Persian yoga teacher shows off her country’s rich heritage

Ben LeahyNorth West Telegraph

Those lucky enough to visit Iran will quickly realise that contrary to media portrayals, the country’s residents are among the most welcoming in the world.

Visitors will also realise Iranians are proud of their history as one of the world’s great civilisations and keen to point out their Persian culture is different to those of the neighbouring Arab countries.

For Iranian-origin Hedland resident Shamy Witimer, April’s Pilbara Community Legal Service’s Cooking up a Storm event gave her just such a chance to celebrate her Persian heritage.

She cooked Tahchin morgh, a rice, egg, saffron and chicken dish, along with a shiraz salad.

“What is special in this dish is the way we (Iranians) use saffron, it shows off our culture,” she said.

“Because most of the people ... confuse us with the Arab countries.

“I tell them Iranians don’t know anything about the Arab language ... my country is Persia, we speak the Persian language.”

Ms Witimer also showed attendees at the PCLS luncheon, which is designed to give migrants and refugees the chance to make new friends, a map of Iran’s central location along the old Silk Road trade route.

Its location linking Eastern and Western cultures has ensured Iran has, more often than not, been an important and powerful country.

PCLS migrant worker Victoria Malyk said the Cooking Up a Storm events were a great way for migrants to showcase their cultures.

“Hopefully after today’s cooking workshop, Persian cuisine will be popular in our town as well,” she said.

Speaking at the March cooking workshop held as part of Harmony Week, Ms Malyk said WA had the highest percentage of residents born overseas of any Australian State.

“We had 72 nationalities in the last Census,” she said.

As possibly Hedland’s only Iranian-origin resident, Ms Witimer brings yet another cultural flavour to town, but it has been a long road to get here.

She left Iran in 2004 with her children and former husband, living in India and then the Philippines.

After meeting her current husband, a Swiss-origin Australian citizen, she made the move to Australia.

Now the yoga instructor has been getting into the swing of Hedland’s lifestyle by teaching yoga classes, saying it had been a great way to make new friends.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails