Friday, November 11, 2005

Quran Fair... and guess who the guests of honor were?!

Grammar class wasn’t so great, as usual. People still have varying levels of skill. And teaching adults is definitely not the same as teaching kids, and yet I do have 3 kids in the class. Should I go slower? Faster? Follow the book only and not try and help with supplementary information?

Anyway, after the class, Dr. and Mrs. Elahi took us to a Quran Fair. It was great. 28 countries (16 Muslim countries, 12 Non-Muslim countries) had participated, including some joint efforts like between the UAE and Germany. We got to see a genuine copy (that term always cracks me up) from Turkey of Prophet Muhammad’s seal. The original is in a museum in Turkey. There was hand etched glass in the form of vases and bowls and paperweights and prisms and even a glass hand etched Quran sitting open in its stand.

I tried taking some pictures but too much glass and plastic cause glare and reflection.

Irfan Ali was a hit there and people, once again, were straining their necks to get a look at him. Giggling ladies and curious old women and men. The guy in charge of the fair (dressed in the ayatollah garb) gave us a personal tour of the main exhibition and we had someone talking to us and explaining each artifact to us. The artisanship there was just amazing.

We got there at around 8pm, and the exhibit was closing at 9, so he told us at around 8:40 to go upstairs and check out the stalls there because there was good stuff there too. We first stopped at a carpet stall and finally got our first glimpse of a Qomi silk carpet. I must say, it is quite gorgeous, incredibly soft, and somewhat different than the Persian carpets we’re used to seeing. It was also smaller and these tend to be for wall hanging, not for floor covering. It cost 350,000 Toman, which is 3.5 million Iranian Rials, which is about $350, which isn’t bad at all.

Again, I wasn’t able to get a good picture. The stalls weren’t too well lit.

We went upstairs and the art there was more Ahlul Bayt (Shia) devotional work than the mainstream Allah/Mohammad/Quranic stuff downstairs. There were also quite a bit of Iranian cultural handicrafts. Both were amazing. Beautiful scenes recreating Kerbala and Ashura were painted on velvet or inlaid in wood or cut out and formed into dioramas, and there were also wood carvers (mostly women artisans, which was very good to see), and there was one calligraphy stall where the girl did stunning work and she wrote our names for us. The director of the fair also gifted us (mostly gifted Ali) with a really cool coffee table book with pictures and elevations of all the mosques in Iran, which is definitely an awesome souvenir. It’ll have to be mailed back because it’s heavy.

Then in another stall, the Mrs. Mir Mohammadi (who came with us to the fair and is in my grammar class) told the lady to make me something quickly. Since the stalls were mostly closing down, the vendor quickly found a heart-shaped wood cutout and found a cutout of “Muhammad” in a darker wood and glued it onto the heart. I’m most excited with my keepsakes.

As we walked on, we realized we were the only ones left there and turns out that for their special American studying Islam in Qom, they had kept the building open for us. *Very* cool. Definitely don’t see that happening in the US for anyone. Because we are guests, we are treated with so much deference and honor. Well… Ali is the honored guest, and I’m his Pakistani wife. Pakistanis aren’t unusual here. Haha.. I think my secret (I’m not Shia!) is out, but no one has really changed their behavior toward me, which makes me feel even worse about the way Sunnis talk about Shias.

After we were done with our tour, with our tiny entourage of security and admin people following us, they asked us to write a remembrance on some paper. I wrote in decent handwriting and Ali wrote in chicken scratch. Muahaha. Except he kept his writing straight, and mine was all sloping uphill and downhill. I never quite mastered that whole writing straight without lines thing.

Then we went downstairs and waited for the Director of the Fair to finish his speech or lecture to all the vendors and stall people in the fair, and we met the PR head for the Fair. We relaxed and took a few pictures and then some news agency people came to interview Irfan Ali. There was a camera and a tape recorder and everything. In fact, there were 3 cameras. Two personal digital cameras and one big video camera.

So with Dr. Elahi as translator, the reporter asked Irfan Ali questions on his opinion of the fair, Iran and Iranians, Islam in America, Iranians in America, doing da’wah (proselytizing) in America. For a few of them, I felt the need (as usual) to butt in and put in my 2 cents but I felt kind of embarrassed because the interview is for Irfan Ali. But then when I stopped interjecting, he would ask me my opinion and then I would have no idea what to say.

I must say I learned something new about Dr. Elahi last night. The man has a photographic memory. He would memorize our answers in English, and then almost verbatim repeat them to the reporter. Keep in mind, our responses were quite wordy. I know I don’t understand Farsi, but I could tell by the words that I did get and the order in which they came that he really was relaying everything. Irfan Ali confirmed my suspicion. *Very* impressive. We really got lucky with Dr. Elahi and his “Elahi’s Army”.

Here we are, with the reporter/interviewer (right of us) and videographers:

We got home at 11:15pm and were hungry for dinner. We’d already had dinner at 5:45 though and there was nothing else to eat. I’m still working on that whole cooking lots of stuff and having lots of leftovers thing.


Blogger huma said...

bring back a carpet and coffebook if you can

2:33 AM  

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