Mashhad is Iran’s holiest and second-largest city. Its raison d’être and main sight is the beautiful, massive and ever-growing Haram (shrine complex) commemorating the AD 818 martyrdom of Shiite Islam’s eighth Imam, Imam Reza. The pain of Imam Reza’s death is still felt very personally well over a millennium later and more than 20 million pilgrims converge here each year to pay their respects. Witnessing their tears is a moving experience, even if you’re not Muslim yourself.
Dr.dr. Saptawati Bardosono, MSc, short for Tati, was invited to attend the international congress entitled “Nutrition: from Laboratory research to clinical studies”as key speaker. The journey to Mashhad Iran, is a journey she will never forget.
Why did you travel to Mashhad?
At first I did not believe that I was invited to give a talk in the first International Congress Nutrition: From Laboratory Research to Clinical Studies in Mashhad Iran, September 6–8, 2017. Not until an email reached me to ascertain that the invitation was real. Preparation was made for the presentation only, while for the visa was only bothered to make a new photo wearing hair cover. Other things were arranged well by the committees from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences.
Where did you stay?
After flying more than half day from Jakarta to Mashhad via Doha, I arrived early in the morning in International Shaheed Hashem-inejad airport of Mashhad and being fetched up right under the airplane stairs by the committees, and again everything were well arranged. And, we were escorted to the hotel nearby the congress venue, Pardisan Hotel.
How did you get around the city?
To go to the congress venue and back to the hotel was arranged by the committees’ buses. Although it was not far or only 15 minutes walk, however to the hot climate than it was safer to ride a bus. During the congress, the committees also provide us to visit interesting places before inviting us for dinner. During my extra day staying in Mashhad, I joined the group of two Italian guys from the UNESCO to visit the market to find unique germs. We were accompanied by two appointed students (i.e. medical and dentistry) to ride in their private car and continued by metro and public bus. It was Friday, and it is a public holiday for the Iranian instead of Sunday. Thus all the public transportations were crowded.
Tell us about the places you visit in Mashhad?
First day, we visited the Kang-village. It was an old village built in the foothills of the Binalod Mountain. We had to climbed the stairways all the way to the top to pass all the houses with closed doors with almost no windows. The village has been built in such a way that the yard for each house is on the roof another. Tiredness for climbing the stairway architectural design of this village was paid by having very beautiful scenic view of the hills.
Second day, we visited Holy Shrine of imam Reza. We rode a bus but had to walk to be able to enter the mosque compound. It is a big and beautiful mosque full with visitors who can pass the praying area to go to the museum inside the mosque. Lots of Muslim do their prayer and listening to the priest afterward. All the prayers are provided by dinner from the mosque. Every night they cook for thousand portions of meal.
The third day, we dressed up for the formal dinner invited by the committee. Before going to the venue, we visited a carpet gallery and being explained to different type of Persian carpet. They all looked very beautiful but do not ask for the price, because it could be similar to the price of a car. After that we went to a nice hotel for a formal dinner.
The fourth day, we had a half-day congress, so we could go shopping. We went to a nice mall and do some shopping for saffron (the most expensive spice in the world), tea and special dates. Then the committees took us to Ferdowsi Mausoleum before having dinner at Shandiz the country-side of Mashhad.
The last day was the best part, because we could by our own visit some shops and market plus having high tea and lunch in unique places, and also visited the Health Science Campus. We hunted for the germs through small shops and market, and we could by other things too, of course. The market is called bazaar Reza.
What kind of clothes did you pack for this trip?
Iran is an Islamic country. We have to wear clothes that cover our head and body. And they prefer to wear non-colorful clothes, and black is the favorite one. But the youngsters not very strict about it, they are free to half-cover their head and wearing any modern clothes as long it covers their body.
Where can foodies go in Mashhad?
Well, at first I was shock to find meals during breakfast, lunch and dinner. But when I pushed myself to try them, wow, they are all so tasty and delicious. The loose rice that would be hard to chew in my mind, they are not. They provided vegetables salad with thousand-island dressing, and the meat (lamb or chicken) was cooked as kebab or curry that were so tender to chew. The best meal was the sashlik or barbeque of several lamb back ribs put in a sword-like stick. Do not forget to try their special-made ice cream…yummy.
What were the Iranian people like?
Iranian people are so nice and kind. They are very honest and friendly. I miss them already. But most of them (taxy driver, shop attendance, etc) do not speak English.
Any tips for traveler going to Mashhad?
Before traveling to Mashhad, it is better to read the book of Mashhad outlook (provided at INA) in which will tell you about communications, transports, local-customs, taboos (e.g. man and woman do not shake hands), and to do shopping and how to pay, because they do not accept foreign credit cards and prefer paid by cash in Iranian currency (rial or toma). You can exchange your US dollar or Euro in the banks or official money exchange centers, but not in the hotel.
Lastly, what do you love more about this trip?
How you are welcomed and how they are treated you nicely and warmly will make you want to come back to Mashhad and other places in Iran. Iran is a safe country but still being abandoned by the US but not by the European countries.