Iran: The Cultural Heritage Symposium

Between the 27th of February to the 6th of March 2016, ten student delegates, representing seven nationalities (French, British, Spanish, Costa Rican, Dutch, Portuguese and German) joined Delegations for Dialogue’s first cultural symposium in Iran.


The lifting of crippling economic sanctions in January 2016 marked a new chapter for Iran and its relations with the rest of the world. The perception of Iran during its period of relative isolation gave rise to an incomplete and ambiguous global image. As the country gradually reopens its doors, the opportunity to shed light on the complex and modern society is more achievable than in any time during recent memory.

During the programme, delegates were able to engage in a series of conversations, round-tables and lectures with local Iranian personalities (artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, journalists, professors and mullahs as well as university and high school students), with the core objective to achieve a deeper understanding of Iranian cultural background’s complexity and history. 


Shortly after arrival into Tehran, the delegation had the unique opportunity to visit the University of Tehran's main campus.

Besides visiting the campus, our students enjoyed lunch at the student cafeteria, experiencing the daily cuisine of their Iranian counterparts. In the afternoon, guided by architect and designer Mahdi Shadkar, the delegation met some local students at the Faculty of Fine Arts. These Iranian students were competing an internal contest at the industrial design department on the theme of"a gift to Mother". This was an apt opportunity for the delegation and these local students to initiate a free-flow style dialogue about their education system, career plans and inspirations.


Later that day the delegation attended two lectures at the Revayat Institute of Cultural Studies. The first one was given by journalist Sadraa Mohaghegh, society editor at Shargh Daily, on The Iranian Tourism Development. The second lecture was on The Evolution of the Iranian cinema by the Iranian film critic Hossein Eidizadeh. 


TEHRAN - A Roundtable with Iran's Generation-Y


To conclude the first day, the delegation met with some iconic personalities that represent some of Tehran's Generation-Y at a local coffee shop. The panel included female entrepreneur Tabassom Latifi, co-founder and CEO of (traditional handmade local food delivery application), photographer Ali Kaveh, co-founder and executive director of Everyday Iran, and poet and musician Siamak Abbasi. Discussions revolved around their respective projects, opportunities and challenges as well as their individual persepctives on Western society and culture.

TEHRAN - OFFICIAL VISIT AT ISNA (Iranian Students National Agency)

The second day began with an onsite-visit of ISNA, the biggest news agency in Iran. The delegation visited each department (Politics, Economics, Social, Sports, Culture and International Relations ) and were able to meet the students staff to learn not only about their current work but also about their own interests and hopes. This visit was also an opportunity for the Iranian student staff to pose questions to our delegation. Particular curiosity was shown towards the perception of Iran among Westerners, as well as the increasingly security presence in Europe following the Paris attacks.

TEHRAN - Conversation with Calligrapher Master Amouzad

Before leaving Tehran, the delegation had the chance to meet with the Calligrapher Master Amouzad at his workshop to discuss his completed art works, current projects as well as his views on the practice and the transmission of calligraphy in the modern times. Students also had the chance to watch a live demonstration. 

QOM- Tour and Discussions at the HOLY-CITY oF SHIA ISLAM

Considered as the « Shia Vatican » where Ayatollah Khomeini initiated the first movements of the Islamic revolution, the holy-city of Qom was a unique opportunity for the delegation to experience the central place of religion in the Iranian cultural heritage and the society.   

Before visiting the main monuments of the city, two hojatoleslams (also known as mullahs) Risheri and Arab gave us an introduction of the Shia clergy structure and described their daily activities. The day after they guided our delegation through the local streets walking as well as paying visits to important spots such as the Shrine of Fatema Masume, the House of ayatollah Khomeini and the Khezr mountain. Finally our delegation had the rare opportunity to meet with ayatollah Rafiepoor to discuss the topic of religious mysticism. 


After few visits between Jameh mosque on the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, our delegation had the chance to meet with local arts students at the Isfahan Fine Arts and Music school. Established in 1315, this institution has a long and brilliant history in training artists in various activities: tile work, pottery, brocade weaving, carpet weaving, carpet design, enamel work, engraving, marquetry, wood carving, inlaid work, statuary and painting. 

This onsite visit was a good opportunity for the delegation to see the artistic process of various disciplines, but also meet young and talented arts students who were eager to share the stories behind their work as well as their career goals and inspirations. The visit was concluded with a performance by the school's music students. 


During the evening, the delegation attended a Zurkhaneh performance session, a local male traditional martial arts. The Zurkhaneh was originally seen as place to train and get closer to God, through weight training, as strength was seen as something godly.  The delegation were able to observe how this tradition was being maintained and passed through the generations.

SHIRAZ - Khaneghah Ahmadi's Sufi Convent


The delegation were fortunate to gain invitation to one of the most important cultural spots in Shiraz, the Khaneghah Ahmadi, a convent that reunites the local Sufi community. Our delegation took tea with their leader, Sheikh Moradzadeh, and then visited convent’s museum where all the pieces of history, work and innovation brought by their community’s elders over the last decades. 

Shiraz- CAMPUS VISIT and Lectures at the Shiraz University (Faculty of Arts & architecture)

To conclude our symposium, the delegation gained exclusive access to one of the campuses of Shiraz University. Discussions were held with Iranian students from the faculty of Arts and Architecture, and the delegation also attended two lectures. The first one was given by professional illustrator and professor Dr. Myriam Akbarzade on The Evolution of Visual Aesthetics in Iran. The second one was on The Contemporary Iranian Performing Arts by theatre director Aida Catibeh.