You can take a girl out of Iran, but …

 

You can take a girl out of Iran but … you can’t take Iran out of the girl.

After 35 years I’m returning for a visit to Iran. The country where I was born; where my grandparents are laid to rest; where I’ve left my heart since the very moment I was away.

I’m leaving NY in less than two weeks, arriving in Tehran just before Norooz, the Iranian new year. I’m excited to be back at such a special and festive time. I can’t wait to set foot on the soil of Tehran; I can’t wait to peek at the snowy peaks of Damavand mountain; I can’t wait to take a bite out of noneh sangak; and I can’t wait to see family, and old and new friends.

There are so many things I want to do and see and smell and taste and experience and feel. I want to travel a bit to a few cities — the fabled ones and also some that are a bit off the beaten path. I want to go and have a good cry at the graves of my grandparents. I want to see the children of those who where children when I left. I want to jump over a chanshanbeh suri bonfire and tell the fire: your red is mine, my yellow is yours. I want to see everyone’s sofreh ye haft seen. I want to go for a sizdah bedar Persian picnic by a stream. I want to see a shopkeeper’s rows of Norooz goldfish swimming in bowls, I want to feast my eyes on the sight of all the spring flowers and shirini, I want to live dangerously and eat a roasted corn dipped in salty water off a side cart; I want to go skiing in Dizin. I want to talk to people, go to the parks, take the metro, go mountain climbing, go to the coffee shops, go to all the museums, check out the art galleries in Tehran, and go to the holy shrines. I want to eat chaghaleh badoom and gojeh sabz, I want to taste the sour-cherry lavashak, I want to sit on a good Persian rug and take dainty sips from a hot estakan ‘eh chai with yek habeh ghand. I want to go to a public bath and get a good dal ‘luck rubdown. I do! And if circumstances permit, I want to climb a mulberry tree and eat mulberries, white and red, as many as I can grab off the branches, to my heart’s content. I want to say hello hello hello because I never ever wanted to say goodbye.

Of course, I’m also already homesick for this home right here, too. The quandary of hyphenated people. I’ll miss my family, friends, neighborhood, neighbors, and my beloved Brooklyn. And I already miss all of you! I’m thankful to be able to share this with you.

It will be an emotional journey, a sentimental journey, and God willing, an epic, adventurous and wonderful journey. I’ve already drawn buckets of feelings from the deepest wells in my being and I’ve shed cleansing tears of a mixture of joy and nostalgia and all sorts of smorgasbord of emotions when I made the decision to embark on this trip; when I bought my ticket; and whenever I manage to sit quietly and contemplate the by now inevitable fact that in less than 14 days I’ll be stepping on the soil of a place that sometimes feels like it was only the landscape of a dream. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have the butterflies as well. Because I do. I do.

But ultimately, this is a journey that I’m driven with every fiber of my being to make. It’s love. You see. It’s love. And I’ve been away for far too long.





All the photos in this post were taken by and are courtesy of John Thompson.

Edited to add: Here are my own Instagram pix from my #myepictriptoIran! Updated constantly as time/mood permits! 🙂

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Comments (110)

  • gwynnem 6 years ago Reply

    Azita, this post choked me up. I’m so glad you’ll be able to visit a place that has been in your heart all these years that you’ve been away. Iran is such a beautiful, complex country, and reading your blog allows that complexity to shine through. I wish you a safe and fulfilling journey.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Complex is a good and apt adjective. Thank you dear Gwynnem, means a lot.

  • Tina 6 years ago Reply

    I have tears of joy for you. Well done and God bless.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you Tina jan! 🙂

  • apuginthekitchen 6 years ago Reply

    I know you will have an amazing trip and that you will post fantastic photo’s and a narrative that will make us all feel as though we are right there with you, we are, really, with you in spirit. Safe travels my friend this will be the trip of a lifetime. I loved your post, the emotion is palpable.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you dear Suzanne. Your care and support means the world.

  • yaakov49 6 years ago Reply

    I hope your trip is everything you expect and more. Be safe and enjoy! Perhaps when you get home, you can advise us on on do’s and don’t’s, best travel agency to use, best airline to use, safety concerns, best current restaurants, etc. Have a wonderful time!
    On Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 12:06 PM, Fig & Quince

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you for reading and visiting and for your best wishes. That is a good idea and I’ll definitely try to take notes & write a good, concise travel guide post.

  • bonnieeng 6 years ago Reply

    I can’t wait to hear all about your trip! I wish you safe travels and remember to enjoy every single moment fearlessly! =)

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    It’s interesting to me that you mention “fearlessly” … as that is my wish as well. Thank you!

    bonnieeng 6 years ago

    Yes…fearlessly!! =)

  • BeyondSixRivers 6 years ago Reply

    I hope you have a lovely trip. I hope that someday I can visit your beautiful Iran.
    Safe travels.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you! I hope you can visit Iran someday as well.

  • I cannot wait to read all about your trip! Your feelings must be complex and strong. 35 years – that is a long time – and what history there for your family. Why did your family leave Iran – and what precipitated the long absence from your homeland?

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Shanna … that is a story best told another time! 🙂

    I look forward to hearing, when you choose to share, of course.

  • I love that first image…and the kayak looks wonderful too.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    The perfect place to sit and have tea! And some medjool dates maybe! 🙂

  • the winegetter 6 years ago Reply

    I already was excited for you before this post, but now I am e static for you. Thanks you for sharing the depth of your emotions going into this trip, andnfor letting us be a part. Enjoy the next two weeks, and then take a trip for the ages!!!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you dear Oliver! What a sweet and wonderful comment. I do hope it’ll be the trip for the ages. Hope yours and Mrs. this summer will be epic and wonderful as well and can’t wait till we all meet again in person and exchange notes and memories! 🙂

  • tableofcolors 6 years ago Reply

    So much emotion in your post, I can just feel the excitement and anticipation! Have a wonderful trip!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you dear Laila! 🙂

  • Taste-of-PhD 6 years ago Reply

    How beautiful you expressed your feelings in this post : )
    Have a wonderful trip Azita… I am so happy for you and looking forward to your posts about your visit to Iran!
    don’t forget to have some ‘Aab Zereshk’!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Ha ha, I was thinking of many things but had entirely forgotten about ‘aab zereshk” … glad you reminded me 😉

  • Amanda 6 years ago Reply

    What beautiful desires and wants. I love this post. I can’t wait to read all about it and to guess at what you keep only to yourself. I’m so glad things lined up in a way that you will get to return. I want to know more about the jumping over the fire and what you and the fire exchange. This is going to be an amazing journey. Much love and luck.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Amanda, one of the reasons I chose this particular date to travel was to make it in time to the fire jumping ceremony. I hope to be able to share some of the experience for sure. Thank you for your sweet comment!

  • polianthus 6 years ago Reply

    a truly touching post, so much love, so much yearning, it is heart breaking – you describe a love of Iran that I have seen before in my closest friends, a deep connection to a land and it’s foods and customs and people, it makes me sad for you and happy for you, as it did when I listened to my friends talk about what they had lost, although their silences said much much more than their words ever did. What was lost was in the silence. I wish you a heart-filling trip.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    thank you dear Polianthus!

  • polianthus 6 years ago Reply

    ps these emotions are ones shared by all of us who have left roots behind – and it would be a better world if others who did not understand what this means could feel just a little bit of what you have described and thereby understand that leaving ones home is very often a necessity and that one leaves a part of oneself behind, and that likewise our home always lives on within us too.
    Not sure if any of this makes sense to you, sometimes it’s hard to put this type of thing in writing.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    It does make sense. It’s complicated. You understand. I’d write more … but maybe it’d be better in another post.
    Thank you!

  • ladyredspecs 6 years ago Reply

    The tears welled into my eyes Azita as I read your post. I sense you can barely sleep because of anticipation and trepidation. I’ll looking out for your posts about your journey, safe travels……😘

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Aw, thank you! This means a lot and I treasure the sentiment. 🙂 <3

  • Abby's Kitchen 6 years ago Reply

    God speed. May you have a blessed & wonderful time. Keep us updated with pics and all. Lovely post~

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you and hope so and will do! 🙂

  • lapetitecasserole 6 years ago Reply

    ok, In general I’m quite shy, but not so much afraid of saying that your post made me cry. I’ve been touched by your words, by the feeling that I perceive from all the details of your post. Your words made me also feel so lucky, since I have the chance to go back to my country 1-2 per year. Treasure your feelings, is the best thing we can do when we are away for far too long from something we love.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    It is so very kind of you to share your feelings despite being shy and I am grateful for the lovely sentiment. You are lucky to get to go back every year! I’m actually writing down the last sentence of your comment to keep and remember when I travel. Thank you!

  • Banafsheh 6 years ago Reply

    Bon voyage my dear friend, have a lot of fun. Cant wait to read your post-trip posts! Uncle JohnT’s pictures are like images you remember after a sweet dream…

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Mersi Banafsheh joon! 🙂 I wish a certain someone was traveling at the same time with me but I’ll still try to have fun!
    The photos are something else, aren’t they?

  • […] You can take a girl out of Iran, but … | Fig & Quince […]

  • ahu 6 years ago Reply

    What a touching post about an emotional journey. Can’t wait to hear how it is – I hope to be able to take the same trip (for the first time!) one day also 🙂

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Ahu jan, you were born here? I do hope you’ll be able to go and visit one day. Mersi for your sweet comment.

  • Azita joon!!! I wish my farsi would be strong enough to express what I wanted to say, every body else on this post had said it already. I can smell all the flavors of your journey and picture most of it, like Damavand mountain, and the hafseen for Nooruz and so on. I love your excitement and share it with you in my thoughts. Dusted daram, love your country, have the most wonderful trip ever. Are you staying mostly in Teheran?

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Cornelia joon, bah bah, what a wonderful comment, like a good dessert. Thank you! I’ll be staying mostly in Tehran, but also, hopefully, traveling a good bit as well, for sure to Isfahan and Shiraz and a few other places on my list 😉

    Dessert? Sounds good! Oh I wish to be in your suitcase! Just making Eshkeneh, perfect for rainy days here, finally!!! From the Persian cookbook of Najimieh Batmanglij and my persian mother in laws teachings.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago

    Wait! You were making eshkeneh, Cornelia? Will you please do a guest post for me one day? Or even soon, before I leave? I’ll schedule it to post while I’m away. Would LOVE it!! Pretty please?

  • Gather and Graze 6 years ago Reply

    There were goosebumps up and down my arms while reading this post Azita – I’m so very excited for you and hope that you’re able to see and do all of the wonderful things that you’ve mentioned! May you travel safely and enjoy every single minute of being home in Iran. M.xx

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you dear Margo! 🙂 xoxo

  • Flora 6 years ago Reply

    Beautiful post Azita. I hope you have a wonderful time on your visit home!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you!

  • Maria Dernikos 6 years ago Reply

    Oh my goodness what a post. I wish that your every wish will be granted and that you have the time that you have dreamed of. I bid you a safe and happy journey. Look forward to your return.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you dear Maria! 😀

  • ediblethings 6 years ago Reply

    I am delighted for you that you are going to be in your homeland for Norooz! This is fantastic news for you. And fantastic news for us readers, I’m looking forward to more stunning photos already! Have a wonderful time

  • Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Ha ha, yes, for sure there will be some photo posts! Thank you!

  • ChgoJohn 6 years ago Reply

    Safe travels and a wonderful homecoming!

  • laya 6 years ago Reply

    You will have a great trip..

  • Ross 6 years ago Reply

    Photographs of mulberry stained fingers are expected, thank you.
    Bon Voyage, I suspect your future tears will be ones of joy and nostalgia

  • Fae's Twist & Tango 6 years ago Reply

    Outpouring of your emotions/sentiments, and in return, outpouring of sincere and touching bon voyages. Well expressed Azita jan. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians want to be able to be in your position, and will have the same anticipation. Jaye maro ham dar vatan khalikon. Safe trip and lots of joy and good foods.

  • Shahrzad 6 years ago Reply

    Azita jan you wrapped up every emotion and wish of every Iranian living away from home so beautifully. I wish I could go through your to-do list and experience it too. Your timing for your comeback couldn’t be better. Tehran in Spring is magic! I might be making a quick emergency trip next week for a few days, have to be back by 18th so will miss Norooz. My heart is already in pieces dreading the goodbyes. No place like home. From now on I’m sure you’ll planning regularly trips back.

  • Sophie33 6 years ago Reply

    Such a lovely read & aka post! Just beautifully written & cool pics too! x

  • afracooking 6 years ago Reply

    What a beautiful post – loved the story and the pictures. Wishing you a wonderful trip!

  • The Novice Gardener 6 years ago Reply

    So happy and excited for you! I wish you could take me with you; I’m already jealous of the mulberry climbing and eating! Safe travels, Azita, but I hope you won’t be away for too long? I’m already missing you! 🙂

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    I know, I’m missing everything and everyone too already Angie. You guessed at this right away … remember when you asked if I was giving a hint? ha ha!

    The Novice Gardener 6 years ago

    I can hear you think, that’s why! I knew you were going to Iran. That last photo gave it away! But 2 months is too long! You’ll stay in touch? Unless of course you’ll have too much fun, then you’ll forget us, then you’ll decide to stay…

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago

    it’s tempting to think that I can go and just stay but the reality is … here is home too. A quandary! 😉 We’ll see!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago

    I knew you knew but I tried to led you astray anyhow by being coy and ambivalent … ha ha. You’re far too clever for me! 😉

  • Johnny Hepburn 6 years ago Reply

    The landscape looks amazing. And Spring is such a good time to see it in with its new growth. Really wish you well with your journey!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Spring is the best time. Ah Johnny, I hope it’ll be fun! It’s the land of caramelized onions so I shall remember you often 😉

  • Josiane 6 years ago Reply

    Afarin! In khabar-e khubi ast! There you go, making me want to break out my rusty Farsi… and go back to Iran too! I’m not sure when I’ll get to go visit again (and practice Farsi before I forget all that I’d learned), but I’m really looking forward to it.
    I understand how this journey brings up all those feelings for you – it must be really special to go back after all these years away. I hope you’ll get to enjoy all of the delights you had left behind and are expecting to finally experience again. You’ll probably find that many things are still the same (the breath-taking beauty, wonderful kindness, friendliness, and much more) and that, at the same time, so much has changed (for one thing, a much smaller proportion of Paykans in the streets!)… This is what I’ve found on my second trip there, which happened only three years after the first one (2001 and 2004), so I can only imagine how much more deeply you’ll experience this.
    I’m sending you my best wishes for a fulfilling journey, and am looking forward to reading what you’ll want to share about it.
    Safar bekheir, Azita jan!
    (P.S. I haven’t forgotten I’ve promised you a guest post. I’ll be working on it as soon as I have a chance. It’ll be a pleasure to share memories and pictures with you and your readers!)

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Josiane jan, what a lovely comment. I relished reading it. I’ll think of you when I see a Peykan! Will have to take a picture of at least one of them, ha ha! I can’t wait to get there and I appreciate your best wishes.
    Mersi doosteh aziz and already excited (in advance) re what you’ll end up writing
    xoxo
    azita

  • Veronica 6 years ago Reply

    Oh how wonderfully exciting! I can’t imagine being away from the place I was born for so long. This is going to be a trip to remember!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you and I hope so Veronica jan!

  • revolutionarypie 6 years ago Reply

    Beautiful post, beautiful pictures. And now I want to know what a mulberry tastes like… Have a wonderful time and please write all about it!

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you and oh a mulberry tastes so so good, I do want you to taste some. If you’re ever in Kansas late spring early summer, I’ve heard they are easy and popular to find.

  • […] in the charm of growing sabzeh for your truly this year though, as I’m shortly off to have my excellent adventure in Iran. But if you want to grow your green sprouts for Norooz or Easter or perhaps in honor of Earth Day, […]

  • Bizou 6 years ago Reply

    Wow. I really congratulate you, & this post made me very emotional & brought tears to my eyes. I’m so happy for you & wish you’ll have the best time ever. I hope you will come back with a Mountain( as big as ALBORZ) of beautiful memories, knowledge, & happy experiences (unlike Afghanistan trip) to share with all you love & of course us too who patiently will be awaiting your safe return.
    Bon voyage
    Boos boos

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Mersi, I really appreciate this and love the mountain of good memories analogy! <3
    xoxo

  • spicebox travels 6 years ago Reply

    I am so happy and excited for you. Be safe, capture beautiful memories and share them with us! I’ll be with you in spirit.

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Thank you and very happy to connect with you!

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  • sarvenaz 5 years ago Reply

    You can take a girl out of Iran, but tell her : hijab ijbariiiiii

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