By Ana Luz Perez-Duran
We’re on the road again today. After discovering the treasures of Isfahan, our group gets ready—with a heavy heart—for the last leg of our trip. We are headed to Shiraz, with stops at Pasargadae and Persepolis. And we’re all in for a real treat.
The land that rolls across both sides of the road is at times mountainous, dry and spotted with shrubs. It’s perhaps the scenes I see playing out through my window that have moved me most, perhaps because they evoke memories of family road trips across northern Mexico. Maybe I came here looking to discover an unknown world and what I have found is familiar in both people and landscape.
As we make our way further into the interior of this country by road, we get a glimpse at the life led by Iranians in the countryside. For me, this provides us with a more complete and richer appreciation of the country we all have fallen in love with. The land that initially seemed to withhold life reveals itself to be more generous than one would think. Every mile unveils pomegranate orchards (plenty of them for sale on the roadside) and fields of all sorts of vegetables, and even corn.
Shahram, our guide, takes this time to tell us about Iranian life, and begins by telling us about Nowruz, the celebration of the Persian New Year. This was the purpose for which Persepolis was built. Nowruz is a major celebration for Iranians and also for Afghans, Iraqis, Azerbaijanis, and Pakistanis, just to name a few people in the region who observe it. Besides this being a time to celebrate health and abundance and all those things we wish for, it is a time, we are told, for family and setting aside differences.
When the ambassadors of the provinces of the Persian empire marched through the gates of Takht-e-Jamshid, the throne of Jamshid, or what we know as Persepolis, they came in friendship to celebrate this day. So the artisans at this grand complex of kings recorded this to be known. Ambassadors were led in, holding the king’s men's hands in a symbol of friendship (see top photo).
I suppose it was a balanced peace, laid out by the greatest of all Persian kings, Cyrus the Great, whose monument we visited in Pasargadae. Cyrus the Great was not the first of the Persian kings, but he expanded their influence to cover what at that time may have seemed like almost the whole world. He let others rule as was customary in their lands. He gave the then known world his declaration of human rights through his Cylinder of Cyrus.
We are here as a peace delegation, so it’s fitting that we are stopping at these two sites that, aside from their material importance, are places that invite personal and collective reflections on war and peace. Typically, these grand monuments serve as a physical legacy of abstract grandeur, or worse yet, war and imposition of power. But underlying the beauty of these two sites is the idea of peace. The latter has been the way in this part of the world. Not only is peace a desire, but it is also something that is possible to create. Perhaps, this is why at least I have felt shielded from the threat of war this past week as we have made our way south from Tehran. The Persian kings too struggled with how to maintain that ideal. But looking at their legacy in this light is a good beginning to start finding that balanced peace.
Tomorrow we will visit the city of roses and poetry, and goodbyes begin.