Zurkhaneh, literally "house of strength", the persian traditional gymnasium is an institution whose soul is gradually disappearing in Iran. More than just a gymnastic, bodybuilding and wrestling place, Zurkhaneh host practitioners of different ages and social classes who attend their neighborhoods Zurkhaneh, a place - with the mosque, the hammam and the coffee-shops - of social gathering.
In ancient Persia, Varzesh-e Pahlavani, the "ancient sport", has often played a role in Iranian resistance against the invaders throughout their history. From the beginning, it took as ethic, moral values ("chivalry" spirit, bravery, courage) of the philosophical and mystical Persian civilization. With its integration in Shia Islam, it added Sufism spirituality as well as faith and absolute loyalty to the prophet and the imams. The gymnastics and wrestling are punctuated by the tombak, a percussion instrument, and accompanied by the chant of the morshed, "guide", seated on a raised platform. It's often epic songs from the Shah Nama, the Book of Kings.
For some Iranians, Zurkhaneh still have the reputation of being both of a glorious school of ancient chivalry, of Iranian mystic and of a den of thieves! Nowadays, some urban Zurkhaneh becomes paying touristic attractions, gradually losing their mystical soul and genuineness.
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