A Memorable Day

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A Memorable Day

By Cheryl Moore

We had arrived in Mashad, a city in north east Iran, the night before. It is the site of the holy Shrine of Imam Ali Reza, the eighth Imam, a site where the followers of the Shi’a branch of the Islamic faith make pilgrimage.

The mosque was a beautiful, gleaming white structure with four minarets, one at each corner. Women must cover up with a chador to enter. As I didn’t own one, I had to borrow one, but it only came to my midi-calf, not my ankles, as it did on Iranian women. My pale skin and blue eyes gave me away as a foreigner. I couldn’t just blend in. Before entering we had to take off our shoes and leave them outside on the steps. I hoped mine wouldn’t be stolen, I didn’t fancy walking barefoot on the sun-scorched ground the rest of the day.

It was beautiful inside, the walls decorated in glowing geometric patterned tiles of dark and light blue, white, tan, yellow, black and green. No human or animal images are allowed. Many heads turned to stare at me as we were swept along around the central Imam’s tomb with the flow of pilgrims. I hadn’t ever been in a mosque before even though there was a tiny neighborhood one very close to where I was living in Tehran. Coming out into the daylight, I was happy to retrieve my shoes.

Later that day we drove further into the Central Asian steppes to visit an outdoor market where live animals were bought and sold. Turkoman tribesmen dressed in sheep skin and domed hats still used moveable yurts as they followed their herds, speaking a Turkic language unlike the Farsi I was more familiar with in Tehran. For me it was as close as I’ll ever get to the famous Silk Road trade route. I imagined traders crossing these dusty plains day after day with camels, donkeys and their swift ponies, occasionally camping near caravansaries at oases. Such vast open spaces probably unchanged since Marco Polo came this way.

All too soon it was back to big city Tehran with its crowds, street vendors calling out their wares, and the morning and evening blare of a loudspeaker calling the faithful to prayer.

When Cheryl Moore came to California in the early 1960’s, she realized she’d found her home. Then moving to Petaluma in the 70’s, she was as close to paradise as she’d ever get. Travel has taken her to Europe and the Middle East, including living four years in Tehran. She has written on these memories as well as on the flora and fauna of the local river and her own garden.

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