12th October 2017
I did wonder what my next group of clients would think when they joined me in Tehran. Black and red flags lined the street, casting a slightly ominous feel over Iran's capital city. The preparations for the second holiest month, Muharram, had begun in earnest. Banners in red, green and gold emblazoned with 'Ali' and 'Hussein' dotted most streets and stalls.
As the week progressed even more flags and banners started to appear, while the number of women in their black chadors seemed to multiply out in the streets and the squares. The speakers blared out the hauntingly beautiful repetition of Hussein, whilst men and women would look on and slap their right hand over their hearts in time with the music.
Fresh lemon and tea were handed out to all, especially us onlookers, who were embraced into the fold with inquisitive and happy smiles.
Unfortunately the only problem with our interest in seeing the events and celebrations of Hussein's death was that we became the interest, a period of mourning does not encourage laughter and our arrival to watch those march with their chains and the huge drums detracted from this sad time.
We were treated like royalty, with frequent offers of food, chairs, drinks, and invitations into people's homes. We couldn't escape the feeling that our clothes could have been darker and our scarves not so bright - perhaps something to bear in mind for anyone else visitng during this holy time. Despite being begged to stay we had to move on, but felt privileged that we had witnessed a celebration of such passion and friendliness with Iranians... so far removed from the initial vision of ominous black flags.