Madi Jahangir – Some people have titled her “the sleeping beauty under the rain” because she is still beautiful when the sky is gray and rainy in the Fall, and snowy and gloomy in the winter. But to my eyes, Lahijan, this mountainous city laying peacefully on the Alborz foothills in northern Iran, has her better seasons too. I love it more when the sun shines in her humid summer and when her tea leaves turn to light green color in the spring.
I don’t know if this is my problem or everyone else’s. It has always been much easier for me to write about an unknown place, which i am just about to discover, than my hometown. Maybe I feel responsible to write my best articles about this city, with which I shared most of my life and nostalgic memories of childhood. Or that I have too much data to write about and do not know which one to choose to begin the story with. To be honest, the reason is much simpler than that. In fact, I have barely explored my hometown as a tourist. At least not until recently.
But aren’t we all similar? My friends in Isfahan told me that they barely take time to go to Imam Square. And I have some friends in Mashhad who have never been to Imam Reda bazaar, an old touristic market in the city. When I visited Lebanon, I was surprised to discover similar fact about my Lebanese friends too. They visited Baalbek Roman ruins only when friends from other country stopped by for a visit. We often take familiar things for granted when they are available next door, instead spend money and time and go thousands of kilometers away to visit strange places we heard or read about.
Few months ago, my Lebanese friend, Salam traveled to Iran to meet up with us and explore the country. She was so excited to travel to the famous cities all over Iran, to which she did not have the chance in her first Iran trip. She came over and spent 4 days in my house in north. It was first time that I was a travel guide for my hometown and I had to show her around the city beside some famous spots in the province. And only then and there, I had the opportunity to explore my hometown in a new way. This time I was a visitor too and in some ways or the other, I felt like a tourist.
We had only a day to explore Lahijan and I found out the time we spent in my hometown was not enough. There were many spots to explore and we did not manage to visit many places. I tried to do some touristic things with Salam. So we visited the Sheikh Zahed mausoleum, resting place of a famous Iranian scholar. Then stopped the car in the middle of the road to go deep into the tea fields which were just blossoming. We waited an hour in the long queue and for the first time I took the Tele-Cabin with Salam and my sister to go up the mountains. After that, we went back to the city and to the tea museum and afterward walked down the road to the lake. We had a good Latte at my favorite cafe and when the sun was completely down we went to the lake and spent some time there too. With the laughter, excitement and the fresh spring air, I explained for Salam story of every place we visited and by then I also started to notice the streets, the trees, the colors and the people more brightly, as I do when I am traveling abroad. I reviewed the developments, the history and the memories behind every place and name. This new version of Lahijan which was displayed to me, gave me a lot of positive energy. I knew every bit of this little northern city and this familiarity made me feel secure and confident somehow, the way you feel when you meet a person you know, once again in a very crowded street in a strange country.
I have this strange relationship with Lahijan as well, not that of love and hate but with ups and downs. I left it very young and ever since, I return every now and then and stay for long or short-term here. My hometown and I are very good friends. We know each other very well and even though our path has been slightly different, we have kept this relationship close to our hearts. That day I learnt that I had not taken my hometown as serious as I should. It has many places that looked ordinary to me, but not to the tourist me. For knowing the city too much, sometimes I get confused, just like we all do when dealing with the things or people we know them very well. As a tourist in Lahijan, this city that I always called home embarced me warmly. We both had grown up so much. But the city still managed to make me smile and take my breath, with all the nostalgic memories that she allowed me to rediscover again.