At the airport already, the tone is set: “I'm happy to see travelers coming to visit my beautiful country. Iranians want to open themselves up to the world; it's our government that wants you to think the contrary,” declares our taxi driver, who sets off at top speed while sharing with us his admiration for Farah Pahlavi, the ex-empress of Iran who spends her life between Paris and the United States. However, arriving in the center of Teheran, the clichés seem to hold true: figures shrouded in black weave in and out of the congested city traffic, giant portraits of Khomeini hang on the walls of buildings that lack all charm, a few turbaned mullahs, attaché-case in hand, leave the government buildings. But quite quickly, those same clichés become dubious. The call to prayer does not in any way disturb the day's rhythm; the mosques are practically empty. In the parks, young people murmur sweet nothings to each other, the girls' veils have a nasty habit of slipping, women dare to wear make-up and the boys wear tight-fitting T-shirts bearing the names of popular American rock groups. In the streets we regularly hear "Welcome to Iran" and in the chic villas on the heights of Teheran, the parties strangely resemble those of London or Paris. Even if Teheran is not the reflection of Iran, Iran cannot be summed up in simple truisms. The Iranian people's desire for change is real. Elected in 2013 by a massive vote from women and the younger generation, Hassan Rouhani, the “liberal” candidate, received the clear message of a call for a breath of fresh air. And since a revolution never been carried out in two decades, the one in Iran seems far from being over. But the Iranians are patient! Persia or Iran? Who cares? Because the pleasure of rediscovering this country is complete. First stop: Kashan. It's bazar, one of the most sumptuous in Iran, immediately plunges the visitor into the magical Middle East. Further to the south, in Isfahan, black becomes a color, the confusion morphs into refinement and the whole fabulous past springs up before your eyes. With the changing times, Shah Square has been renamed Imam Square, but the harmony and balance of this wonder has not changed at all. The cupolas surge upwards, imitating the fountains in the ponds that mirror them and which, with their shades of blue, taunt the Iranian sky above. Beneath the vaults of the neighboring covered bazar, the city noises resound. In the tea houses, the woman come in groups to smoke a hookah and the bridges that span the Zayandeh Rud River are open invitations for a romantic stroll. We head to the east where one of the oldest cities in the world occupies the center of the Iranian plateau: Yazd. There, all aligned, stand its badgirs, those towers that capture the wind to cool off the rammed earth homes, ancestors to today's air-conditioning. In this former stopover on the Silk Road, swept by the desert winds, it is a pleasure to stroll the winding streets unchanged since the beginning of time. The Atashkadeh fire temple, in which the flame has been burning since more than 1500 years ago, attracts many Zoroastrians who follow the religion founded by Zarathustra 3000 years ago. The straight gray band of asphalt heads towards infinity in this ochre and monotone land. The high desert plateau stands slightly to the south. It furrows as it looms higher, its deep folds catching the shadows made by the rising sun. Many caravanserais regularly punctuate the route to Kerman, the heart of the world as the Sufi poet Nemotallah Valli liked to describe it. The old steam bath in a décor straight out of the Arabian Nights has today been converted into a tchaikhana, a tea house from which emanates the scents of the hookahs as the Persian melodies lull the young couples sipping cups of sugary green tea. The turquoise blues of the faïences on the poet Valli's mausoleum and the Bagh-e-Tarikhi gardens are almost reason enough to make the detour into this region. The city of Shiraz fuses the verses of the poets Hafiz and Saadi with its elegant symmetrical gardens. "In the garden of roses, yesterday, dawn appeared. The night spent in my drunkenness faded. I was just like a nightingale." Not far from there, the Qashqai nomads set up their camps at the foot of the site of Persepolis, Darius the Great's former capital. Beneath the black woolen tents, the women dressed in bright colors perpetuate with their weaving looms the art of making the rugs and "Gabehs" that ensure the popularity of the bazar in Shiraz. Despite attempts made under the Shah to force them to settle, autumn sees the Turkish-speaking nomads leave the mountains of Fars province to head to the Persian Gulf. The Iranians, great lovers of poetry, and foreign travelers will perhaps read in the verses of the great poet of Nishapur, Omar Khayyam, a philosophical predilection: "As there is in our hands only the wind of everything that passes. As everything is destined to decline, to age. Think that all that exists perhaps has no existence. Think at the same time that that which does not exist exists". Tuul & Bruno Morandi Far from the big industrial cities, the highway is transformed on a simple small road criss-crossing the countryside. While entering the province of the Fujian among the Hakka people, it is a another China, the centuries-old China with its ancient traditions holding on face to a tidal wave of a Chinese style globalisation. The history of this région is related to it’s migration history. The first Tulou houses were built from the 11th century but only from the 17th century the houses became much bigger almost like the « little Kingdoms for the family » or the « small cities », each house containing more than 800 members ! Tuul Morandi

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