TEHRAN – Iran turns to a major tourism hub during the mourning month of Muharram. Every year thousands of foreigners flock to the country to see with their naked eyes and record with cameras the Iranian fervor during Muharram that reaches its climax on its 10th day, also known as Ashura.
This all paves the way for a new sort of tourism opportunities in Iran, called Muharram tourism.
Yazd is among Iranian provinces that always attract the special attention of foreigners due to its unique Muharram rituals where hundreds of men, all clad in black, congregate in Hosayniyas (places used for religious mourning ceremonies) to beat on their chests according to the rhythm of a sung eulogy, IRNA reported.
Some 1,500 foreigners visited the central Iranian province only this Muharram, according to local officials.
Yazd, the cradle of Zoroastrianism, is now one of the unavoidable points of Islamic Iran. Home to thousands of small and big mosques and Hosayniyas, Yazd has earned the title “Iran’s and world’s Hosayniya”, the report said.
A Hosayniya is a congregation hall for holding Shiite Muslim commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the mourning month of Muharram, the month in which Imam Hussein (AS) was martyred by the then ruler Yazid.
“The Iranians’ love and enthusiasm for Imam Hussein is so much that you can’t record it with any device. You need to feel and experience it yourself on the ground to get a good sense of it,” said an Italian tourist who visited the Ashura ceremonies in the city of Abarkuh, Yazd province.
The Italian tourist, who spoke to IRNA, stressed that he had visited Iran during Muharram several times in the past. “I have read Imam Hussein’s uprising and now I have got to know another religious ritual during this month,” he added.
“I can’t describe the grandeur of this ceremony with words. It has impacted me very much,” said the Italian national.
Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Deputy Minister Vali Teymuri told IRNA on Tuesday “The fact that foreigners are present in Muharram rituals will help Iran’s ceremonies and traditions spread to other countries more easily.”
“What has brought more tourists to Iran this year is the verbal advertisement of other tourists who took part in last year’s Muharram ceremonies,” Teymuri explained.
Last year, tourists from 22 countries, including France, Spain, Thailand and Taiwan visited the city of Yazd, seeing the diverse Muharram rituals of the region.
One of the main features of Yazd Muharram ceremonies is “Nakhl gardani”, the act of carrying the Nakhl -- a wooden structure used as a symbolic representation of the Imam’s coffin-- from one place to another, resembling an Imam's funeral.
Mostafa Fatemi, a local official with the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department, told IRNA that several packages were offered to tourists who wanted to see various Muharram rituals.