“..also spelled Nouruz, Norouz, Norooz, Narooz, Nawru, Nauruz, Nawroz, Noruz, Nohrooz, Novruz, Nauroz, Navroz, Naw-Rúz, Nowroj, Navroj, Nevruz, Newroz, Navruz, Navrez, Nooruz, Nauryz, Nevruz, Nowrouz.” Stupid variable transliteration conventions!
I arrived in Iran about a week before the beginning of Norooz. If you don’t know what that is, you can read about it here.
I didn’t have much choice about the timing of my trip because when I got my visa I was given sixty days in which to enter the country instead of the standard ninety, and I had other travel scheduled for early-to-late February. Thus, fully half of my one month in Iran took place during Norooz. I was apprehensive about this, because it is the main holiday of the year and most Iranians use it to travel–visiting relatives or just checking out the sights–and as a result a lot towns get really crowded and hotels go up in price. The exception to this rule is Tehran, which was utterly deserted, and the government-mandated 50% discount on my hotel meant that I was paying about $6.25 a night for a perfectly fine room with a private shower. I heard of travelers getting stranded in towns without accommodation but thankfully it never happened to me.
One of the first signs of Norooz that I encountered was the haft seen, a table arrayed with seven items whose names begin with the letter seen and that are broadly symbolic of health and regeneration:
1. Sabzeh (green sprouts)
2. Samanu (wheatgrass)
3. Senjed (a berry that coincidentally I had for the first time in February, in Zanzibar)
4. Sir (garlic)
5. Sib (apples)
6. Sumac (sumac)
7. Serkeh (vinegar)
In addition to these seven items, the haft seen also usually includes a mirror, coins, goldfish, and a book, either the Quran or Hafez’s poetry.
Here are some haft seen displays I photographed during the holiday: