Iran is not the typical touristic hotspot, and within the last years – and now with the Coronavirus pandemic – it seems to have become much more difficult to discover this beautiful country.
But politics is the one hand, the other is the Iranian people. I was traveling alone three times in Iran and it was always a pleasure to meet these incredibly friendly and obliging people. I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. You find many beautiful places of interest like the breathtaking Imam place and the amazing bridges in Isfahan, the ancient city of Shiraz or the bazaar in Kerman just to mention a few. Also Teheran is worth seeing and, of course, the northern regions with mountains as well as the Caspian sea. Well, you see, every region has some “must see“ places of interest.
When I was in Shiraz, I saw a small information sign for a sport I have never heard before: Zourkhane
I went there and asked for permission to get more information about this sport. Like always, the Iranian athletes were very friendly and they invited me to have a closer look to this completely strange sport.
What is Zourkhane?
It is an ancient sport (more than 1000 years old) which dates back to ancient Persia and was part of soldiers’ training. It includes several exercises, the most well-know is the training with the clubs.
When I was going down the steps to the gym, I heard loud music from a singer. The gym itself was a sunken 1m-deep circular pit in the center. Around this place was a section for the audience and one for the athletes. They do not wear typical sports clothes, their trousers remind me of the Bavarian “Lederhose“ which we put on on special occasions in my country. The trainer does not join the athletes, he sings ancient Persian songs and tabors to coordinate the rhythm for the different exercises. He determines the length and speed of the exercises with his tambouring and singing. A really very archaic atmosphere.
The room is covered with old photographs from famous Zourkhane sportsmen.
The men start with exercises to warm up the body. Also push-up and static routines. It includes many exercises which you find nowadays in modern calisthenics. History is repeating itself.
Then they continue with weight training to strengthen the upper body by using the wooden clubs. The weight of the clubs differs and its use depends on the experience of the sportsman. The more strength and experience he has, the heavier are the clubs. They are up to 40 kg/club for one arm!
Very impressive was the “Sufi swirling“: one person in the middle of the gym is swirling very fast for several minutes. Just imagine this burden for the body. The master of this exercise was able to rotate in one direction for more than 4 minutes. For me a perfect exercise for designated astronauts (but not for me)
After one hour the session was finished and of course I was very impressed by the performance of these athletes. In almost every bigger city in Iran, you find a Zourkhane club. If you are near, just go there and have a look. You will not regret it!!
The photos very taken with a Nikon Df and a 24-70 zoom.
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