Education Resource

Meet the Journalists: Newsha Tavakolian and Thomas Erdbrink

The black tents dot the slopes of the Zagros mountain range in central Iran—it could be a scene from ancient times. Iran’s one million nomads are slowly fading away, erased by modernity. Photographer Newsha Tavakolian and writer Thomas Erdbrink followed members of one of the last nomadic communities in the world, as they migrated to their summer pastures, some too old to even walk.

For thousands of years the nomads brought their flock to the cool and green pastures on the Iranian plateau, but the tradition is dying out as they are moving to houses. Bibi Naz Ghanbari, 73, as she was boiling tea over a fire as rain came pouring down, complained that she too would like to live in a real house. Her husband told her the old ways need to be respected when she complained of the cold. 

Iran’s government is encouraging the nomads to settle down, and climate change and urbanization have destroyed ancient migration routes. The annual treks are now made using rented trucks. Tourists increasingly view the nomads as an odd attraction rather than a way of life. Most nomads agree: They will soon be in the annals of history.