Iran… a country that sets itself apart from the Middle Eastern countries around it by stoutly clinging to its Persian heritage.  The official language is Farsi (or Persian), it still follows the Persian calendar, and it celebrates its New Year on the spring equinox.

I discovered this information one day when I was being unintentionally rude to a friend.  My rudeness stemmed from ignorance and from misconception. I mean, as a North American, the information that is generally known about the Middle East is that they speak Arabic, they’re Muslim, and they seem to be involved in a lot of wars.

I’m not completely wrong, but the story is so much more rich and diverse and wonderful than we can imagine from news reports or a cursory glance at Wikipedia.

Luckily for me, my friend didn’t become insulted or frustrated by my ignorance. She instead shared stories about trying to keep the date straight when she calls family in Iran.  About the tradition of Nowruz and the beautiful symbology of the Haft Sin table at the New Year.  About the deep love of the ancient Persian language, and its gradual loss as modern words infiltrate the culture.  And about Iran’s historical and continued efforts to retain its Persian culture and identity. She also told me how the landscape in eastern British Columbia, with its arid climate, gives her a comforting feeling of familiarity through its resemblance to parts of Iran.

And so my world view has become enriched with this new understanding of a part of the world I haven’t previously thought much about.  It’s never been more true that we can only benefit from being open to and curious about the world beyond the one in front of our nose.

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