Iran 5: Kashan, Qom and Tehran - Carolynn-in-Dubai
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In Qom, Iran. Qom is the most holy city for Shia Muslims as it contains the Nazrat-e Masumeh shrine, the grave of Fatimeh, the sister of the 5th Imam. Times have changed; when I was in Iran in 1978 there were signboards on the highway informing non-Muslims that they could not go within 5 miles of the holy city. There was a special bypass on the highway that skirted the city. Nowadays non-Muslims are allowed into Qom but travellers must dress conservatively, act discretely and enjoy whatever level of access may be given to them ie sometimes photography is ok, sometimes its not.
Ayatollah Khomeini lectured in Qom before his exile and the city is a theological centre for Shia Islam with numerous colleges and madrassah. On the streets of Qom the women were 100% wearing chador and to get into the Hazrat-e Masumeh shrine I had to borrow one. A chador is like a single sized bedsheet that's worn over the head and falls loosely to the ground. It's held closed across the front of the body by one hand or in some cases by the teeth.