By Afshin Majlesi

Age-old Noruz traditions altered by coronavirus in Iran

April 3, 2020 - 22:9

Iranians experienced totally-changed traditions during this Noruz (the two-week New Year holidays started March 20) in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the tourism and hospitality industries worldwide.

The virus, also known as COVID-19, caused air, road and rail travels a meltdown in the country such as the whole world.

In an act that is far different from the sole of the age-old Noruz traditions, a majority of people stayed home instead of coming together, visiting the loved ones, or spending time in the nature.

Each Noruz, hoteliers, airliners, tour operators, restaurants, and local communities prepare to reap a bonanza over a traditional peak season, which starts days before Noruz.

The nation by tradition make hundreds of trips, mostly domestic ones, when most businesses and workplaces are closed, as are schools. The number of domestic travelers is sometimes difficult to gauge accurately because many use their own cars to get around. In addition to Iran’s popular tourist sites, including the historical cities of Isfahan and Shiraz, hundreds of thousands head for the coasts of the Caspian Sea.

However, local and government authorities, this year, issued severe warnings, urging to limit travel between major cities in order to contain the virus. They also warned that may use “force” to limit travel throughout the country if needed.

Last year, Iranians made 74 million overnight stays in their domestic trips during Noruz holidays, which showed an increase of 20 percent year on year.

Sizdah Bedar, also known as Nature Day, puts an end to Noruz rituals when millions of people flock to the parks with picnics to spend a day in nature with family and friends on the 13th day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian calendar.

This year, parks and gardens witnessed an unusual serene and quiet picture on Wednesday.

From days before Sizdah Bedar, authorities closed parks, recreational areas and access to the countryside and mountains to avoid crowds and the further spread of the virus.

Prior to Noruz, tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan announced no official celebrations or public gatherings, even the pre-scheduled ones, would be held during the two-week holidays (starting March 20 this year) in a bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Commenting on cancelled travels, Mounesan asked the nation to postpone or reschedule tours so as to help the tourism industry over the virus outbreak. “My suggestion to my dear people is that they do not cancel their hotel reservations and domestic tours as far as possible in order to help the tourism industry and prevent it from bankruptcy by making their reservations in time after virus is controlled.”

Indoor traditions did not suffer much form the virus. Every nooks at homes are cleaned and colorful Noruz tables are symbolically rearranged as part of a string of customs to herald the spring and celebrate rebirth.

The pandemic is also putting thousands of jobs, particularly tourism-related ones at risk, with traveling likely to slump for months to come.

AFM/MG

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