SHAFAQNA – IRNA: Muharram tourism consists of thousands of foreigners flock to Iran to see with their naked eyes and record with cameras the Iranian fervor during Muharram that comes to a head on its 10th day, also known as Ashura.
1,500 foreigners visited the central Iranian city of Yazd only this Muharram, according to local officials.
Yazd, an ancient Iranian city, the cradle of Zoroastrianism, is now one of the unavoidable points of Islamic Iran.
Home to thousands of small and big mosques and Hosayniyas (places used for religious mourning ceremonies), Yazd has earned the title “Iran’s and world’s Hosayniya”.
A Hosayniya is a congregation hall for Twelve Shiite Muslim commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the Mourning of Muharram, the month in which third Shiite Imam Hussein 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 Abarkuh, 140 kilometers in the southwest of Yazd.
Yazd always attracts the special attention of foreigners due to its unique Muharram rituals where hundreds of men, all clad in black, congregate in Hosainiyas to beat on their chests according to the rhythm of a sung eulogy.
The poem itself is of high importance, which nearly always includes long verses, describing the events of the 10th day of Muharram, also known as Ashura, when Imam Hussein was martyred by Yazid forces.
“The fact that foreigners are present in Muharram rituals will help that Iran’s ceremonies and traditions spread to other countries more easily,” Vali Teimuri, Tourism Deputy at Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Ministry told IRNA on Tuesday.
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.
“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,” Teimuri mentioned.
Only in the city of Abarkuh (the grand mountain), there are 70 registered religious “heyat” (congregation of men and women to mourn Imam Hossein’s martyrdom).
“I can’t describe the grandeur of this ceremony with words. It has impacted me very much,” said the Italian national.
Last year, tourists from 22 countries, including France, Spain, Thailand and Taiwan, visited the city of Yazd, seeing for themselves the diverse Muharram rituals of the region.
One of the other main features of Yazd Muharram ceremonies is “nakhl gardani”, the act of carrying the Nakhl from one place to another, resembling an Imam’s funeral. Nakhl is a wooden structure used as a symbolic representation of the Imam’s coffin.
Mostafa Fatemi, a local official with the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Ministry told IRNA that several packages have been prepared for tourists who want to visit Yazd Province to see various Muharram rituals across the central region.
Muharram is only one of the Muslims ceremonies that can attract foreigners to visit Iran. The country is home to thousands of mosques, shrines and other holy worship places that can be seized to kickstart the spiritual tourism, especially during Muharrram.
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