ToIran.com Life

Daily stories about toiran. Read stories about our road trips adventures in different cities and office life.

Tag: history of iran

Jolfa Treasures and Quince Blossoms

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We found the Jolfa quarter of Isfahan very lively. With its restaurants, coffee shops, Sherbet Saras (shops where people have gathered to drink sherbet, socialize and listen to poetry recitations for hundreds of years ), and antique shops.  One restaurant which caught our eye was Hermes. It attracted our attention for its beautiful design, refreshing lemonade and art gallery vibe.  Patrons could take a photo of themselves upon arrival, which would be shared on the Heremes Instagram and displayed on a TV in the restaurant.

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Wherever we went, people loved our concept. Churches, shopping centers and restaurants were very welcoming and once they heard about our project, they all wanted to be a part of it. Many of them called to follow up afterwards, telling us how amazing they found our idea and asking us to come back to share a meal with them or to take more photos of their establishment. It warmed our hearts how everyone wanted to join hands to do something for the country. Unfortunately, we had to refuse all these kind offers due to our tight schedule but promised to come back later.

Vank Cathedral (Holy Savior Cathedral) was a sight I will never forget.  We were told that the Armenians, who fled the Ottoman massacre nearly 400 years ago and took refuge in Jolfa, had built this church. This cathedral was an incredible mix of Islamic and Armenian architecture. Its walls were covered in the finest of paintings. Its decorations were a combination of Christian and Persian arts. The blue and gold painted central dome depicted the biblical story of creation and man’s expulsion from Eden.

Vank Museum had many interesting displays one of which was a strand of hair belonging to an Armenian girl which had a verse from the Old Testament engraved on it with a diamond –tipped pen.

One of the things we looked forward to everyday was coming back to Abbasi Hotel to sit in its garden for a cup of tea and Ash-e Reshteh (thick legume soup with noodles). For us this garden, with its intoxicating sent of quince blossoms,  pool, fountains and the sound of running water, was a piece paradise.

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On our last day in Isfahan, I ran into a group of French tourists at Abbasi Hotel. They had greatly enjoyed their trip but when they heard about our project one of them told me it was a ‘shame’ we were doing this as it would mean Iran would no longer be amazing and would become another tourist destination. I told them, what we are doing will take nothing away from Iran. It will be like anywhere else in the world, just like everyone comes to France to see what you have to offer they will learn about our sites and travel here to see it for themselves. Promoting the country will help the economy and when there are more tourists it will draw attention to the protection and maintenance of   historical sites and museums.

That afternoon we left Isfahan, taking with us pleasant memories of blossoms, hospitality and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It was time for us to visit my hometown, Shiraz.

The Birth of “ToIran” | Part VII

We realized there was a lot of work to be done. No one had ever gathered this information on such a scale before. So either nothing had been done before or the information was outdated or wrong. This meant we had to go to every corner of the country ourselves to gather information.

We decided to once again expand the team. At this time our priority was the development team. Our past experience had proven finding good developers in Iran difficult so we asked Salman to find us new team members.

The resumes Salman passed on to us were what we were looking for. Salman spoke highly of these experienced Back-End and UI developers and said he could guarantee the quality of their work.

I knew we still had a long way to go and needed to work on many things. But the hope I had, motivated me.

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We had a great team but we still needed to look for young, talented, and energetic individuals to expand our team, because there was a lot to do and we needed more help.

As Shahin got ready for more road trips, we focused on organizing office work so that we could better sort through the data gathered on trips.

We realized we need to be more active in social media and marketing and become stronger. Social media is an important part of our project because we believe any good project needs a good foundation and a great strategy and this was the reason for our tireless 8-month efforts.  We didn’t want to start like a weak team and then look for solutions to become strong we wanted to start strong.

We placed new ads on our social media platforms to find new people to grow our team. One of the people who came to us through these ads was Omid Mohammadi. He had worked in different technological fields, had knowledge of different gadgets and even had experience in Web Development. He was chosen for his experience in social media and because he was young and energetic. We soon realized we had chosen the right person and continued our online activities with his help.

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The Birth of “ToIran” | Part VI

We began the next round of road trips. This time we chose Mazandaran. Heidi, Shahin and one of the boys in IT volunteered to go.

We began our trip from the Firouzkouh Road and headed toward Sari, making stops along the way to capture the natural attractions of northern Iran on the way. Locals were extremely kind and were always ready to stop for a quick chat and to point us in the right direction. Often we would receive invitations to their homes to join them for meals.

We arrived in Sari where we met Hamed Tizrooyan, one of the young nature photographers who had been contributing to our project for some time. Hamed is a talented photographer and environmental activist. He accompanied the team in Sari for two days and helped photographing the natural and historical attractions of the city.

>After Sari, we moved on to 10 other cities including Amol, Babol, Babolsar,  Baladeh and Yoush. Every city we stopped in took our breath away with its natural beauty; astounding cities which had each formed and grown in valleys, around waterfalls and near ancient forests. These became some of our fondest memories of northern Iran.

The only thing that marred our experience was the tragic scene of the trees illegally felled in one of the virgin forests we passed through.

The car we used on this trip was Shahin’s car. The car broke down twice while on the road. So toiran.com decided to buy the team a new car. The car we needed had to be spacious, and suitable for off road trips. We needed a car to help us discover Iran, go on rough roads, travel mountain passes and take us on long distance road trips.  We asked around and finally found a Toyota Fortuner. We got the toiran logo on the car. Now wherever we went people knew who we were, and some would even come and ask us questions. This is exactly what we wanted: to get all Iranians involved in this project.

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The Birth of “ToIran” | Part V

Our workload increased by the day, our ideas grew bigger and our team needed more members to tread the path it had envisioned for itself. We placed ads on LinkedIn and other social media platforms and asked friends and acquaintances to help us find a development team. Many people came and went. Some even stayed with our team for a while as interns but after a month despite all the promises that had been made they couldn’t achieve anything. Everything became more complicated than the beginning because building something from scratch is much easier than fixing something that has been built wrong.  What were we supposed to do? We were returning to where we were a month before.

We were struggling with these concerns when someone suggested a PHP developer named Salman Akbari to us. We invited Salman to the office for an interview he radiated positive energy and was very experienced despite his young age. We decided to invite Salman to join our team.

The only problem was that Salman was doing his national service and could only come to the office part time.

With Salman on board, the Development team now consisted of him, Hamid Beiki as Graphic Designer and Mohammad Ghayati as IT Consultant. He started work by choosing a new theme.

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Hooman introduced us to Farbod Morshedzadeh, who is one of the most talented painters in Iran and has held several exhibitions. Farbod is studying for a PhD in History of Art and he proposed we have an Iranology class so that the team would learn more about Iran, its history, culture, art and architecture. The toiran team eagerly welcomed this suggestion and we began our classes starting with the history of ancient Persia. The Iranology classes increased our knowledge and allowed us to come together as a team and learn about Iran-the reason we were here in the first place.  These classes and discussions brought us closer in our thinking and led to new ideas.

We also asked Hooman Nobakht to hold a photography class for us to enable us to document and share our experiences when traveling in Iran. This also allowed the technology, art and cultural departments to learn about one another’s work and had a positive effect on team spirit and our teamwork.  These classes taught us the fundamentals of photography and smartphone photography, which was good for our team.

The Birth of “ToIran” | Part IV

 

After Hooman Nobakht, Shahhin Kamali joined our team and the toiran.com photography team started working with the best. Gradually, other photographers came to know us through our social media and began sending us photos from all over Iran. This added unique shots to our photo archives.

We decided to experience Iran for ourselves and we began going on road trips. We started with 10 of the major cities. At the time, we didn’t have a car, a friend lent us his car and Mohammad Ghayati,  Shahin Kamali and I hit the road. We went to Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, Kashan and Abyaneh.

It was an interesting journey but full of lessons and problems we didn’t even know we might encounter. The weather in one city was warm and cold in another, there was a lot to do and while it was a strain on us, we gained a wealth of experience and made unforgettable memories.

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We traveled to Tabriz, Mashhad, Qeshm and Kish by plane. In these trips, toiran was very lucky as friends helped us greatly in gathering information. This trip left us energized and hopeful about the path we were on.

The experience we gained from traveling to these 10 cities was hard earned but fruitful. It taught us what to pay attention to, what to look for and it taught us things that we might have neglected in the past.

Our trips continued until the spring, three months had passed since we started the project but we still hadn’t done many things, most importantly we still didn’t have a development team.

It was at this time that Hamid Beiki became aware of our project and was introduced to us by a friend. We started working with him with a contract to design our logo. Since the start of the project, we had had many logos designed and sent to us but when we saw Hamid’s designs, I felt he would be one of our team members. Our views and taste were close and the quality of his work was excellent. Hamid seriously joined the team in March.  We tested some of his proposed logos and finally chose one.

I felt that with a logo, toiran finally had an identity, one that would tell you what it was about when you saw it.

Everything was going smoothly but we still didn’t have a development team and this was a bit worrying.

The Birth of “ToIran” | Part III

Going to the Tehran Startup Weekend was an interesting experience and the toiran.com idea was voted most likely to be chosen and implemented.

I thought that by participating in the Startup Weekend I would be able to  put together a complete team of developers but I quickly realized that developers in Iran either work as freelancers or wish to relocate from Iran which is of course not good for the future of the country nor theirs.  Because even though freelance work appears to be more lucrative, lack of organization and work routine will prevent progress in the long run.

The Startup Weekend experience was good in terms of education and familiarizing me with the work environment in Iran but it also made me realize there are many obstacles in the way of implementing my idea.

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After the Startup Weekend, I contacted many of the people on the startup scene in Iran to get help on putting together a good team but because of my perfectionism and the wish to always use the best I didn’t achieve my desired results.

This is why I decided to focus on another part of the team for a while.

I have always had a passion for collecting art and have collected over 300 works of Iranian art so far. I met Hooman Nobakht about 7 years ago when I wanted to purchase two pieces for my art collection.

Hooman Nobakht is one of the best photographers in Iran. He has participated in several international and domestic exhibitions and festivals, and has won several prestigious awards. One of Hooman’s best qualities is his strong sense of patriotism and this love for Iran and Iran’s progress was why he agreed to join the team when I contacted him and told him about my project.

After Hooman Nobakht joined the team, the photography and journalistic part of the team was finally on the right track. But we were still looking to find developers.

The Birth of “ToIran” | Part II

When news of the nationalization of the Internet became public, I decided to take my idea and try it in a different Middle Eastern country like the UAE and thought that I would later include Iran in the project. I continued meetings and consultation sessions and tried to increase my financial means so that I could take on such a massive project. I became involved in different businesses.

After the 2013 presidential elections in Iran, at the world Economic Forum in Davos the new President, Dr. Rohani, invited investors to come to Iran and pursue economic opportunities there.

Upon hearing this, and considering my experience, I decided to travel to Iran to see if I could work here. During this trip, old friends of mine introduced me to Heidi Ghavidel, a journalist with experience in writing cultural reports about Iran, and Mohammad Ghayati, who was knowledgeable in IT. This chance encounter led to cooperation and the formation of a team to pursue my dream.

I returned to the UK to put my affairs in order and with the help of my two new friends, we began laying the groundwork to start our project. In a matter of less than two weeks, we found suitable office space and I returned to Iran to open the office and put a team together.

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I asked France-based Narges Adl, who was familiar with E-commerce to help me as a consultant. On her advice, I attended the Tehran Startup Weekend…

The Birth of “ToIran” | Part I

I was born in Iran and spent my early years in the city of Shiraz. Upon graduating from high school, I left the country and lived in Canada, the US, the UAE and the UK for 20 years.

About four years ago, I received a job offer in Tehran which I decided to accept due to my love for Iran. When I returned to Iran, the first thing I realized was that I knew nothing about my country; I didn’t even know where the most basic services were offered. I tried using the Internet, like I did in other countries, to find the information I was looking for and to my disbelief realized there is  no website where a person who is not very familiar with life in Iran can find necessary information. I realized even Iranians do not have a directory to look for information about their own city or other cities. This was one of the reasons which ultimately led to my leaving Iran.

From then on, it became my dream to create a website to gather and offer information about Iran. So while I was busy with other projects, I continued research for this purpose. I started looking for a good name for my project and one day while I was on GoDaddy I came across the perfect name: ToIran- a name which has meaning in both Persian and English. Even though it was a high price for a domain name in 2011, I purchased it for 5,000 dollars and created a couple of accounts for it on different social media platforms.

With the right name in my hand, I began more systematic research. Everything started falling into place for me.  But I didn’t have sufficient funds for such a large-scale project so I began looking for a potential partner.

I met a French group who had a similar idea. They became interested and to begin the project, I traveled to Morocco.

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We had a few meetings when reports started coming out that Iran plans to nationalize its Internet, which cast doubt on the feasibility of the entire project.  These false reports, sadly, hindered our project for a while and I became involved in other things…

ToIran founder: Faranak Askari

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