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Memories of Iran

It is doubtful that many of our members have considered Iran as a holiday destination, but the presentation given last Thursday, at the last of our formal meetings before September, by Pam Jones (LRPS), may have changed a few minds! Her account of the visit to the land that was Persia was both entertaining and informative. Through the ever present reminders of the Iran /Iraq war in the form of the revered portraits of the young men who gave their lives in the conflict, via the visible spectres of the Ayatolla and his opressive regime, we were taken on a journey to the largely unknown that both surprised and intrigued us.

Iran is certainly a land of contrasts. The opulent palaces and Persian Gardens were photographed in all their glory and the camel train statues in the city, together with the wealth of local colour, especially prevalent in the dress of the women, reminded us of the former prominence of the country’s position at the heart of the silk Trade Route. Pam’s photos and anecdotes clearly illustrate her deep love of the country and its people. Her friendly encounters, especially with the women and the children, were a source of delight. It is somehow reassuring to hear that many of the women there are more relaxed within their immediate communities with regard to their dress than perhaps we might imagine, often regarding the hijab more as a fashion statement than the symbol of overt opression it appears to some in other cultures..

The grandeur of the brightly tiled Mosques contrasted starkly with the more arid desert and mountain regions where ruined temples abound. Here Pam and fellow travellers delighted in the discovery of a hitherto unrecognised Fire Temple in the grounds of a busy greengage farm where it had sat for the last 1500 years as a local landmark, the historical value of which remained strangely unappreciated until their visit!.

Determined to walk in the footsteps of Freya Stark, intrepid female explorer of the 20th century, Pam ventured to more rugged landscapes. Not always accompanied by her somewhat reluctant personal guide, she recorded the landscapes and the ruins at higher altitudes, and enjoyed alone the generosity and enduring friendship of the people she met along the way. Pam made many emotional and spiritual connections with those she encountered in Iran and she shared these with us skilfully. Through her images and narrative we experienced the relaxed, familial atmosphere in the eating houses and the tranquility of the waterfalls in the isolation of the mountains, but we also got a feel for the tensions created by the Revolutionary Guard and the Fashion Police and saw through her lens the ever present reminders of conflict that still exist. It was a thoroughly enjoyable meeting tha and Pam was warmly thanked by the Chair ,Margot Witcombe, who reminded members to meet with cameras at 6pm in the attractive city of Wells on June 7th for the first of our summer practical evening sessions.

Jenny Short 31.05.18