An Artistic Pilgrimage To Iran

Shahin is an instructor and choreographer of “Wheel Gymnastics”. Popular in Germany, the Rhönrad (Gymnastics Wheel) was invented in 1925 and is used in competitive disciplines or as a form of artistic expression.

At the age of 13, Shahin immigrated to Germany with his mother, but after 33 years, he decided that it was time to return home to Iran. This is why the RollEast Project was born.

Regarding his travel plans, Shahin says: “My journey to Iran and the East began on Yalda Night (winter solstice); the longest night of the year when, according to myths, light and illumination overcome darkness. I carefully considered Iran’s seasons when planning my trip since reaching Iran a year later on Yalda Night was of importance to me. But due to my travel style and the challenges that arose, I arrived in Tehran 626 days later. On average, I walked 20 Km per day; however, that dropped to 9 Km due to extreme hospitality once I passed through the Iranian border! As I rolled the Wheel along, I tried to use the designated bicycle paths inside cities, but that wasn’t always possible. My final destination was to be the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art where I would donate my Wheel which is a symbol of my journey and art project as the finale of this trek.”

Shahin has crossed through 14 countries: Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. For his trip, he didn’t choose the quickest and closest paths. Instead, it was the route less traveled and artistic destinations that drew him to side roads and rough terrain. Shahin says “Like a snail, I slowly moved along the side roads, carrying my home with me”. Tourists often visit the large cities and assume that what they see represents the entire country. However, far away from metropolitan chaos, Shahin trekked through small cities and along the way, succeeded in witnessing events ranging from everyday life to larger than life spectacles. For instance, upon crossing the Iranian border, his path through the Guilan province presented him with the opportunity to become familiar with 5 local languages, different accents, and a local calendar. Shahin has learned that reading about travel to Iran only offered a glimpse into his birth country but getting out there provided experiences that no book could cover. Nonetheless, interacting with people was a key part of his trip. Traveling with a Gymnastics Wheel is something you do not see every day, if at all; and so it was a great conversation starter. The people, whom he met along the way, rewarded him with wonderful conversations and invitations for friendships. One of the unique features of traveling the world on foot is the opportunity to learn from the locals and to fully embrace nature, climate, water, and air.

The rest of this article is published in the 3rd number of Gilgamesh international edition

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