Islamic architecture is varied across the different shrines and mosques. Intricate enamel paintings pattern these walls. Some have stained glass with light gently pouring into the prayer rooms; others have bricks inlayed to form different patterns for each dome of the mosque.
One of the most opulent shrines we visited was the Shah Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz (I don’t have any pictures because photography in the shrine was prohibited). Mosaic mirrors adorned the shrine from floor to ceiling, forming a dazzling display where you feel blinded half the time just looking at it.
More than just beautiful architecture, these places of worship present an opportunity to (attempt to) unobtrusively observe Iranians going about every day life.
A call to prayer rings throughout the city. Most shop keepers respond by hastily closing their shutters for the hour, heading off to the nearest mosque for their daily prayers. It is as if time stops for a moment; the streets empty itself of the human traffic, and the prayers continually resounding through the loudspeakers reminding devotees to respond in prayer.
The prayer rooms were bustling that Sunday evening. It was filled with women quietly reading the Quran and praying, unperturbed by the noise that their children were making as their ran around the enclosed area.
As we emerge from these rooms and entered into a vast square, it was filled with people in different sections according to gender - men in front, women and children behind. A huge carpet was laid out across the floor with people gathering in groups. Responding to the prayers blaring on the loudspeaker, their bodies moved in tandem, bowing and raising their hands. It was atmospheric to observe this form of corporate worship.
In between prayers, snacks and drinks were passed around each group; children were running around the square and enjoying the company of friends, adults sat around and discussed the news of the day.
Between expressing their devotion and receiving instruction in this space, it presented an opportunity for families to gather, for communities to form and dialogue to take place.