When I was a child, we often spent our time—at home and on trips—hiding from the revolution. Today’s youth is getting to rediscover the country. Photographs by Newsha Tavakolian In 330 B.C.E., when Alexander the Great invaded Persia, he destroyed Persepolis. Today, schoolchildren visit the ancient capital and marvel that there was a time when the Persian Empire ruled over much of the world. Photograph by Newsha Tavakolian / Magnum for The New Yorker
n the nineteen-eighties, when I was a child, my family rarely took vacations. There had been a revolution in Iran, and there was a war on. Most of our trips were to the gardens of family and friends; a couple of times we went to Shomal, as the green band of forests south of the Caspian Sea is known. In those days, travelling was all about us pleasing the group. We once rented a house by the sea. Everybody had tasks. The women cooked. I was told to keep the frogs and cats away from my paranoid aunt. In the afternoon, when my uncle went jogging, I had to run behind him, carrying a boom box playing “Eye of the Tiger.” He had just returned from the front, and he loved “Rocky.” That was a rare memory. At home and on trips, we often spent our time hiding from others. We gathered behind walls and inside houses to avoid the sternness of the Islamic Revolution. Public space was no fun: there was always someone disturbing your privacy, making you feel uncomfortable. Now I look at the youth of today, who are hitchhiking their way through the country, discovering its islands, mountain passes, and changing-color deserts. It took more than three decades for Iranians to venture out once again; now they can’t seem to get enough of it. —Newsha Tavakolian Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, falls on the spring equinox. In Masouleh, villagers mark the occasion by letting sheep out to graze. Photograph by Newsha Tavakolian / Magnum for The New Yorker
a href="http://danamotor.ir/Ax_Persian_Carpet_Washing_Iran_Khaneh_Tekani_Cleaning_Naqsh-e_Rustam-431659877282948.jpg"> Iranians prepare for the New Year through khane-tekani, a tradition of spring cleaning. Near the royal graves at Naqsh-e Rustam, professional textile cleaners wash carpets and leave them to dry in the sun. Photograph by Newsha Tavakolian / Magnum for The New Yorker
a href="http://www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/170424_r29820.jpg"> The Valley of Stars, on the island of Qeshm, was likely formed by prehistoric erosion, though legend holds that it was created by a falling star. Photograph by Newsha Tavakolian / Magnum for The New Yorker
a href="http://www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/170424_r29838.jpg"> The island of Hormuz sits in the Persian Gulf, near where the Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates collided. The pressure has squeezed subterranean deposits of salt to the surface, where they form colorful mountains.
a href="http://www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/170424_r29839.jpg"> Mahtab, a tourist from Tehran, takes a selfie in the salt mountains of Hormuz.
a href="http://www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/170424_r29837.jpg"> A worker on Hormuz takes a break from gathering red ochre, an earth pigment that has been used for dyeing fabric and as an ingredient in makeup.
a href="http://www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/170424_r29818.jpg"> In the fifth century B.C.E., Persia’s most revered kings were buried in the stone mountain at Naqsh-eRustam. Robbers have looted the crypts, but tourists still come to see the reliefs cut into the rock.
a href="http://www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/170424_r29836.jpg"> In the seventeenth century, Shah Abbas I built the Lotfollah Mosque, in Isfahan, probably as a private sanctuary for his harem. Today, the mosque is open to the public, and visitors tour the area by horse-drawn carriage.
a href="http://www.newyorker.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/170424_r29834.jpg"> The island of Qeshm was once visited only by Iranian hippies and adventurers. Today, ecotourists come to explore its coral reefs, salt caves, and mangrove forests.