“Walls of kindness” across Iran (Photos)

Walls typically create divisions. But not always. With the addition of a few hooks and a splash of paint, walls across Iran are being reinvented as part of an outdoor charity initiative in which strangers leave goods they no longer want for those who need them.

The message above a row of hooks reads “Wall of Kindness”. It is a place where passersby are invited to “leave what you do not need” or “take it if you need”. Similar messages have turned up throughout the country as Iranians take matters into their own hands to help homeless people.

In Mashhad, where someone installed a few hooks and hangers on a wall, next to the words: “If you don’t need it, leave it. If you need it, take it.” Donations of coats, trousers and other warm clothing started to appear. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, set up his charity wall on his own property in October, he told Hamshahri: “I saw a picture from Gilan [Province] where a place was designated for people to leave their extra clothes for whoever needed them. I also heard that in Tehran they’ve installed a fridge where people leave food [for the needy].”

It is not clear who started the trend, but in a country where use of social media networks is widespread, it has swiftly caught on. In Tehran, some shops have reportedly put out refrigerators and invited people to leave food they do not want for homeless people to take. At least one bakery has put out a box of bread for those who cannot afford it. “Bread is free for those who can’t pay,” reads a sign on the box.

Civil society in Iran is strong, and a number of non-governmental charities have had a significant impact recently, including the Mahak society, a Tehran-based organisation founded by the philanthropist Saeedeh Ghods that supports children with cancer.

Some charitable organisations have been hampered by sanctions imposed on Iran. One unintended consequence was that imports of life-saving medicine were made difficult as international banks refused to handle any money associated with the country. With sanctions relief, there are rising hopes that such charities will once again be able to work as normal.

Sources: The Guardian, BBC News, Payvand News of Iran, ABC, CNN, ISNA 1, ISNA 2, Mehr News Agency (MNA) 1, MNA 2, MNA 3, MNA 4, MNA 5, MNA 6, MNA 7, MNA 8, Tasnim News Agency (TNA) 1, TNA 2, TNA 3

Iran’s Markazi Province: Mahallat, the capital of flowers

Located in Markazi Province, almost 300km south west of Tehran, Mahallat was in ancient times an important location for Zoroastrianism. There are remains of Hellenistic architecture from Alexander the Great’s time as well as fire temple ruins dated from the Zoroastrianism era.

Today, the city is famous for its large flower gardens and hold a flower festival every September; some even call Mahallat ‘Holland of Iran’. Professional floriculture in the city dates back to the late 1920’s: A simple worker named Yahyakhan learned about growing flowers from his Dutch foreman in Tehran and took the knowledge with him to his birthplace, Mahallat.

The art of growing flowers was promoted and expanded by Yahyakhan and was later pursued by others. Eight years ago florists of Mahallat won a gold medal for their fresh gladiolus at an international exhibition held in Osaka, Japan.

Photos of Mahallat’s Daisies Festival, with more than 600 varieties of flowers, in November 2015

The city is one of the major producers and exporters of flowers in Iran. Out of 35,500 inhabitants, 40 percent are either growers or sellers of flowers or engaged in jobs that are indirectly associated with the flower industry. The region is also the top Chrysanthemums producer in the country, Mahallat’s florists plant 28 million Chrysanthemums annually and from 172 million flowers produced anually the city exports 6 million.

Mahallat also has the country’s largest cactus farm. Cactuses of diverse shapes and colors are found here. The city is an oasis and has a cold climate with strong winds during spring and summer.

Sources: Mehr News Agency, Wikipedia | Mahallat, IRIB, Iran Daily

Photos: Hiking in Iran – Shirbarfy (Snow Lion) near Borujerd

Borujerd is located on the Silakhor Plain, the largest agricultural land in Iran’s Lorestan Province, at approximately 1670 meters above sea level. The Zagros Mountains surround the city from South East to North West. The city of Borujerd is one of the oldest cities in Iran. It owes much of its early development to the Jews that fled to Persia from Mesopotamia.

The people of Borujerd speak mostly the Borujerdi dialect – a distinctive dialect between Lori and Farsi affected by the specific accent common among the Jewish population of Borujerd – Luri, Laki, and the local Judæo-Iranian dialect can be heard as well.

For other posts on nature in Iran click here: Iran’s diverse nature

Photos: The mountains and peaks on the way from Borujerd to Bayranshahr (Chaghalvandy) – along the villages of Zereshgah, Chenarestan, Keyvareh and Buryabaf – are a popular destination for hikers during winter. They are called Shirbarfy (snow lion) and are located at 2995 meters above sea level.

Sources: Wikipedia | Borujerd, Wikipedia | Shirbarfy (in Persian), Mehr News Agency (Photos),

‘Women without Men’ by Iranian artist Parastou Ahadi at Arte Gallery in Tehran

Arte Gallery in Tehran hosted ‘Women without Men’, a solo photography exhibtion by Parastou Ahadi.

Parastou Ahadi is an Iranian painter and illustrator born on April 19th,1982. She got a diploma in Mathematics in 2000 and received a B.A. in Graphic Design in 2006. Ahadi lives and works in Tehran, Iran. She is currently pursuing a M.A. in Dramatic Literature at University of Tehran.
More information: parastouahadi.com

Sources: Honar Online, Facebook | Parastou Ahadi

Pooladkaf ski resort in Iran’s Fars Province

The second international ski resort of Iran, Pooladkaf is located in the northwest of Fars Province in the middle of Zagros mountains, 85 km from Shiraz.

Source: MEHR | Photos

Photos: Iranian Christians celebrate New Year in Isfahan

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Iranian Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

More content on Iranian Christians on this blog: The other Iran | Christians

Source: http://www.irna.ir/fa/Photo/3022149/

Windcatchers: Ancient and environment friendly Iranian cooling system (Photos)

A  windcatcher or bâdgir (in Persian: bâd “wind” and gir “catcher”) is a traditional Persian architectural element to create natural ventilation in buildings. They have remained present in many countries and can be found in traditional Persian-influenced architecture throughout the Middle East, including in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf (mostly Bahrain and Dubai), Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Most windcatchers belong to old residential houses, mosques and urban reservoirs, e.g. in Persian architecture they were used as a refrigerating device at traditional water reservoirs (ab anbars) to store water near freezing temperatures in summer. Regardless of its utility, the height and adornments of these windcatchers used to represent the owner’s distinction and social standing.

Recently the windcatcher approach has been adopted in Western architecture, such as in the visitor center at Zion National Park, Utah and at Kensington Oval cricket ground in Barbados.

Below windcatchers in the cities of Yazd and Kashan (Yazd and Isfahan Provinces) by Hamid Najafi for Tasnim News and by Hoda Asghari for Mehr News.

Windcatchers come in various designs: uni-directional, bi-directional, and multi-directional and work pretty much like modern air conditioning system. At the top of the windcatcher are several directional ports – usually four open towards four direction. When the port facing the prevailing wind is opened, air is pushed down the shaft and into the building. At the base of the tower is a pool of water provided by aqueducts called karez (or qanat), over which the air is allowed to pass. As the warm air passes over the surface of the water, the air cools through evaporative cooling. At night, cold air is sucked into the house thereby cooling it naturally.

Windcatchers can also act in reverse. By closing all ports but the one facing away from the incoming wind, air is drawn upwards using a combination of Bernoulli’s Principle and Coanda effect. The negative pressure pulls hot air down into the karez tunnel and is cooled by coming into contact with the cool earth and cold water running through it. At this point, the cooled air is introduced into the building. By facing windcatchers away from the wind, dust and sand blowing in from the desert can also be kept away from buildings.

The evaporative cooling effect is strongest in the driest climates, such as on the Iranian plateau, leading to the ubiquitous use of windcatchers in drier areas such as Yazd, Kerman, Kashan, Sirjan, Nain, and Bam.

Shish-khans (small windcatchers) can still be seen on top of water reservoirs in Qazvin and other northern cities in Iran. These seem to function more as ventilators than as the temperature regulators seen in the central deserts of Iran.

Sources: Tasnim News (Yazd), Mehr News (Kashan), Wikipedia, Historical Iran, Amusing Planet