The shrine of Fatima, sister of the 8th Iman, makes Qom the second holiest city in Iran, after Mashhad. This is conservative territory. All our Iranian friends were surprised when they we heard we were going there. This is where Khomeni lived and where the revolution against the Shah began. But we were too curious to leave out such a place and never regretted our decision, we would even claim it was a highlight of our trip. The shrine is huge with lots of different impressive buildings, stunning architecture. Inside pilgrims were milling around, men, women, families. Many of the walls are almost blindingly bright, small pieces of mirror form geometrical mosaics. All we could think off was how long it took to cover such vast spaces with tiny little pieces of glass, besides the word was flawless.
To visit the shrine Heidi had to borrow a chador at the entrance, the lady guards showed mercy and handed her one that had large white flowers on it. To enter men and women use different entrances but inside we could stroll around the place together, except the most holy interior.
The room with the very shrine is strictly unisex and not photos are allowed. It was overwhelming to be in a room packed with women and quite a lot of children. The spirituality could be felt like moisture in tropical air. A truly unique experience! Most of the women were sitting, chatting or praying. To show their true devotion to Fatima, women stand next to the shrine – that looks like a gigantic coffin sumptuously decorated – and touch it with one hand. There is no pushing or loud noises. It did not feel right to squash in, so Heidi just sucked in the atmosphere and images. This one had to be remembered without a single photo taken to help our memory later.
We were so intrigued that we returned the next day. A sobering experience… First, we were not even allowed in. Iranians who watched the scene, pointed to a different entrance. Gilles got in, but there was no chador for Heidi. We were sent off to buy one, which we did. Once inside we had to register with a guide who politely guided us around, but refused us entering the very holy interior with the shrine. On the positive side, he took us to an excellent museum inside the grounds that we would not have found ourselves.