In Khorasan – Iran,Taxi Drivers Are Poets Too


Due to my work in beverage industry, I travel to the city of Mashhad, Khorasan Province, quite often, once a week at times. Mashhad is the center of Iran’s beverage industry and the city’s airport is also a point of origin and destination between several cities in Iran. As part of my stay in Mashhad, I’ve had unique encounters with the city’s taxi drivers, and jotting down what I found interesting. Each driver, based on his own unique experience, has developed his own point of view, and opinion about people from other areas of Iran. And within themselves, the drivers have a terminology of their own.

For example, a passenger who is not a big spender or tipper is called a Hoteli. ( just a nickname taken from the word hotel in Persian, literally meaning someone staying at a hotel) I too, fit in that category, since every time my stay is paid for by the company I work for, and I can’t afford to pay more than the due fair. While chatting with the taxi drivers I would only tell them I was coming from Tehran, not revealing my Azerbaijani roots, and origin, simply to let them speak more freely, and candidly.

I must say, when it comes to being courteous, fair and honest, the drivers have always surpassed my expectations, making my experience a pleasant one. As for my notes, unfortunately, I lost them all, but this time when I went to Mashhad, I had an exceptional opportunity like none other. This time, as I always had, I got to talking with the driver, but I noticed something different about him. He started reciting some Persian poetry, and later in our conversation, some poetry of Molana’s.

He even quoted some works of other Persian literary figures. I was so surprised with his knowledge of Persian literature, that for a moment, I thought I was not in a taxi cab, and had gotten into another car! and totally forgot about my lost notes. By now, he had my complete attention, and I was curious to get to know more about him. He was like an artist who has finally gotten an opportunity to shine, and went on telling me more about himself: that he was from Sabzevar, Khorasan, and that he had poetically translated the Quran in five years, and had another work in Ruba’i.

استاد حسن راحتی سبزواری
استاد حسن راحتی سبزواری

Then, he recited some of his own poetry to me, which was in the same literary style of Ferdosi’s Shahnameh. Yes, to my amazement, the taxi driver, was none other than Hassan Rahati Sabzevary, one of Khorasan’s great poets and literary scholars. Being born, and going through elementary school in Sheshtmad, Khorasan, Master Sabzevary, completed his education in Mashhad. He attended college in Tehran, majoring in Philosophy at the University of Tehran, Faculty of Theology and Islamic Studies. Mr. Sabzevary pursued a career in teaching Arabic, and Islamic Studies, at Mashhad and Sabzevar’s high schools, for twenty nine years. And even in his years of retirement, he is as optimistic and energetic as ever.

As I got to my destination, and was saying goodbye, I still had one more question. Hearing his story, made me think that a line of job, as demanding as taxi driving, was not suitable for a man his age. I was wondering why someone with his background in Persian and Arabic literature, would choose to work as a taxi driver. He then calmly responded that this was not a full time job, but merely a way to generate more income. So if one day you go to Mashhad, don’t be surprised, if your taxi driver is a pleasant, literary scholar, who greets you with one or two couplets of Persian poetry. After all, this is Khorasan, the birthplace of Persian literature and poetry.

By Mohammad Babaee







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