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Iran (2006-2009)

National Geographic Traveler Indonesia (2013): Kemeriahan Perkabungan

Portfolio | Foto dan Teks oleh Agustinus Wibowo Di Iran, dalam setahun setidaknya ada sepuluh hari besar religi. Pada hari kesepuluh bulan Muharram, warga Syi’ah memperingati kesyahidan Hussain, cucu Nabi Muhammad—dikenal sebagai Hari Asyura. Para umat di Iran berparade di hari wafatnya Nabi Muhammad. Mereka memukul-mukulkan rantai ke dada sebagai ungkapan kesedihan. Peringatan ini bertepatan dengan hari kesyahidan Hassan, cucu Nabi. Hitam adalah warna yang mendominasi. Lelaki, juga berbaju hitam, berarak menyusuri jalan. Dada dan kepala ditepuk, rantai dipukulkan ke punggung, sesekali terdengar tangis susul-menyusul. Sebuah peringatan kematian. “Tidak ada darah dalam peringatan di Iran. Itu dilarang pemerintah. Kau lihat sendiri, kami memperingati hari besar kami dengan cara beradab,” kata seorang umat dari pinggiran Teheran. Lantunan doa memenuhi angkasa. Menggelegar pula suara tetabuhan band mengiringi para lelaki yang berbaris, berparade sepanjang jalan. Pertempuran di medan Karbala ditampilkan sebagai pertunjukan teater di masjid dan jalanan. Lelaki berbaju zirah memerankan tokoh Hussain yang gagah, menunggang kuda putih menantang Yazid yang lalim. Bait-bait puisi Persia mendayu, diiringi merdunya denting dawai. Drama berlangsung hingga tengah malam. Pada puncaknya, para lakon menggambarkan bagaimana satu demi satu anggota keluarga Hussain meninggal dengan mengenaskan. Mereka menyebut ritual tahunan ini “Festival Hussain.” Sebuah perkabungan yang menjadi [...]

August 19, 2013 // 0 Comments

Mashhad – The Empty Border

The dusty border Two years ago, when I came to Iran for the first time through the Islam Qala border, I was astonished by the scene of hundreds of wild Afghan men fighting to pass the border line, to quit their homeland and reach hope in rich Iran. But now, it’s not anymore the scene. The Afghan-Iranian border in Islam Qala is quite empty. Iran has tightened up the visa approval for Afghans. Land crossing is no more permitted for ordinary Afghans. The Iranian visa from Kabul is mostly stamped “For Air Travel Only”, putting them to obtain roundtrip ticket only with Iranian airlines. In some cases, visa applicants need to spend at least 1000 dollars just to get the entry visa. Indeed, one’s passport determines his or her fate. I arrived in Afghan immigration hall after 100 meter walk. People are sitting idly to wait for the officers come back from their lunch break. There are three officers behind the table. One is examining the passports, one is stamping, and the last one is noting down t he data before distributing the passports. All Afghans have to pay 10.000 Rial or 40 Afghani to the man who stamped the [...]

June 9, 2009 // 1 Comment

U-Mag (2009): Iran, Setelah 30 Tahun

May 2009 U-MAG IRAN, SETELAH 30 TAHUN Di Teheran, ibu negeri Iran, puluhan ribu warga meledak dalam kegembiraan pesta pada 10 Februari lalu. Mereka berpekik-sorak, berpawai, meluapkan emosi yang tumpah-ruah. Di tengah hawa sejuk pengujung musim dingin, mereka menggelar perayaan hari jadi ke-30 Revolusi Iran. Nun di utara Ibu Kota, keriaan pesta menjalari permukiman elite, namun jauh dari “suasana revolusi”. Pesta-pesta ilegal direntang sampai jauh malam. Alkohol ditenggak bebas. Para wanita muda merenggut kerudung mereka, lalu berdansa dalam rok mini dan stiletto. Setelah tiga dekade revolusi, inilah sekeping wajah Iran yang direkam dengan hangat oleh mata hati dan kamera Agustinus. “Marg ba Amrika! Marg ba Israil!” Pekikan itu membaung dari mulut ribuan orang, yang tengah merangsek dari kawasan Medan Revolusi, Teheran, menuju Medan Kebebasan. Sepanjang lima kilometer, kaum lelaki, perempuan, tua, muda, anak-anak, tentara, polisi, pedagang, guru, berdesakan. Dengan gairah menyala-nyala, mereka berpawai akbar, memperingati 30 tahun kemenangan Revolusi Islam Iran. Pada 10 Februari 1979—atau 22 Bahman dalam penanggalan Persia—sepuluh hari setelah kepulangan Khomeini ke Iran, Revolusi Iran meletus. Raja terakhir ketika itu, Reza Shah Pahlavi, ditumbangkan dari takhta. Berakhirlah tradisi monarki Iran selama ribuan tahun. Dua bulan setelah peristiwa itu, Republik Islam Iran berdiri. Sembilan bulan sesudahnya, Kedutaan Amerika [...]

May 11, 2009 // 8 Comments

Bam – The Flattened Civilization

From what is left, you still can be amazed by the grandeur of an advanced ancient civilization 27 December 2003, the small town of Bam – located in southeastern Iran, about 300 kilometers from Kerman – was shocked by 6.8 Richter-scale earthquake. More than 40,000 were killed. Asides of the human casualty, Iran has another thing to grieve, as one of its civilization jewels was nothing but flattened. The ancient mud city of Bam used to be one of the strongest tourism magnets in Iran. People claimed it has 3,000 years of history, at least from the Sassanian period. Thousands of interesting old mud houses, sprawl under a giant mud citadel, giving exotic fairytale impression. I adore the old pictures of Bam, which are still hanged everywhere to remind how majestic the place used to be. But, the view of Arg-e-Bam (the ancient citadel surrounded by the mud city) today makes me weeping. The place is in severe desolation. The citadel which was appraised by Marco Polo and other ancient travelers now turned to be rubble. The old town become sad crumbling remains and debris. Workers are everywhere, hoping to restore the old town to its ancient glory, but not [...]

June 14, 2008 // 0 Comments

Kerman – Life of Afghan Children

New life for Ismail here in Iran, totally different from what he dreamed of before. Ismail, 15 years old, is another ordinary story of an ordinary Afghan who is desperate of better life outside their homeland, and then found that life is not always as beautiful as dreams. The place where Ismail now work in live in southeastern Iranian city of Kerman cannot be called fancy. When others come to the Bazaar-e-Vakil for shopping or sightseeing, Ismail and his three Afghan compatriots work underground, digging holes for septic tanks of public toilets in the old bazaar area. From the dark hole, they brought out stones and sand, to be transported somewhere else. They work from 8 morning until 5 afternoon, earning about 15 dollars per day, much a better wage than the average income in Afghanistan. These young boys came from the northern Afghan province of Takhar, tuck between Kunduz and Badakhshan, about one full day journey from Kabul. Takhar, as I visited in 2006, was a dusty province with similarly dusty provincial capital town of Taloqan, wrapped in time where turbaned men and traditionally dressed nomads from the surrounding villages and grassland fill in the weekly animal market. Was [...]

June 12, 2008 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (4)

Finally… the Turkmen visa. Only for five days though. Among the transports that somehow had become my routine in Tehran due to the Turkmen embassy visits, the shared taxi trip today might be the most interesting trip. In Tehran, shared taxi is much more common compared to the usual taxi we have in Indonesia. Shared taxi is a taxi which travel on same routes all time and may take up to 4 passengers. By this way, people travel comfortably with cheap price. Unlike most chances in traveling in the Islamic Republics, in a shared taxi a woman can sit next to a male passenger. I often got interesting stories from other passengers. In Iran, compared to Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is much more space of freedom of communication between men and women. I flagged down a taxi. There were three female passengers in the taxi. All were middle aged. The woman sat on the front seat was surprised that I spoke Farsi. She asked where I learned Farsi. I said I used to live in Afghanistan. Suddenly the woman sitting next to me hugged me and kissed me. “Seriously??? You lived in Afghanistan?” That is my homeland. O Afghanistan, my [...]

March 13, 2007 // 2 Comments

Tehran – An Old Friend

March 12, 2007 Tehran – An Old Friend An accidental meeting on Internet made me finding my old friend. Her name is Dina, but Indonesian bloggers knew her as ‘bundakirana’ (http://bundakirana.multiply.com). I actually don’t check Internet quite often except only for emails, chat, and news. But that day, when I was quite bored in an Internet Café in Esfahan, I found out her message on a traveling forum: “Soon I am going back to my home, leaving Iran, where I have spent my 8 years. I am thinking of writing a book about traveling in Iran. So I want to ask your suggestions of what should I include in my travel writing, for example what stuff that Indonesian readers might be interested.” I replied her message by saying that I was also, by accident, in Iran. I invited her to visit my blog as well. Out of my expectation Dina was enthusiastic in replying my message and even to meet me when I returned back to Tehran. She tried to arrange everything for me, but she also had some limitation of her work and family. But she asked a friend of her to host me for some days, thus we [...]

March 12, 2007 // 3 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (3)

The beautiful Turkmen flag on a stamp. They have given up Russian Cyrillic and only use Latin With full of worry of not being able to get Turkmen visa, I visited the beloved Turkmen embassy again. It was more than a week since they received my photocopy of passport, and if it was approved, I should have got my Turkmen visa. I arrived at 9:15. There were already some Iranians waiting in front of a small window. The window was shut down. Many of the men, the visa applicants, were drivers applying for 6 month multiple entry visa, which with the invitation altogether cost 300 dollars. Some other men were businessmen who were applying for 1 month visa (91 dollar, plus the 100$ invitation). Turkmen visa was always bureaucratic and expensive. Even for 5 day transit I had to wait for 10 days, with repeated visit to the embassy and without certainty of getting the visa. Not before 10:45 the consul came. The Iranian applicants were quite annoyed by the consul being late. Iranians, unlike other people from Middle East, are somehow quite punctual people. The consul said my visa application was OK. I paid 31$ fee and submitted application [...]

March 12, 2007 // 0 Comments

Esfahan – Arbain

20 Safar in Islamic lunar calendar is remembered by the Shiite Muslims as Arbain. In Arabic, Arbain means 40. Arbain marks the 40th day after the death of Imam Hossain (10 Muharram, known as Ashura) in the holy war of Qarbala against Muawiyyah dynasty led by Yazid. When I was in Pakistan, I followed the Shiite’s 40 days of mourning, since Ashura (10 Muharram) until Chehlum (20 Safar). In Pakistan, Arbain is known as Chehlum, a Farsi word which means ‘the fortieth’. Interestingly in Iran, the country where Farsi is spoken, they chose to use Arabic word to name the day. Chehlum in Pakistan is a bloody procession. Young boys paraded on streets of earthquake-torn town of Muzaffarabad, while whipping themselves with sharp knives known as zanjir. Check Chehlum Gallery and Chehlum in Muzaffarabad At that time I didn’t speak Farsi and I was unaware that the Shiites in Pakistan used huge amount of terms taken from Farsi language. Interestingly when I attended the procession in Iran, they preferred to use Arabic terms. In Esfahan I experienced a very different way of commemorating Arbain, the end of the mourning period. I went to the Imam Square. Most shops were closed. [...]

March 10, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (2)

The beautiful Turkmenistan visa…. Give one to me, please… I returned back to the Turkmen embassy. It was always a long journey here. A metro to Mirdamad (750R) continued by a bus to Nobonyod (200 R), then a 1 kilometer walk to the junction of Dr. Lavasani street, a shared taxi to Vatanpoor Street (2000 R), and at last, a short walk to the embassy. A journey to hell. A couple of a German guy and a French girl from the same hotel simply took a taxi from Mirdamad. They also brought flower and chocolate to be presented to the consul, who might help for the visa. When it came to my turn, the consul said, “Nothing can be done.” The photocopy of passport was already sufficient for the visa application. Nothing else. The application was forwarded to Ashgabat, waiting for approval. If the answer was positive, after 7 to 10 days a visa would be issued. The application form given to me yesterday was to be submitted when my visa was already approved. Now what I could do was only waiting. I also visited the Afghan embassy. It was crowded, full of Afghans. The visa section also closed as [...]

March 5, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (1)

Uzbek visa was really a piece of cake. Smooth and delicious. Getting Turkmen visa was always tricky. I got very early to the Pasdaran Avenue to the Turkmenistan embassy just to find out that since January this year, the embassy had moved to a new address: 5 Barati Street, Vatanpoor, Farmaniyeh, which was quite a distance from its original place. The new location was more difficult to reach. I had to change transport three times and asked around until I found the building, exhausted. To get a transit visa for 5 days, one should submit a photocopy of the passport and Uzbek visa. I forgot my Uzbek visa photocopy and I had to return back to Farmaniyeh to find a photocopy shop. The embassy location was deep in the alleys of housing complex and the closest photocopy machine was two kilometers away. I returned back to the embassy. It was still 11 but the embassy operated from 9 to 11 only. The small window was closed. I knocked the window and the man accepted my photocopy and let me go. “Come back 7 to 10 days later,” said him. I even had not filled any application form. He gave me [...]

March 4, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Flying West

March 1, 2007 The Iran Air midnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tehran was surprisingly crowded. The Iranian passengers came with loads of their luggage – seemed to be enormous number of shopping goods during their holiday in Malaysia – queued in font of the check-in counters in Kuala Lumpur’s new, modern international airport. Iranians were always as what I have knew before, curious and friendly as usual. It was not hard for me to start conversations with other passengers. First there was a woman who just finished her shopping holiday. Then there was another man who had to open his carry-in luggage (as the police saw him bringing too many powders in his suitcase but it seemed that the man was too obsessed in buying milk powder, instant coffee, instant juice, and all other powder drinks – strange things to buy from a country as far away as Malaysia). While waiting in the crowded, messy lounge (somehow didn’t match the modernity of KL International Airport), I chatted with Omid, a 30 year-old-man who had been working for more than 7 years in Malaysia but spoke only a few Malays sentences. We chatted in English and Farsi. “This plane is [...]

March 1, 2007 // 1 Comment

Tashkent – Iran Visa

The embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tashkent is notorious to be very reluctant to issue visa. My Iran visa struggle has started long before since I was in Kyrgyzstan. The Tashkent Iran embassy said that they wouldn’t issue any visas for Indonesian passport holders because now Indonesians don’t need visa to go to Iran. It was strange reason anyway, because visa free for Indonesians is only for 2 weeks and difficult to extend. But my friends in Indonesian embassy in Tashkent were trying their best to help me. A staff said, “Let’s try to call them on different day. Maybe different staff will give different answer.” She was right. Another day the Indonesian embassy phoned the Iranian embassy, and it was another man who answered the call (I have never seen any women working in Iranian embassies that I have ever visited). The man said it was possible to apply with a letter from our embassy and we had to wait for 2 weeks for the result. On 12 January 2007 I have heard that the visa was ready and I could pick up. It was almost 1 month since we applied for it. I went to [...]

January 22, 2007 // 3 Comments

Mashhad – Lost Mobile

“Peida misha (It will be found)” – Reza Mahdavi After the 14 hour smooth bus journey from Tehran covering a distance almost 1000 km, I arrived in Mashhad. I was invited to come here by Reza Mahdavi, one of notable artists in the country. Once I arrived in the bus station, I went to the public telephone booths, checked his number from my mobile phone, and called him. SIM card in Iran is incredibly expensive. The common SIM card for mobile cost 550 US$, and just recently prepaid system was introduced, and it still cost almost 100$. That was the reason I don’t use my mobile in Iran. My mobile had been degraded its functionality to be a notebook to save numbers and an alarm clock. After calling him, I put my mobile in my trousers pocket and went around the station. The station was quite modern, as Mashhad is the second city of Iran. Mashhad is also a holy city and it made the city always crowded by visitors. Reza came 20 minutes after I called him. He was in training of teaching biology. He escaped his class immediately to pick me from the bus station, put me in [...]

August 29, 2006 // 2 Comments