldn’t figure out why that had died these baby chicks.

These were the largest stalks of celery I have ever seen.

Some people were selling local honey.

On the way back to the hotel we saw this painting on a building.


The traffic was intense.

We made it back in time for a 5 course meal cooking lesson.

Some of us helped to prepare the ingredients.  Sally was cutting cucumbers.

This is the chef.

Sally and Ellen were doing more chopping.

The eggplant was cooking on the stove.

Nadereh interpreted as the chef was cooking but promised to translate all of the recipes and send them to us.

We made stuffed peppers.

Jan was rolling grape leaves.

I was crushing lemons in a drink.

This was the chicken for the kebabs.

Jane helped put the chicken on the skewers.



The food was delicious.

Although we have been  home for over a month and I have communicated with Nadereh several times through Whatsapp, we have not received any recipes.

An interesting thing happened at dinner tonight.  I realized that we may be getting back to the hotel later than I thought and I had contacted the Iranian Servas people who were planning to meet me at the hotel.  I asked a woman from our group who had a sim card so I could try to Whatsapp them.  I was not able to to that, but, by accident, I saw a message on her phone from Sami that said she could go out in Isfahan.  That really threw me.  Did those women who went walking actually have permission to go out for a walk?  How annoying.  There was nothing I could do about it now, so I just kept my mouth shut.

I did ask Naderah to contact them and ask them to come at 9:30 instead of 9;00.  She did not remember that we said it would be this night.  Anyway, after we got back to the hotel, I came downstairs to wait for them.  Nadereh was waiting in the lobby.  She said that she hoped my meeting was going to be short.  I found that annoying.  Anyway, I was walking around the lobby when I received a Whatsapp message from Hossein. He was asking where I was and I told him that I was in the lobby of the hotel.  Then he called me using Whatsapp.  We discovered that Road Scholar had given me the phone number for the other Espinas Hotel which was completely on the other side of Tehran.  I was so disappointed.  But Hossein said that he and another Servas member where going to drive all the way to see me.  I went back to Nadereh and told her about the mistake and that they were not going to be able to come.  I just wanted her to go home.  And she did.  I am sure that she probably suspected what I was doing, but there was nothing she could do.

At about 11:00, Hossein and Mersa (another Servas member) arrived.  We had a lovely time together.  Servas is such a wonderful organization.  How important it is to have an organization that promotes intercultural exchange and I am go glad I am a member.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet with them.

And there is more.  Zahra, who is another Servas member could not come because her mother was not feeling well.  She is a remarkable woman who had just recently attended the 63th Commission on the Status of Women in NY as a Servas Representative.  She sent some photos to me.

More importantly, she sent me her report from the conference.  I am including it (without names) in this post because I hope that many people see it.

Servas International at the 63th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63)

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the main organizations within the United Nations. Every year, representatives of Member States1, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attend the session at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

1 The Commission consists of 45 member states who are elected for a period of four years by ECOSOC on the basis of equitable geographical distribution.

UN-Women is the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN-Women was established to accelerate progress on realizing their rights and meeting their needs worldwide. UN-Women supports United Nations Member States as they set global standards for achieving gender equality, and works with governments and civil society to design laws, policies, program and services needed to implement these standards. It stands behind women’s enjoyment of their human rights in all aspects of life, focusing on five priority areas: increasing women’s leadership and participation; ending violence against women; engaging women in all aspects of peace and security processes; enhancing women’s economic empowerment; and making gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting. UN-Women prepares the evidence-base, policy analysis and recommendations that underpin the Commission’s deliberations on the themes selected for each session, as well as for negotiated outcomes.

UN-Women also coordinates and promotes the United Nations system’s work in advancing gender equality.

Servas International (SI) is one of more than 5000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) accredited with consultative status by UN ECOSOC. Servas International has had consultative status at the UN since 1973. The consultative status makes it possible for Servas International to be active at the premises of the United Nations in New York City in USA, Geneva in Switzerland and Vienna in Austria. As Servas members, we connect with the UN as part of a peace-building process to provide a world free of violence, poverty and inequality. Our mission is build world peace, goodwill and mutual understanding by providing opportunities for personal interactions among people irrespective of their ages, cultures, backgrounds, and nationalities.

The Servas International representatives at the United Nations attend sessions, help Servas members wanting to visit UN venues, share information about United Nations principles and activities, co-sign joint NGO statements, and at times are able to deliver written or oral declarations on behalf of Servas. They are also able to organize side events on different issues.

The sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 11 to 22 March 2019 with the primary themes of social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Official Meetings

Access to General Assembly and conference rooms were limited during CSW63, due to a very high number of NGO representatives who registered, placing a high demand on the finite space at the United Nations Headquarters. There were approximately 200 seats in the plenary room for the 4000-5000 NGOs that were expected. Some meetings were also held in closed rooms. The number of representatives who could attend open official meetings was contingent on the availability of space. Therefore, all official UN meetings were also available on the UN Web TV Channel at

Generally, the Commission on the Status of Women held all meetings during a two-week session covering the topic, “Good practices in the provision of social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure” under the primary theme of “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”. Participants exchanged experiences, challenges and good practices in relation to access to social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure for women and girls. These key topics, central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasized existing national legislative and policy frameworks and existing measures that have delivered concrete results for women and girls.

The priority theme of CSW63 was negotiated by all Member States. Additionally, they identified gaps and challenges in the implementation of previous commitments and made action-oriented recommendations for all States, relevant intergovernmental bodies, mechanisms and entities of the United Nations system and other relevant stakeholders.

Side Events

During the session many side events were organized to draw attention to critical aspects of the work on gender equality. NGO representatives registered for CSW63 had the opportunity to enhance their CSW experience by visiting side events.

NGO representatives’ UN grounds pass was sufficient to gain access to the General Assembly Building and the Conference Building, where official CSW meetings and side events took place. NGOs with valid UN grounds passes did not have to indicate prior interest in attending side events, unless specified by event sponsors.

The active participation of NGOs is a critical element in the work of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). NGOs have been influential in shaping the current global policy framework on women’s empowerment and gender equality.

The program of side events, or activities organized outside the formal program of the session of the Commission, provided an excellent opportunity for NGOs to discuss themes of the Commission and other critical gender equality issues.

Side events included a ministerial segment and other high-level interactive dialogues, a general discussion, as well as interactive and expert panel discussions. Stakeholders organized many side events to draw attention to critical aspects of the work on gender equality. Side events were also a key opportunity for policy makers, advocates, researchers and activists to network and strategize, mobilize and plan new initiatives and actions to further the cause of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

During the conference, more than 40 side events were held almost daily. These events took place in UN rooms at specific times according to the calendar. Many of these meetings were held simultaneously, requiring participants to choose one.

Experiences and Impressions:

“I believe that these circles of women around us, weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong”

During CSW63, we grieved and sometimes even shed tears while seeing and hearing the suffering of women around the world, but we also rejoiced in and celebrated their joys and achievements. Look to see the conference from our perspective:

In close collaboration with the SI Peace Secretary, we did outreach and networking with other NGOs, further building a peace network. By strengthening these connections, we hope to partner in future peace projects. Our presence at the UN also served to promote Servas as a peace building organization. We shared business cards, email addresses, and pamphlets with those interested in partnering or discussing Servas membership further. As Servas representatives, we learned how

UN-Women works to improve gender equality and empower women. In turn, we shared with the UN our perspectives on gender equality and the empowerment women, human rights and social justice issues.

Each one of us selected specific topics of interest and attended the official sessions and minimally four side events daily.

An overview of the some of the side events that I attended:

Inclusive quality education and lifelong learning – key for gender equality and empowerment of women.

By UNESCO and Permanent Missions of Argentina, the Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway

The event explored how to advance the global commitment on gender equality and women’s empowerment with a specific focus on the transformative potential of inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for women and girls. In particular, by sharing good practices in ensuring targeted policy measures to expand access and ensure the quality of education for women and girls. Moreover, highlighting the importance of investments needed to ensure that all girls are equipped to prepare for a better future.

 Justice for Women

World Bank, International Development Law Organization (IDLO), UN Women and the Task Force on Justice

Justice for women is a critical dimension of social protection, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women. As a public good, justice is a means of protecting women and girls from violations of their rights. The adoption of a global commitment to promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies and access to justice for all and a standalone commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are unprecedented. There is enormous opportunity to make a difference in the lives of women and girls through the global momentum afforded by these pledges.

 Social inclusion for women being independent

By Japan, the National Women’s Committee for the UN NGOs, the International Women’s Year Liaison Group, and Japan Women’s Watch (JAWW)

Social inclusion is the key word. Inclusion of different groups, especially women to establish sustainable peace and security. The typical economy gives women 3/4 rights of men! In many economies women are paid less. Women are expected to work and then do household work as well work outside and inside the home. Women should have the decision to do so and not because society expects women to do so. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, published in 1929, emphasizes how important it is for women to be economically independent, and this was in 1929. If it was deemed important 90 years ago, why are women still not economically independent? “What are the obstacles for women to break through this situation?”

Film Screening: Women, Peace and Power – the stories of women peacemakers from Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Liberia.

By Ireland and Peace is Loud

As part of the impact campaign for the series, Peace is Loud has created the accompanying short film, Women, Peace & Power. The film follows the stories of female activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens in Afghanistan, Liberia, and Northern Ireland as they try to influence peace talks against all odds. This 25-minute film can be used as a training tool for diplomats, policymakers, peacebuilders, and students of international affairs, to spark a discussion on the nexus of gender and security.

 Breaking Stereotypes: Muslim Women as Agents of Change

By Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Indonesia

The side-event provided an opportunity for Member States, UN entities and civil society to discuss the efforts of Muslim women who have challenged the traditional stereotypes about them. Making their mark innumerous fields on a daily basis and around the world, Muslim women are not only proving that women should have an equal role in Muslim society, but they are also holding up ‘half the sky’. Women have always played a vital role in human development, a role that has largely been unsung and under acknowledged. In very few cultures, until relatively recently, have women been recognized to have an equal role with men, and equal rights to participate in all social spheres. Social structures and misinterpretation of religious edicts have had a constraining effect but women have still sought to overcome the challenges.

Muslim women have proven themselves to be resourceful, creative, and dedicated. Today, they are actively participating in all fields of life and making their mark on societies. They are breaking the glass ceiling in education, culture, medicine, business and as managers by holding key positions. These extraordinary women have achieved some of the highest positions.

 Mentoring and Inspiring to be Future Leaders

By International Federation for Peace and Sustainable Development (IFPSD)

For established or emerging women executives, taking charge of women leadership development becomes vital for continuous personal and professional growth. The Women Leaders Program leverages the ground-breaking research at the Center for Leadership, and draws from best practices and the depth of experience of veteran women leaders, to create a program designed to advance the leadership capacity of professional women.

Sally Kader the co-founder and president of the International Federation for Peace & Sustainable Development moderated the event with a panel of successful women in business that shared their experience and knowledge for success.

Gender, Economic Policy and Women’s Human Rights: Tackling Discrimination to Strengthen Social Protection, Increase Access to Services and Transform Systems

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice (WGDAW) has noted that discriminatory legislation in a number of States continues to obstruct women’s enjoyment of equal rights and access to economic opportunity and resources. The roles and responsibilities assigned to women and men on the basis of stereotypes relegate women to a subordinate status and limit their economic opportunities.

The main objective of the panel was to generate a discussion about the importance of tackling discrimination against women in order to strengthen social protection and access to health and education services, which will require closer examination of the crucial links between gender, macroeconomic policy and women’s human rights, and consideration of the critical role of international human rights mechanisms and UN agencies, in facilitating transformation with support from civil society.

What cultural change is needed to consign sexual harassment to the dustbin of history?

By UN Women

In line with 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, UN Women supports efforts to prevent and respond to violence, including addressing sexual harassment. As an institution born from the demand of women’s and feminist movements, it supports and adds to their efforts to achieve gender equality, end discrimination and violence. It is time to project into the future and reflect on the world we want to build together. Large scale transformation is essential if sexual harassment is truly to be eliminated: hence the focus on cultural change Ensuring the safety of women and girls in private and public spaces is a foundational aspect of gender equality and is at the core of UN Women’s mandate and work. It is obvious that poverty, unemployment, lack of socioeconomic opportunities, lack of social protection, pervasive gender inequality and violence, discrimination, marginalization and persistent demand are among the underlying causes that make women and girls vulnerable to human trafficking.

 Why Slavery? Film Screening (Mail in Hell by Søren Klovborg)

By The Why

Can an employment system hide a reality of torture and humiliation? Maid in Hell gives a glimpse into the common-place reality of harassment, abuse, rape and 18-hour work days which migrant domestic.

What drives the gender gap in science, technology and innovation and how do we close it?

By UNESCO, Permanent Mission of Finland and GenderInSITE

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the Sustainable Developments Goals(SDGs). UNESCO is playing a key role in taking up these issues and in promoting women and girls in and for science through initiatives. This side event provided a comprehensive set of innovative approaches, tested good practices and policy guidance around supporting the inclusion of gender equality, attracting more women to science and showing the pathways to success.

Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development

The sixty-third session of the Commission addressed as its priority theme ‘Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’. In addition, it evaluated progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions from the sixtieth session (2016) on ‘Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development.

The promotion and protection of, and respect for, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women, including the right to development, which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, should be mainstreamed into all policies and program aimed at the eradication of poverty. In 2015, UN leaders pledged to continue the work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)2 with new goals for 2016-2030- called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which address the factors necessary to eliminate war and achieve peace.

2 In 2000, UN leaders of 189 countries made a commitment to eight 15-year goals – called the Millennium Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals build while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.

The CSW63 reiterates that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development needs to be implemented in a comprehensive manner, reflecting its universal, integrated and indivisible nature, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting each country’s policy space and leadership while remaining consistent with relevant international rules and commitments, including by developing cohesive sustainable development strategies to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The Commission affirms that Governments have the primary responsibility for the follow-up to and review of the 2030 Agenda at the national, regional and global levels with regard to progress made.


UN Commission on the Status of Women delivered roadmap on ensuring women’s social protection, mobility, safety, and access to economic opportunities.

After two weeks of intense dialogue, the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) concluded with a strong commitment by UN Member States to safe guard and improve women’s and girls’ access to social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure, ensuring that their design and delivery is transformed to prevent discrimination.

The outcome of the two-week meeting, known as the Agreed Conclusions, adopted by Member States, puts forth concrete measures to bolster the voice, agency and leadership of women and girls as beneficiaries and users of social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure.

Key recommendations from the Agreed Conclusions include the following:

Invest in social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure to support the productivity of women’s work, including in the informal economy;

Ensure that progress in women’s access to social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure is not undermined by budget cuts and austerity measures, and levels of protection previously achieved are not reversed;

Build on multilateral commitments to gender equality, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202), to strengthen access to social protection, public services and infrastructure for all women and girls;

Recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work by ensuring access to social protection for unpaid caregivers of all ages, including coverage for health care and pensions;

Scale up investment in quality public care services that are affordable and gender-responsive;

Identify and remove barriers to women’s and girls’ access to public services, such as physical distance, lack of information and decision-making power, stigma and discrimination;

Guarantee the availability of safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, including for menstrual hygiene, in homes, schools, refugee camps and other public places;

Ensure that transport policies and planning are sustainable, accessible, affordable, safe and gender-responsive, taking into account the different needs of women and men, and adapted to be used by persons with disabilities and older persons;

Promote the full and equal participation and leadership of women and women’s organizations in policy dialogues and decision-making relating to social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure;

Strongly condemn the impunity and lack of accountability rooted in historical and structural inequality that accompanies pervasive violence against women.

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Tehran 4/23

In the morning took a photo from our room of the city.

Today we visited National Museum of Iran that preserves the country’s historical and cultural record through the presentation of some 300,000 artifacts — the oldest dating back more than 30,000 years. Its two buildings are dedicated to pre-Islamic and post-Islamic periods.

The National Museum of is an institution formed of two complexes; the Museum of Ancient Iran and the Museum of the Islamic Era, which were opened in 1937 and 1972, respectively.

When we arrived at the museum, there were a  group of female students also waiting on the steps.  I took a photo of them and I had the usual exchanges with several of them – Hello, How are you?, I am Fine.

One of the girls asked me where I was from?  I said, “United States.”  Several o f them responded with wide open eyes.  Then the girl said, “Trump.”  I put my fingers into my mouth and gestered my disgust.  Many of the girls gathered around me with laughter and more fun photos were taken.

historic copies of the Qur’an.  I took a few photos in the museum although glare on the cases made that difficult.

The girls were following me around and I apologized to their teacher because they were paying more attention to me than to what they were supposed to be doing.  I would rather have been talking with them,

My favorite highlights of the museum were the stone reliefs and sculptures from Persepolis.

The sign near his relief from the northern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis said that it is one of the most important examples of Acaemenid art that shows Xerxes sitting on a throne.  Behind the king are the crown prince, the chief Magian, king’s weapon carrier, and two guardsmen.  The releif shows the king receiving an important official who announces the arrival of the tribute bearers and performs the ritual greeting that is known as proskynesis  He is followed by two guardsmen.

This is the statue of Darius.Although the head and upper body are now missing, it survived from the Achaemenid period.  The king wears a Persian dress with a dagger stuck into his belt.  The pleats on his robe are inscribed in cuneiform in the three official languages of the empire – Old Persian., Elamite, and Babylonian on the right and in Egyptian hieroglyphs on the left.  Although the king wears a Persian costume, the pillar at the back and the decoration on the base are Egyptian in style.

This is a fragment of a composite column capital with a human head and a four-legged proteome is also from Persepolis.

This is a part of the main staircase from the southerlies of the tripylon (a palace with tree gates) carved on one boulder of Stone.

On one side of the staircase there is a ritual representation of Persain lancers and archers.

This is a clay figurine of the god of Bacchus (ancient Greece)or Dionysus ancient Roman).

This is a stone oil lamp.

A stucco Mihrab (praying Niche)

Stone Myrab.

Wooden doors,

A Panel of tiles.

After the historical museum, we visited the Museum of Islamic History where I did not take any photos.

In the restaurant where we had lunch a man baked bread in the shape of a heart.

It was fun to watch him bake the bread ….


.and great to eat it.

This was a delicious stick of sugar which I ate like a lollipop.

This man brought a Nightingale to the restaurant.

It was sad to see it in a cage.

After lunch we visited the Treasury of National Jewels.  It was collected over centuries. This priceless collection includes a staggering array of crown jewels from the Qajar and Pahlavid royals and others going back 25 centuries. The collection is so valuable that it has been used to back Iranian currency.

We were not allowed to take any photos.  The jewels were astounding but it was too crowded and we were rushed from case to case.

Dinner was delicious.

In the evening Jane and I turned on the TV and reached CNN news.  Mike Pompeo was speaking on the dangers of the IRGC (Iranian Revoluntionary Guard Corps).  I wanted to pull him out of the screen and scream at him (or maybe even hit him over the head).  I have been in Iran for 12 days.  I have had wonderful interactions with the people in Iran and the girls being with the girls today topped it off.  I know there are problems with the Iranian government.  Even some people in Iran have problems with their government.  We have major problems with our government.  there are wonderful people here in Iran.  His statements and the actions of the US government are dangerous.  Are they blind.

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Qom April 22

First thing this morning I decided to walk outside the hotel and not go very far so I could take a photo before all the people arrived.

I think these men are entering the place where they study.

I enjoyed being outside by myself.

Bob took a photo of me in my new navy blue outfit.  Naderah had told me that Qom was a very conservative city and that my colorful outfits may not be as appropriate.  Qom is considered holy by Shi a Islam as it is the shrine of Fatimah Masoumah. So I purchased this in Isfahan.  Here I am.

When Bob handed the camera back to me, it dropped to ground.  I am so happy that I was carrying 2 cameras because it never worked again.

After breakfast, the whole group walked to the Fatimah Masoumeh Shrine.

Fatimah Masoumeh Shrine is considered to be one of the most sacred shrines by Shia Muslims only second to Mashhad. Fatima Masoumeh was the sister of the eighth Imam ‘Ali al-Rida and the daughter of the seventh Imam Musa al-Kadhim. In Shia Islam, women are often revered as saints if they are close relatives to one of the Twelve Imamas. Fatima Masumeh is therefore honored as a saint, and her shrine in Qom is considered one of the most significant Shi’i shrines in Iran. Every year, thousands of Shi’i Muslims travel to Qom to honor Fatima Masumeh and ask her for blessings.

I read the following story online.  Fatima Masumeh died in Qom in 201 A.H. as she travelled to join her brother, Imam Al ai-Rida  in Khorasan. The caravan she travelled in was attacked in Saveh by the Abbasid Sunnis, and 23 of Fatima Masumeh’s family and friends were killed. Fatima Masumeh was then poisoned by a woman from the Sunni enemies, fell ill, and asked to be taken to Qom, where she died. Fatima Masumeh’s host in Qom buried her in his plot of land.

The style of Fatima Masumeh’s Shrine has developed over many centuries. During Ayatollah Khomeini’es 1979 Iranian Revolution  Qom was named “the birthplace” of this movement. Khomeini studied in Qom and lived there at the beginning and end of the Revolution. Aspects of the culture of Qom, including the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh, were used to unite the Iranian people over significant historical and mythical events. Khomeini used images of the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in posters, money, and stamps created during the Revolution. Khomeini also constructed an addition to the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh and added more space for pilgrims.

Before entering the shrine or mosque, all of the women in our group were required to cover ourselves.

One of the mullahs gave us a private tour of the shrine, normally off limits to Western travelers.

Some of the other Iranian women wearing Chadors were very friendly and liked to take photos with us and also gave us permission to photograph them.  We had fun taking all of the photos and having those brief “Salam -Hello,” “Chetor – How are you,” and “Hoobam – I am well” conversations.  I am sure I messed up the phonetic spellings but I sure enjoyed the interchanges.

Naderah had her own so she didn’t match all of us.

Somebody told us that the women holding the blue fuzzy things would tap other women who may not be dressed appropriately with them.

These are some of the photos I took today.


Before entering the mosque, each person had to wash (hands, face, feet).  I took more photos of them and others in the area.


After lunch, we listened to an Islamic scholar who delivered a lecture on Islam and Shiite traditions and its significance in Iran.

He talked about basics of Islam and some of the differences between Sunni and Shia’. He said many things that I have heard attending talks at mosques in Beaverson. We had the opportunity to ask questions. It wasn’t until it was over that I realized that none of us had asked him any questions about the persecution of the Bahá’i in Iran.  We were certainly avoiding political conversations.  In retrospect, that was too bad.

One of the woman at the desk in our hotel took photos with us before we left.

I am in communication with her via Whatsapp. This is one she took with her phone and sent to me.  I am posting it although the quality is not very good.

Then we drove to Tehran where we checked into the Espinas Hotel where we ate dinner.

I spent time repacking my stuff to make sure I could get “Bob’s bowl” home safely.

Then I went into the lobby to listen to a man play piano.

After he asked me the name of my country, he played the Star Spangled Banner for me.  I thanked him and said that the music was beautiful but I wasn’t crazy about the words.

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Morning at Eco-Resort and Qom April 21

After breakfast we had the opportunity to do a very, very short camel ride.  So several of us chose to take this opportunity. They prepared the camels for us.

We were told that the ard part was getting on an off the camel but we didn’t even have that experience because they provided a ladder.

The ride around the eco-lodge area only took about 20 minutes.

I guess if I am going to really experience a camel ride, I will have to do this again someplace else although most of the people who have done this told me that this ride was enough.  After the camel ride we took a walk around the organic gardens and tasted some of the herbs.  They raise Ostriches.

It was pretty funny to be driven out into the area so we can walk in the sand.

I had to take a photo of my feet in the sand.

Karen, Diane, and I  took a couple of  photos of each other..

On the way to Qom, we stopped for lunch. The bus was not able to drive through the narrow streets to get to the restaurant.  Yay.  I loved wandering through the streets taking a few photos.

Oops, don’t go down this street.

There was a beautiful garden next to the restaurant.

That is were we  lunch celebrated Karen’s birthday.

Naderah was a little mixed up on our way back so we were able to walk a little longer.  Yay.  A man with bread on the back of his bicycle showed us the way.

Then back on the bus and on to Kashan, the City of Carpets and Roses to visit Fin Garden and Tahatabaei House.  As we were walking we passed a man was selling rose garlands.

We purchased one for Karen for her birthday.

The Fin garden is a historical Persian garden  Although the site is surrounded by a desert landscape where water is scarce, inside the walls of the garden jubs (canals, pronounced ‘Joobs’) flow with abundant beauty.  The water originates from the aquifers of the Karkas mountains and is carried by an underground qanat (aqueduct) to a reservoir about 1.5 km from the garden.  There is sufficient gravity pressure to bring the water to the fountains.

We also visited the Tabātabāei House which is an historic residence built in 1880 that was once owned by the affluent Tabātabāei family.  These photos were taken at both the Fin Garden and the Tabātabāei House.

I loved watching the children play in the water.

As we left the Gardens Karen gave her rose crown to a little girl and we had our photo taken.

The drive to Qom was very, very crowded with traffic.

Naderah said we had to switch to a city bus because they wouldn’t let us drive the tour bus into the area. It was not what she was expecting.

Sami and Forod had to transfer all of the luggage to bring to us later.

I was a bit disappointed because I thought we were actually going to ride on a city bus with local people, but it was our own bus.

It would have been fun to ride the real city bus with all of these people.

Qom was going to be a beautiful place to visit.

Our evening was spent inside the Qom International Hotel because, of course, we were not allowed to wonder on our own.  Bummer.

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Village of Abyaneh and Matinabad Eco-Resort – April 20

This was a driving day.  We stopped for gasoline in the morning on the way out of Isfahan.  Our bus is the white one.

I just wanted to document that we did see mountains as we were driving. Taking photos from the bus does not give great results.

We passed a couple very old Caravanserai.  Nadereh said we were near Hagen.

We stopped at the Mosque complex of Sheikh Abd al-Samad.  Abd al-Samad, a shaykh of the Suharwardi Sufi order, died in Natanz in 1299. During the decade that followed, the site of his grave was developed by the vizier Zayn al-Din Mastari into what has survived to be one of the best preserved  of the Il-Khanid shrine complexes.

What a wonderful door.

We wandered through the complex taking photos as Nadereh spoke to us.

I think these carpets were either their as prayer rugs or for people to use for sleeping.

It was fun taking a photo of this couple as he was taking a photo of his friend.

There were many alcoves on multiple floor levels to explore.

The stone steps were very deep.  Karen is slowly getting down this one.

As we walked through one corridor, we saw this interesting poster.

I liked the doorways and archways.

This soon became one of my “Happy Place Days” because we visited the village of Abyaneh and wandered through the streets.  When the Arabs invaded Persia in the 17th century, some followers of the Zoroastrian religion fled to the surrounding mountains and deserts to escape forced conversion to Islam.  Abyaneh is believed to be one of the last surviving villages that were formed in the long and narrow valley of the Karkas Mountains.

The ancient village is a muddle of narrow and sloped streets and mud-brick houses that have lattice windows and fragile wooden balconies.  The houses were built with mud bricks from the terrain around Abyaneh which contains iron-oxide.  That is why they have a reddish color.

The people in Abyaneh are very highly educated.  The young adults go to the cities to work and only come back to the town to visit.   Abyaneh’s permanent population has dwindled to less than 250 people, consisting of mostly older people.  Because of its remote location and isolation, their culture and traditions have been preserved.  Many of the elderly people can speak an earlier incarnation of Farsi that largely disappeared some centuries ago.

It was such a joy to wander through the village taking photos. The women’s wear traditional clothing which includes a long white scarf with colorful floral designs that completely covers their hair and shoulders.  They also wear colorful dresses along with a special pair of pants.

There were many booths where the people were selling creative decorations, dried fruits, jewelry, hats, scarfs, and many other things.  Nadereh was showing something we call fruit leather but I can’t remember what she called it.

This was a shop where somebody works to create jewelry.

The men wear long baggy black pants.

I am not sure I understood this but Nadereh said that the hole in this wall actually is the way they opened the doors.  They stick their hand into the hole and pull on something inside.

I, of course, again took many photos of arches, balconies, and doorways to help preserve my memory of this lovely village.

I even took a photo of a cat.

I think this man wa using prayer beads but I am not sure.

Of course there were other visitors in the village with us. It was touching seeing this woman gently feeding an older woman.

I asked this girls parents permission to take her photo.  She was so cute.

I had a marvelous time in the village and I am sure that others in our group also did.

I think these photos are from another local restaurant where we had lunch.

We continued on to Matinabad where we were staying at an eco-camp with an organic farm.  The bus could not be driven into the area so we boarded a smaller vehicle.  We could see the place in the distance.

There were green houses.

At first we weren’t sure if we were going to be staying in tents, but we all had comfortable rooms.

After we settled in for a bit, we were taken to a local restaurant run by the local Matin Abad locals.  First we were served welcoming tea.

Then we walked around the area to see some of sheep.

We were taught how to make their local bread.

After the dough is rolled out, it is actually thrown into the oven …

… where it bakes against the wall.

We watched the daughter feed the cows.

Soon our delicious meal was ready to eat.  Every ingredient was prepared from natural and organic products.

This is the family who prepared and served our meal.

When we arrived back at the eco-resort, there was a party with music.  There were many Iranian people also vacationing at the eco-resort and  were dancing.  This is Phil getting into the spirit of the party.

I had a blast dancing with everybody.

Later in the evening a couple of us we went up to the rooftop coffee shop to relax for a bit.  We didn’t see many stars because there was  a beautiful full moon.

This was certainly quite a fabulous day.  Any traveling day when we have the opportunity to wander and have brief interactions with local people makes me very, very happy.



Last Day in Isfahan 4/19

Our first stop today was at the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan (Masjid-e Isfahan).  It is one of the oldest mosques still standing in Iran.

The origins of this mosque lie in the 8th century, but it burnt down and was rebuilt again in the 11th century and went through remodeling many times. As a result, it has rooms built in different architectural styles, so now the mosque represents a condensed history of Iranian Architecture.  It is decorated with many, many Quranic inscriptions.

Due to its immense size and its numerous entrances (all except one inaccessible now), it formed a pedestrian hub which connected a network of paths crisscrossing the city.  It was not just a place for prayer alone but actually facilitated public mobility and commercial activity.

We spent a long time at this mosque and I took many photos.

This photo from the web shows the expanse of the area.

I wish I could remember all the things that Nadereh told us about each area but that is definitely not my forte.

One room had many, many pillars and each one had a design that was slightly different.

This is a close-up of one of the designs.

The domed ceiling in another area also had many designs.

Prayer carpets were in a pile ready for people who came to pray.

This was one of the prayer rooms.

The calligraphy on the walls was amazing.


This photo of the calligraphy from the web is wonderful.

Here are some more photos from the interior.


This platform on the outside is where people practice what they do when the pilgrimage to the Haj.

I am again confused about the order of today’s activities.

We visited the Armenian Quarter of the city which is called New Julfa.  It was named after the older city of Julfa (Jugha), Nakhichavan in the early 17th century and it is still one of the oldest and largest Armenian quarters in the world.  They area has an Armenian school and 16 churches including the Holy Savior Cathedral (commonly known as Vank) which is where we went.

We had an Armenian guide inside the cathedral. The cathedral was established in 1606, the cathedral was dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees that were resettled by Shah Abbas I during the Ottoman War of 1603-1618. He spoke about the religion and the people. Armenians have lived for millennia in the territory that forms modern-day Iran. They have been influential and active in the modernization of Iran during the 19th and 20th centuries. Armenians in New Julfa observe iranian law with regard to clothing, but retain a distinct Armenian language, identity, cuisine,and culture which is protected by the Iranian government.  I learned that the Armenians brought the printing press to Iran.  No photos were allowed but I found these on the web.

We also toured the museum next to the church.  Several of the displays of what is depicted as the geneoside of the Armenians during the Ottoman war.  The Turkish people have written another version of this atrocity.

On the way to lunch we stopped at a the workshop of Reza Abadi and watched him demonstrate how he creates Traditional Ceramics.  He is the 7th generation of his family to study these techniques and he is now training his son.

Many of us  loved his work.  Bob and Kaye were looking at a bowl that I thought was beautiful.  I looked around for another one similar to the one they were holding.  I couldn’t find one.  Several people were buying small tiles and other items.  Bob and Kaye were negotiating the price.  It was given in Euros and by the time they were deciding, the price in US dollars had increased.  I was so surprised when Kaye walked back up to the counter (as the man was wrapping up the bowl) and said that Bob had changed his mind.  They didn’t want it.  I asked her if she was sure about that and she said that Bob had decided it would be too hard to transport.  I turned to the man and said I would take it.  He wrapped it with several layers of bubble wrap.

Here is a photo of it.  One day I will get what I need to hang in on the wall in my house.

When we were eating lunch at Charsoug Restaurant next door, Bob teased me and said that I stole his bowl.  I told him that he could have it back anytime he wanted. For the rest of the trip, we called it Bob’s bowl.  The soup at the restaurant was served in  very, very hot individual pots. They helped us pour the soup into our bowls.  It was one of the most delicious bowls of soup I have ever eaten.

After lunch I went back to the workshop and had a photo taken with the man who created my bowl (oops Bob’s bowl)


There are eleven bridges that cross the Zayandeh River in Isfahan.  Six of these are modern constructions but the other five crossings date from the Safavid period and earlier in the case of the Shahrestan Bridge. We went to the Khaju Bridge which was built around 1650  It has has 23 arches and is 133 meters long and 12 meters wide. It has been described as the city’s finest bridge.  It was a beautiful day and a Friday so many, many people were at the bridge.

There are eleven bridges that cross the Zayandeh River in Isfahan.  Six of these are modern constructions but the other five crossings date from the Safavid period and earlier in the case of the Shahrestan Bridge. We went to the Khaju Bridge which was built around 1650  It has has 23 arches and is 133 meters long and 12 meters wide. It has been described as the city’s finest bridge.

This sculpture of a lion was near the bridge.

It was a beautiful day and a Friday so many, many people were at the bridge.

As we crossed the bridge we stopped to listen to a group of men who were singing.  Others were standing around listening.

I could have spent many hours hanging out around the bridge greeting people and enjoying the beautiful weather but, of course, we had to stay with the group.

We also went to see Hasht Behesht which literally means eight pavilions in Persian.  It is a palace building that has two stories with four corner rooms around a central dome space.  The corner rooms are octagonal.  This creates 8 divisions.  These structures represent the 8 levels of paradise for Muslims. This paradigm is not confined only to Islamic antecedents.  The Chinese have the magic square for numerous purposes including crop rotation.

At some time today we strolled through the Isfahan Bazaar.   Many people were shopping for gifts.  There was a lot of waiting when people were shopping.

I think this is where Jane found a wonderful bag and Lance purchased a woven tissue box cover.

We had a great day.  I have no memory of where we ate dinner so I am assuming that it was in the hotel restaurant.

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Day in Isfahan 4/18

We felt relieved this morning when we learned that Bob had convinced Lance to go to the doctor to check out his leg. Many of us were concerned that there may have been a clot formed from being on the long plane ride 5 days ago.  Sami and Forod took him to the hospital when the rest of us went to Masjed-e Emam (The Shah Mosque).  Forod was the interpreter. Jumping ahead to mid day on this story, Lance joined us at lunch and we learned that they did an ultrasound and told him that he was fine.  We were all relieved.  An interesting part of this is that Road Scholars Assurance Program paid for his treatment and he just needed to pay them back.  I believe the cost was about $50.

I took a morning panoramic view from our balcony at the hotel.  We learned that the people of Isfahan are happy that the Zayandah River has water in it right now.  I read that the Zayandeh used to have significant flow all year long, unlike many of Iran’s rivers which are seasonal, but today runs dry due to water extraction before reaching the city of Isfahan. In the early 2010s, the lower reaches of the river dried out completely after several years of seasonal dry-outs.  Last night Farden told me that when the river is dry, the city feels dead.  We are lucky to be here now.

I think that Nadereh decided to rearrange our schedule so we could arrived at the Shah Mosque in the before the crowds.  But when we arrived,  there were people everywhere and we had to wait our turn to enter the mosque.  I may very well have my photos mixed up since we changed the order of what we visited and I clearly did not take careful notes on this day..  I am just going to attempt to list the places we saw and perhaps record some facts I read.  Then I will just put the photos at the end of this post.

The Royal Mosque and the Square are both registered as a UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The  splendor  of the mosque is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.

The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the four monuments that dominate the perimeter of the square and was one of the first to be built. The purpose of this mosque was for it to be private for the royal court (unlike the shah Mosque which was meant for the public).

The dome was  spectacular.


I beleive that this may be the Chehel Soutum because I did record that there were  many pictures on the walls.   

I do remember that the Naqsh e Jahan  Square was amazing.  It was quite the attraction with horse-drawn carriages available for rides.

We walked around in the square.

What a beautiful entrance.

This is another view of the square.  They used to play polo in the middle of this square.

These are some more photos I took today.


These are not just designs.  They actually are calligraphy and Nadereh could read some of it

I think this may be a tomb.

I think this is the Ali Qapu Palace which is on the west side of Naqsh e Jahan Square

I think that the polo games were viewed from the balcony of this building.

We climbed a spiral staircase up to the 6th floor to the music hall where deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic.

We were able to take photos of Naqsh e Jahan Square from above it.

I was even able to take a panoramic photo.

We enjoyed the decor at the restaurant where we had lunch.


We went to the Chehelsotum Museum. where we saw more than 300 instruments from around Iran.  Since  I didn’t  take  any  photos  while  we  were there  I am  using  this  one  from an  article  in  the  Guardian  on  the  web.  

On the way into the museum we passed these photos of  the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhan and  Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Their photos are depicted on posters everywhere in Iran.

We stopped in a shop where a man was demonstrating how he hand-block printed designs onto material.

As we walked from place to place I engaged in my favorite activity, taking photographs of the local people and even having brief interactions with some of them.

These young adults were playing soccer

These people invited me to come sit with them but I had to follow the group.

We stopped to rest for a while and get something to drink.

Sheila was having a conversation with this man who spoke english.

I love to take photos of people.

We were taken to a carpet store where they gave a lecture about the different Iranian carpets.  We had tea and were shown many different carpets.  Sally was inspecting one.

Bob did not find this very exciting.

I thought about buying a very small silk carpet to hang on the wall until I found out it was over $500.  Some of the larger carpets were amazing with a different pattern on each side.  A couple of people did find carpets to buy.  So how do you buy carpets with a credit card in Iran? Let me just say that there are ways around the system and the sanctions.

We returned to our room at the hotel and had time to relax. I took a few afternoon shots from our balcony.

I went down to the lobby a bit early to wait to go to dinner and I saw 4 of the women in our group coming back into the hotel,  I learned that they had gone out for a walk across in the park and across a bridge while Jane and I were in our room.  I didn’t understand how they managed to do that but I felt so jealous and really wished I had been included.  I certainly would have gone with them.

We were driven close to the restaurant tonight but the street was too narrow for the bus to get there so we had to walk down the narrow street and passed a very old mosque.

We also passed another beautiful doorway.

We ate at Malek Solton Jarchibashi, a beautiful museum restaurant with live music.


It is kind of strange but I took a photo of the rectangular water bottles.

As we left the restaurant, we were given chocolates.  II opened the chocolate and there was a face on it.  When we got back to the hotel, I took a photo of the wrapper and the chocolate.

The face is Shah Abbas.  He is honored.  One thing he did was to move the capital of the Empire from Qazvin in the north to Isfahan in the center where it was better protected against the Ottomans.  The chocolate was delicious.

It was another day packed with activities.

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Meybod Area 4/17

This morning we drove to Meybod,, an ancient city (dating back to 3rd century BC) notable for its remarkable handicrafts. Meybod goes back to pre-Islamic arena and, hence, is the home to many ancient points of interests. It is part of the Tentative List to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Unfortunately, some of its historical points were demolished by local authorities who did not understand the archeological values. Yet, it hosts many tourists from every corner of the world every day.

We stopped at the Narin Citadel, an important historical castle dating to pre-Islamic times before the advent of Islam to Iran.

It is one of the oldest castles in Iran and dates back from the Sassanian period (224 to 624 AD) . This ancient castle has been constructed on the top of Galeen hill and overlooks the city. Although built some 2,000 years ago, it contains what seems to be a type of plumbing system (made out of a kind of mortar called sarooj) which was built into its massive walls.  It is too bad that we weren’t able to explore the castle more.  These are photos from the outside.

You could see the city in the background.

Of course, Sally and I took photos of each other.

When we got back to the bus we discovered that Forod, our driver, had found a man selling pistachio nuts flavored with saffron and many of us purchased a bag.

They were a treat to eat.

Off we drove to the Shah Abbasi Caravanserai,   It was a roadside Inn which supported the flow of commerce, information, and people across the network of trade routes covering Asia, North Africa, and southeastern Europe especially along the silk road. The mud-brick structure is named after Shah Abbas the Great who ordered construction of such roadside inns across the country.  This is another photo from the web.

The building is made up of covered passageways, exterior verandas, vestibule, central yard, and 100 rooms. Today, there are many shops inside and in the courtyard.  We wondered through the complex and several people in our group made purchases.


We exchanged traditional greetings with an Iranian woman and took photographs.

The next place we visited was fascinating.  It is called Yakhchal which means “Ice pit.” It is actually an ancient type of evaporative cooler. Above ground, the structure had a domed shape, but had a subterranean storage space. It was often used to store ice, but sometimes was used to store food as well.  By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of using yakhchāls to create ice in the winter and store it in the summer in the desert. In most yakhchāls, the ice is created by itself during the cold seasons of the year; the water is channeled from the ganat (Iranian aqueduct) to the yakhchāl and it freezes upon resting inside the structure. The yakhchāl was built using a unique water resistant mortar called sarooj, composed of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash in specific proportions, that is resistant to heat transfer and is thought to be completely water impenetrable. This material acts as an effective insulation all year round. The sarooj walls are at least two meters thick at the base.

This is the outside of Yakhchal in Meybod.

This is where the ice was stored.  You can see a staircase going down into it..

Again today our driver, Forod, found a treat for us.  He was waiting at the bus with watermelon.

We all enjoyed at least one piece – especially Sami.

On the way to the Pigeon House we passed a man who was weaving.

When Nadereh said we were going to the Pigeon Tower, we didn’t know what it was. In the past, pigeon towers were built all over Iran for the purpose of collecting the birds’ droppings. The farmers of the past knew how pigeon droppings are a very rich and effective fertilizer for growing plants and crops. What a great idea.

Several of us climbed to the top of the towers.

As soon as we entered it, I remembered the pigeon houses that the farmers near Cappadocia in Turkey built into the walls. Due to the modern-day global culture of industrial farming and agriculture, these are actually no longer being used in Yazd or perhaps anywhere in Iran. I spoke to Sami about this and he said that the ones in Cappadocia are still being used.

Bob took a photo of me coming down the stairs.  The steps were very steep.

We sat around a bit in the pigeon tower.

We visited was the Pirnia Traditional House.  It is a traditional house which we were told is perfect example of this region’s desert houses in terms of architecture and art. It was constructed in the Safavid Period but I am not sure when.  The period is listed from 1502 to 1736.

The house consists of an exterior, an interior, a deep garden, a silo room and all of the facilities that a lord’s house needed to have at the time it was constructed.

 I think Nadereh said the gardens were created as a place to keep cool in the summer.  I sure enjoyed them.

Lastly we visited the Jameh Mosque of Nain.  It is one of the oldest mosques in Iran.  It dates back to the 9th century with  interiors dating back to the 11th century and it is still in use today.  Jameh Mosque does not have the tiled dome that is common to many mosques due to its age and style.

There are a series of tunnels which historically delivered water to this mosque.

This is one of the water pits.

There was a  man weaving heavy coats

and  Nadereh tried on this coat which is made out of camel hair.

Someplace near the mosque there was a soldier.  We took photos of Bob and Kay with him.

Then Sami took one of me.  The soldier called me, “Grandmother.”

As we left the mosque area I spoke with this beautiful woman and took her photo.

We drove to Isfahan.   I took a few photos through the bus window as we drove into Isfahan.

I sure wished I was out there walking through this park.

I think this is the day that we also visited the Hasht Behesht located in the center of the Garden of Nightingales.  Hasht means 8 and the name translates to Eight Paradises. I could not find my photo so I am taking one from the web.  It is from a different season.

This is a photo of the ceiling inside the palace (also from the web).

We were suppose to have leisure time to walk over the bridges in Isfahan but that did not happen because it was too late.  That was disappointing.

This was the night that I had arranged to meet Fardin, a Servas member who lives in Isfahan.  Nadereh had not contacted him yet and right after we checked into the hotel, I reminded her that we had to contact him right away because it as already getting late.  I stood there with her as she tried to call his phone number.

Then we went to dinner.  At dinner we found out that Lance’s leg was swelled.  That was very concerning because he told us that it started after he got off the airplane on the 12th.  We voiced our concern with him.

This is the view from our room at night.

After dinner Nadereh called me in my room and told me that Fardin had returned her call and would arrive at about 9:30.  I was excited about meeting with him.  It turned out that Nadereh had to stay with us the entire time. I don’t want to write down our conversation but Nadereh’s questions certainly affected our time.  Fardin recognized how tired Nadereh looked so we didn’t meet for very long.  I was disappointed not to be able to talk to him alone and for a longer time.   She did take a photo for us.

I treasure my time with people.


Towers of Silence, Ateshkadeh, Jame Mosque, Bahg-E-Dolatabad, Amir Chakhmaq Complex, Ghanbar Bazaar and More – April 16

It was so delightful to walk through the gardens on the way to breakfast this morning.  Just before we got on the bus a few of us noticed that there were two pet Macaws perched near hotel office.  Bob, a man on our trip, told me that they were from 2 different species.  We found their behavior very interesting.  One of them was holding the other’s beak his/her beak and wouldn’t let go for a long time.

I read some interesting information about Yazd.  The city dates back to 3,000 BCE. Historically, Yazd was a halt on what was once the main trade route across southern Iran. It was spared destruction at the hands of the Mongols, and Marco Polo, who stopped there about 1272 AD, lauded Yazd as a “good and noble city”, noted for its fine silks.  Its location kept it safe from the ravages of war and destruction for centuries and so its local culture remained strong.

The city is made almost entirely of adobe and mud brick. Beyond its importance as a desert “port” for trade, Yazd was one of the principal centers of the Zoroastrian religion.

The first place we visited this morning was the Tower of Silence.

Since the towers of silence used to be located in the distant places, far away from the village, the family and relatives of the diseased had to walk for a couple of hours to get to the site, they needed a place to stay and rest.  Countrymen of each village built their own personalized buildings called, “Khayleh” to perform their religious rituals and get ready before returning back to their village.  Each Khayleh has many chambers in the The reason why every village had their own personalized building was to prevent interference on communal rituals and annual events while these buildings could be used publicly on other occasions.

We walked down into one.

There are openings in the roof,

We climbed one of the staircases to the top of the raised circular structure that the Zoroastrians built to place dead bodies to expose them to carrion birds.  The process is called excarnation.  It was first attested from the 5th century BCE but the use of the towers is first documented in the early 9th century.  The doctrinal rationale for exposure is to avoid contact with earth or fire, both of which are considered sacred.  Zoroastrian tradition considers a dead body (in addition to cut hair and nails pairings) to be nasu, unclean, with potential pollutants.  Basically the corpse demon was believed to rush into the body and contaminate it.  That is why there is a Vendidad (an ecclesiastical code given against the demons) has rules for disposing of the dead as safely as possible.  We climbed to the top of one of the staircases to where the bodies used to be placed.

The bodies were laid out around the pit in the center. Men were placed in the outer circle, women in the middle, and children in the inner-most ring. Bodies were then left until their bones were bleached by the elements and stripped by the vultures.

.. and after the process of purification, bones were placed in ossuaries or pits in the center.

In the early twentieth century the Iranian Zoroastrians gradually discontinued their use and began to favor burial or cremation.  Graves were lined with rocks and plastered with cement to prevent direct contact with the earth.  In Yazd and Kerman in addition to cemeteries, orthodox Zoroastrians continued to maintain a tower until the 1970s when ritual exposure was prohibited by law.

Before we left Sally and I took photos of each other.

After the Towers of Silence, we went to the Ateshkadeh which is the most important remaining fire temple in Iran.

Ateshkadeh enshrines the Atash Bahram, meaning “Victorious Fire”, dated to 470 AD. It is one of the nine Atash Bahrams, the only one of the highest grade fire in ancient Iran where Zoroastrians  have practiced their religion since 400 BC; the other eight Atash Bahrams are in India.

According to the Zoroastrian religion, this type of fire is consecrated by sixteen different sources including the fire created by a lightning bolt   The name, Atash Behram, more accurately defines the grade of consecrated fire in the temple than it does the temple.  Each of the 16 fires was subjected to a purification ritual before it joined the others.

Zoroastrians do not worship fire.  They are keepers of the fire.  The sacred fire is installed in the temple behind an amber tinted glass enclosure.  Only Zoroastrians are allowed to go into the sanctum area of the fire.  Non-Zoroastrians can only view it from outside the glass chamber.


Nadereh took a group photo in front of the temple.  You can see the Winged Diety, Zoroastrian symbol, on the top of the temple.

Next we went to the Jame Mosque.  The two towering minarets dating back to the Safavid era measure 52 meters in height and 6 meters in diameter. I think they are the highest in Iran. This mosque was largely rebuilt between 1324 and 1365 and is one of the outstanding 14th century buildings of Iran.  The façade is decorated from top to bottom in tile work, predominantly blue in color.


There were shops on the way to the mosque where Nadera purchased band-aids for Sally’s leg.  They were selling blue pots at one of the shops.

I took more photos both inside and outside the mosque.

There were hidden alcoves for women to be able to ask questions of the Iman without being seen.

Then walked through the old streets in Yazd.  Yazd is close to the Spice and Silk roads.  It is a living testimony to intelligent use of limited available resources in the desert for survival. Water is brought to the city by the qanat system.  Each district of the city is built on a qanat and has a communal center. Buildings are built of earth. The use of earth in buildings includes walls and roofs by the construction of vaults and domes.  Houses are built with courtyards below ground level, serving underground areas.  Wind-catchers, courtyards, and thick earthen walls create a pleasant microclimate. Partially covered alleyways together with streets, public squares and courtyards contribute to a pleasant urban quality. The city escaped the modernization trends that destroyed many traditional earthen cities.  The city enjoys the peaceful coexistence of three religions: Islam, Judiasm and Zoroastriasm.

I loved taking photos as we walked through the old streets

We passed by the Kohan hotel which belongs to Mr. Taslim who lived in this house for twenty five years. and After doing some repairs on it in 2004, it was turned into the  Kohan Traditional Hotel

It was my friend, Rachelle’s grandfather who built this hotel and her father grew up in it.  Rachelle had suggested that we stop there for tea, but we only had a few minutes for me to take photos.  It would have been a nice place for the group to relax for a bit on this busy day.