July 5, 2013

Next Up: Ancient Persia, Modern Iran

Isfahan Mosque, 1974

Jack and I are deep into planning our next adventure—Iran in the Fall. We both love ancient history, archeology, and have a deep appreciation for Persian art and culture. After exploring silk road cities in Uzbekistan several years ago, Iran seems a natural next step—for me anyway.

Jack toured Iran in 1974. I’d always dreamed of going, but felt that—in the current political climate—I might not get the chance.

So when a brochure advertising this trip—Ancient Persia, Modern Iran—crossed my desk, I jumped on the phone. The trip is sponsored by MIR Corporation,  an adventure travel company I know and trust after our indelible journey to Uzbekistan with them in 2009.

“Are you sure it’s safe?” I asked. “Will Americans be welcome?”

“Yes and yes,”  the planner at MIR Travel told me.

“We’ve been running this trips without incident for years. Our guests love it.” I signed us up just in time. A couple of weeks later, the trip was sold out.

Jack poured over the itinerary, then—gaining enthusiasm—arranged for an extension to a few World Heritage spots that weren’t on the list.

We’ve ordered guidebooks, histories of Iran—both ancient and modern—memoirs, and maps. While I’m still digesting history, filling out visa applications, and scouring my closet for something to wear that will meet the dress code for women, Jack’s been haunting the UC Berkeley libraries for academic papers and translations of the Old Persian cuneiform text on the monuments.

He, of course, wants me to study the texts with him. We spent last evening decoding the text to the famous staircase at Darius’ Palace at Persepolis. Geeky fun!

But tomorrow, I’ll start studying my Farsi phrasebook.  Knowing a few words of ancient Persian might be a novelty, but polite niceties in the living language will make a better impression.  My  minimum vocabulary musts: “Good morning-afternoon-evening,” “Please,” “Thank you so much,” “It’s beautiful,” and the all-important “Could you direct me to the ladies room.”

Here are a few of Iran’s historical treasures we’re hoping to see, taken from Jack’s 1974 photo cache.

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Anne Sigmon

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