[By Shideh] A short overview of our experience in Shiraz:
We stayed in Shiraz for a few days during the first week of our trip and had a great time visiting a few of the astonishing historical places. As amazing as this city is (and will always be), we could not help noticing the distasteful trend of new buildings replacing old gardens. The Shirazies seemed to have become crankier than before as they are not used to the new changes resulting in more traffic, pollution, and a more stressful state in their city. In particular, ladies driving around while talking on their cell phones seemed to drive the taxi drivers crazy!
Also, many were concerned about the fact that only Tehran’s left-over federal money reaches other cities. This point is of great importance as a city as significant as Shiraz should not be over-shadowed by another. In general, the imbalance between the opportunities in Tehran and elsewhere is stunning which, I think, is a strategic mistake and is hugely dangerous.
We also visited the College of Engineering of Shiraz University for a lecture.
We were awed by the enthusiastic and warm welcome that we received. It felt great to give a lecture in Farsi for the first time and to be among fellow Iranians after so long.
The students and the professors were all amazingly intelligent and up to date. I must add that we received a gift from the university and that was of course a beautiful “Hafez”. It’s a great honor to receive a “Hafez” from a Shirazi.
Many of the students in Shiraz and Tehran in general are trying hard to go abroad for PhD or Post Doc. They were mostly concerned about lack of budget in the universities available for research and the difficulty of publishing in the reputable international journals as Iranian scholars, given the current political problems.
We also talked about the power of volunteer activities by organizations like “Nezam e Mohandesi” in reducing seismic hazards across the country. There are however, numerous legal problems associated with such activities that have stopped this process up to now. There is an on going attempt by many academicians, however, to reduce the existing obstacles.
Lastly and most importantly, Shiraz University has provided an opportunity for all Iranian scholars in Civil Engineering working full time for universities abroad to spend a portion of their time at Shiraz University as visiting professors with their expenses fully covered. This is a step toward bringing Iranian scholars back to their country, even if for a short time. If any of you are interested in this option please let me know and I’ll give you more information.