Tonight we are winding down after a hectic week of meetings in Tehran. Althugh the days were busy, we did get a break most evenings for a dinner or cultural performance.

The highlight of this trip to Tehran was definitely a performance of ‘The Divine Martyrs’ by the IRIB Symphony Orchestra at the National Library. It was the most incredible piece of music that I have heard in a long time. It was composed by Hooshang Kamkar and was performed in ‘Mahour’ – a style of traditional Iranian music featuring the ‘santoor’ and ‘daf’ as accompanying instruments.

The words of ‘The Divine Martyrs’ are from a poem by the famous Persian poet and philosopher, Molana Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi (who also called Jalal al-Din Muhammad Mevlana in western literature and commonly known as ‘Rumi’). The singer for the performance I attended was Mohammad Abdolhosseini who was very impressive. (I must check to see if he has recorded any CDs next time I am in Iran). The orchestra was conducted by Mohammad Bigleri Poor and the choir by Razmik Oohanian.

A highlight of a different kind was meeting the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was a smaller man than I expected, but he had a long and warm handshake, and came across as a very friendly person – so different from the impression of him that is gained from the western media. After his speech to the conference I was attending, the delegates crowded around him for photos – somehow I couldn’t imagine George W. Bush’s secret service bodyguards allowing people to get that close to their President.

As is often the case when I visit Iran, many of my memories of the trip relate to the wonderful meals that I had in different places. I remember the delicious plate of fresh pomegranate that I was served during one of my meetings, and the tasty freshly-baked Iranian bread, that I had hot from the oven for lunch one day in a restaurant down town. I’m not a big meat-eater (in fact I’m almost a vegetarian), but I can never resist the lamb kebabs when I am in Iran – so tender and tasty. And the salads are so fresh as well – eating in Iran is very healthy compared to many other Asian countries.

One of the British delegates remarked to me that it was probably doing him a lot of good not to have access to alcohol for a few days. He said the non-alcoholic beer was surprisingly good – only he couldn’t get used to not waking up with a hangover the next day!

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