My phone camera cannot capture the magnificence of the mirror and glass ceiling of the Imam Reza Shrine Mashhad, Iran’s spiritual capital and second largest city is located more than 900 kilometers to the northeast and borders Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. This made Mashhad the perfect entry point to my next destination: the ancient Achaemenid satrapy and Seljuk Turk citadel of Merv (Margiana), Turkmenistan. Although not a usual tourist destination for foreigners and non-Muslims, Mashhad is actually a famous site for Shia Muslims worldwide. Devotees flock to Mashhad’s Imam Reza Shrine by the millions during Muharram, the first month of
In Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul are two statues. Korea’s great King Sejong holds forth majestically in front of the Gyeongbuk Palace (and the presidential Blue House behind the palace) and Admiral Yi Sun-sin, Korea’s greatest hero and naval commander, standing like a sentinel and holding a broadsword some distance away. Most foreign tourists are familiar with King Sejong and gather in front of his statue to take photos while considerably less people (mostly Koreans) take photos of Admiral Yi. While all Koreans are well acquainted with Admiral Yi’s story, foreigners are mostly clueless about his story. The Life and Career of
It was in Kang Village in Mashhad, Iran, that I learned how to say no five times before accepting offers of food and drinks. Taroof, the Persian custom of civility and deference, can be a landmine in local – foreigner relations. Persians make offers that they expect will be refused. Its basic component is politeness; by a complicated dance of offers and refusals, people show their respect and deference to one another. Accept offers too early and the offerer will be put on the spot and forced to do something they didn’t really mean to in the first place. Reject
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