Iran is a land of thought provoking horizons. It's a land where the grandeur of antiquity reflects smiles on the brow of youth. It is a land where comparisons and contrasts do no exist, continuity does. Continuity of the decorum of the past, continuity of a spiritual search and continuity of an ideological progress as value of heart and mind rather than a commodity for trade breaths over the streets, squires, market places, academic institutions, restaurants, parks and the profiles of the ranks and files.
The most thrilling encounter one could have within this land of 'hidden' wonders was with the youth of the country. I was fortunate to have to extensive meetings with the youth and the academics of the Universities of Isfahan and Tehran. The composite features of these two cities leave distinctive marks on their inhabitants. The calm and mysteriously serene atmosphere of the capital of the Safavid empire echoes best in the academic ambience of the University of Isfahan. In the meeting hall the audience comprised mainly of young ladies, each one of them covered in black head scarves. Once the meeting began, i realized that these women in traditional attire were the most confident, enthusiastic and inquisitive youth one could ever imagine to encounter in our times. I was specially taken by surprise by the speech decorum. Carefully well concieved thoughts were woven into pleasnt, modest and accurately pointed words whether in Persian or in English. The subject of my talk, Ishraaq nd Shakespeare, was new for the audience but the nature of the questions posed after the lecture showed the general public's insight rather deep into philosophy of Ishraq and reasonable familiarity with the works of Shakespeare as well. I was glad to be well percieved, understood and sympathetically appreciated by both the academics and the students. The research project was successfully launched in Isfahan as senior professors ensured their intellectual backing and moral support provided prpoer and lasting contact was established between the team I form in Sarajevo and the volunteers in Isfahan.
On the journey back from Isfahan a chance telephonic contact was established by Pakistani origin student at Qom. In the early hours of the evening we enterd the shrine of the 'Masooma', a place of utmost tranquility and spiritual elevation. One could feel in Qom the earth lifting itself beyond the glory of heavens as its unsurpassable architectural design is the devotion of a devotee personified. The mirror domes reminded me of those billions of eyes of the devotee who wishes its enitire being turning into uncountable eyes wherefrom it never looses the sight of the beloved. The reflections in those mirrors are our own, thus bringing the pilgrim through the journey of the Self towrds its ownself is the idea haunting the soul of a devotee within the shrine. Here we met our host and discussed the possibilities of launching the project among the Indo-Pakistani settlers in Iran. The talk was quite fruitful in many ways as new contacts were established and the funding for the project evolved new hopes. Our host, offered special prayers in front of the shrine of the 'Masooma' and prayed for the success of our project.
After this intellectual and spiritual 'thriller' of Isfahan trip another event awaited at the University of Tehran. The last day of our trip in Iran, we travelled towards the university and like always in that unsespected rush of the Tehran mornings couple of hours were consumed in car alone. I and other two guests from Sarajevo had been throughout amazed by the number of cars in this cosmopolitan and even more dazzeled by the number of ladies driving cars in Tehran. Despite its 13 million inhabitants and 5 million cars, the city is lush green, clean and calm. Despite our best efforts I and the other two guests from Sarajevo could not find the traces even of cigarettes on the streets, littre was out of question. We found out that this was something quite particularly inherent within the character of the nation. An amazing easeful grace, effortless dignity and a civilizational mind dating back to the dawn of history caused that character of the Iranians as a nation, making them the most serious people in the entire region.
At the university we were warmly recieved by the professors and the head of the department. I was more than enthusiastic here after remarkable success of Isfahan. It all started smoothly until couple of students interrupted me in the middle of my talk claiming that wahtever I was trying to establish regarding elevation of women was contradictory to the Quran. I hushed them up with counter argument but this insolence I did not expect in Iran after all the positive meetings with peopole from all walks of life. The same students later criticzed me for being a man from Europe trying to teach them about Ishraaq. I was quite disappointed but then another group of students approached me with even more enthusiasm I had seen in Isfahan. We had atleast another extra hour after the lecture with these students in the corridor of the university where the head of the department later joined us as well. These students are willing to be volunteers for the project and it seems that the possibility of a team has emerged as a result of this trip.
All in all the trip was a great adventure and in many ways a great success. I personally think that for the kind of project needs to be launced after the details sorted out, Isfahan is mentally a more mature and richer academic place than Tehran is.
Our hosts at Ibn Sina Tehran are the most cultured, educated and kind friends we could ever imagine to meet abroad. Their traditional warmth, great sense of humour, desire to share the maximum about their culture and customs made us feel as if we had been acquaintances for a very long time.
This trip also refreshed the idea in our minds that media projection of a certain image cannot be trusted since the truth remains a variable subjective issue. Iran is lot more stable, liberal, progressive and intellectually-spirtually balanced nation than many 21st century European counterparts of it. I am hoping to establish a proper base in Isfahan for the project and through this platform make an annual pilgrimage to the place we may easily call, the mother of all civilizations.

Prof. Dr. Shahab Yar Khan

Department of English,
Sarajevo University.