I’ve been forced to memories to take me back to Iran. The smell of the small but fiery radishes on a bed of herbs, the feel of a hot chai around my hands and the warmth of meeting friendly local people on the way to pick up a jagged chunk of sangak, bread made on hot stones. I think back to my travels in Iran, the old ruins of Persepolis, the rush of Tehran’s streets and the grandeur of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest squares on the planet.
And for now, while a looming pandemic still takes over our lives, I turn to my television screen, too. I rewatch the BBC series Art of Persia, again and again which was released last year, and I see the moving images of Iran on my screen. It ignites memories of my childhood, my family. I’ve been to Naqsh-e Jahan Square several times. My uncle would clutch a samovar of tea, my aunts would pack up piles of Tupperware of rice and kebab. And we would sit. And we would chat. And we would laugh. Everyone was present, no phone, no screen. But now, in this global pandemic, I am turning to said digital screen as a tool to take me back there, to Iran, to my family. I see the stall that I bought my first ever chessboard from, I notice the purest blue on the tiles on the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and I hear the clippety clop of the horses’ hooves that whisk travellers around the square. A smily Samira Ahmed walks the same streets that I have trundled over, discovering this place for the first time in her life, what utter, pure joy.
“The Persians called this square, Naqsh-e Jahan Square, half the world, meaning to see it was to see half the world,” Samira Ahmed says. I once saw half the world, and after this global pandemic, I will see half the world again. I will hear the trickle of fountains on the square, I will wave hello to stall sellers around the square’s surroundings, and I will sit with my family and converse. And until that moment, that sweet moment when we can travel again more freely, I will relish in the dance of my memories and smile along with Samira.
For more information about the Naqshe-e Jahan Square read The Art of Persia: seeing half the world at Naqsh-e Jahan Square.