A (Pun) Close Shave

Much of today was spent on the bus, traveling from Isfahan back to Tehran. It gave us another chance to see the varied Iranian countryside as well as to get caught up on journals and last-minute postcards. Our journey took us past the city of Kashan, which among other things is preserved in tradition as the site from which the Magi ventured to see the Christ-child. The word magi is related to the word magic, another English word that has entered our vocabulary from Farsi. It stands alone in Matthew's gospel, apart from some Aramaic, as the only non-Greek word. Early church paintings and drawings represent the Magi as Zoroastrian priests, known for their astrological knowledge, and wearing traditional Persian clothing. There is no monument to this in Kashan, but to drive past it has the feel of a reverse pilgrimage.

Once back in our Tehran hotel, I added another chapter to my curious habit of visiting barbers in foreign countries. In 2001, I had a haircut in Baghdad that left me looking like a grilled mushroom. Here in Tehran, I was curious to try something a little different. The young hipsters have an intriguing array of hairstyles and facial hair; I don't currently have enough hair to try a new look, but my full beard does provide a good pallet for creativity.

The salon is located in the basement, and in a way, the whole scene became a kind of metaphor for our trip: the American tourist lying back in the chair, the young Iranian applying his craft; the television is on in the background, where the Ayatollah leads prayers as the President prostrates with the rest of the congregation. Old meets new, East meets West, pious meets secular.