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What do you need to know if you travel to Iran in Muharram


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Being attendant in Ashura Ceremony in Iran is an unforgettable experience. In Muharram all attractions are closed and some people forbid you to travel to Iran during Muharram, Ashura and Arbaeen, at the same time visiting Iran in this duration, allows you to take part in the largest Shia Muslim ceremonies. A great ceremony that you can hardly see something like it elsewhere in the world.

Muharram
 

Explaining Ashura and Muharram in Iran

Muharram is the first month of the Arabic calendar, since Iran is a majority Muslim country, Muharram in Iran is considered as important month.

Muharram is a month of mourning. Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and 72 of his companions were martyred in the Battle of Karbala, in southern Iraq, in 680 AD after fighting courageously for justice against the much larger army of the Umayyad caliph, Yazid I, which some historians estimate to have been 100,000-strong.

Many of children and women who accompanied Imam Hossein were killed as well or humiliated, they were forbidden to drink water from days before the battle and these tragic events and respect to Imam Hossein's ideals made the Muharram and Ashura alive from ages ago.

The Karbala model is almost based on resisting evil, praising freedom, and standing up for justice. It has become an inspiration for resisting cruelty in every way.

Mourning congregations

The mourning begins on the first day of Muharram and reaches its emotional peak on the tenth day called  Ashura. This is the day of battle. Then things slow down to 40 days after the testimony. On the fortieth day, it was also known as "Arba'in".

During these days, mosques and even some private houses and Hosseiniehs, which were built specifically to mourn Imam Hussein (AS), hold ceremonies.  At the end of the ceremony, the men and women who mourn the death of Imam Hussein (AS) wear sad face. They sometimes go down the street with the beating of drums and chanting.

Arbaeen
 

Ta'zieh in Iran – A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

On some streets, the play or "Ta'zieh" is performed by re-enacting the Battle of Karbala and the suffering of Imam Hussein and his companions. Yazid and his troops are dressed in red and the children of the Prophet are presented in green.

Nazri

Many people distribute food, milk, tea and so on as a donation to Imam Hussein's Mourners.

It is believed that Imam Hussein hosts the ceremony and people prepare and distribute food in his name. They feel that by mourning for the martyred Imam, feeding mourners in his name, or slaking their thirst, they receive blessings and divine reward.

Sham-e Ghariban (The night of the deserted(

The night of Ashura is known as the night of the deserted. On this night people light candles and gather to end the ordeal of orphans abandoned in Karbala after the end of the battle.

What is forbidden in Muharram?

It is forbidden to shed blood during the month. During the month of Muharram, people refuse to hold parties or weddings in connection with Imam Hussein. Many even refuse to listen to happy music or avoid entertainment for the first 10 days. Doing work on Ashura day in Iran is considered disrespectful. Then all the shops and attractions are closed.

Taft ceremony
 

What to wear on Ashura Day?

The whole country turns black especially on Ashura. If you are attending an event, even if you only respect it, be careful to wear black or dark clothing.

Where to go to experience Ashura in Iran?

Each province and city will have its own rituals when it comes to Muharram. There’s even a big ceremony the first Friday of Muharram, when mothers gather with their infants dressed like Ali Asghar, the 6-month old son of Imam Hossain who was killed on that day.

Yazd is known as Hosseinieh of Iran, since many unique ceremonies attended there in Muharram. If you were in Yazd during the first decade of Muharram you can take part in mourning in every afternoon in Bazare khan, a place is decorated in the bazaar during Muharram  with a special separated area for tourists.

In Ashura, Nakhl Gardani is held in different parts of Yazd. The most crowded and beautiful ones is held in Taft city.

Nakhl gardani, Muharram, taft
 

You have to be attended in Taft hours before the ceremony get started to find a good place on the roof of residents' houses to have good view to the people who do the ceremony.

Nakhl Gardani is the name of a popular ritual among Muslims in some areas held as a symbolic funeral of Imam Hussein on Ashura.  Amir chakhmaq Square is another place that people gather to do the Nakhl Gardani Festival.

In this ceremony, they carry a coffin-like room to the mourning grounds, and pass it through a huge crowd of black dressed people. The room is covered in black and adorned with a variety of colorful fabrics and mirrors.

Yazd's Nakhl and their magnificent ceremony are famous in Iran. This ritual is so deeply rooted in the culture of the people of Yazd that it has been registered as one of the national cultures in the list of spiritual works of the Cultural Heritage Organization through this province.