After a slow start in Tehran, this trip is getting better and better (apart from lack of wifi) and I wonder if we haven’t just experienced the highlight of our trip so far with our farm stay in the desert.
Shiraz was a lovely city, many Persian gardens with their water features and many flowers in bloom. Many streets are tree lined, lots of greenery and like the rest of Iran spotlessly clean. So strange travelling through a Middle Eastern country, fairly run down, many old buildings but spotlessly clean, being able to eat from street vendors and even drink the tap water.
Such a country of contrasts. I wouldn’t say a stunningly beautiful country, rather bland with the mud brick homes, no colour apart from the magnificent mosques and shrines, buildings are often quite delapidated but so clean and green.
On our last day in Shiraz we visited the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, an astonishingly beautiful mosque with the sun providing beautiful colours through the stained glass windows. I’ve always enjoyed the mosques, especially in Turkey, they are beautiful inside, no crazy ugly statues etc, they are peaceful, mosaic mirrors cover the domes which provided light before electricity was around, and soft gorgeous Persian carpets to lay back on providing time to reflect on current trip.
We wandered around the beautiful Bagh-e-Eram (Garden of Paradise), so many roses, pistachio, walnut, pomegranate etc trees which I have never seen before and a few other interesting sights.
We enjoyed one of my best lunches so far in a little courtyard restaurant (these little towns remind me so much of Morocco, the little laneways, alleyways, mud brick houses and pretty peaceful courtyards with flowers and fountains and always good Persian food.). We are lucky to have a guide like Sahara who loves good food, she takes us to all her favourite Persian restaurants.
After lunch we made a few more stops to a couple of interesting Shrines, another Mosque, different to the last one and a final walk around the Bazaar. The Bazaars are extremely important to the people, economy and lifestyle in Iran. They are politically very powerful, are not tourist markets filled with Chinese junk, it is where the people do their shopping and the vendors often supply the local shops. There is no bargaining, set prices but if a local asks a price and they can’t afford it, the vendor will tell them that if they need it, they should just pay him whatever they can afford , and that’s fine.
There are also signs outside the tea houses letting locals know that if they can’t afford to pay for their tea, no matter just ask as they will be given tea anyway.
Finally we headed off into the desert to stay with our nomadic hosts. It was a long trip through a barren landscape, snow covered mountains in the background sometimes, but also lots of sand and much more at times.
Eventually we came through some fertile land, farming communities, I loved seeing the many nomadic tent settlements along the way with their families, women weaving wool outside tents, kids playing and shepherds with their goat and sheep flocks.
Our nomadic family (from the Qashqai tribe, Turkie speaking pastoral nomads who winter near the Persian Gulf and summer on the decentralised Iranian Plateau, where we were) gave us a huge welcome and invited us into their very basic, grandparents home where we would spend the night.
It was already 8 pm by this stage however we all sat around in a large room on the carpet with cushions drinking tea and getting to know the delightful young couple who were hosting us for the night.
About 9.30 pm they brought out a really simple but tasty vegetarian, home grown dinner (you guessed it, rice included) which we sat and ate with spoon and fork, as the Persians do. (Thank goodness I can still sit cross legged on the floor, for a while anyway).
After dinner we had the best most fun night, so many laughs, so much information that I do believe my memory and brain might not last until the end of this trip. It has been a completely different trip to previous and I have learned so much, perhaps the knowledge has made up for the often bland surroundings and sightseeing.
We all told stories, Mechie, our host, had excellent English and is the linchpin of this village, he is trying to keep the young people in the village (tiny - only about 400 population and all farming), trying to keep their most interesting old homes which are fairly earthquake proof and work in the climate where the temperature gets down to 18-26 degrees and boiling hot in summer, has started an English school at his home for the children as the government would not provide English, and so much more. He was so interesting and knowledgeable, him and I had many jokes about whether the Iranians had two heads and were behind each bush waiting to kidnap or shoot me as sadly, often believed by the Western world .
All the stories, some very funny ones which even our nomadic hosts understood were shared over tea and local Organic Sheessh which was a very enjoyable smoke and so different to the usual stuff. Our group of 7 and especially Sahara are very funny, we all get on extremely well and bounce jokes and stories off each other. I must say Intrepid groups are always made up of likeminded independent travellers, I guess nit everyone wants to travel to Iran to be kidnapped and shot so those who are here are perhaps a little different, interesting and fun to be with.
We slept well with a fire going in the room, all spread out on mattresses with wool blankets, no sheets etc and only one bathroom so now showers and you should’ve seen the kitchen where somehow they managed to prepare the spread for dinner, breakfast the next morning and lunch. Amazing and hygiene isn’t bad at all compared to other countries.
So no more time, I am really behind in my journal, we are already in Yazd but now that I have wifi will try and catch up whilst here.