Kashan and Yazd

Yazd Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 6 › view all entries
We are having an amazing time in Iran. Hugh is totally back to his normal self now and has turned from a little boy living almost on air when he was sick, to a big guts again. He is a bottomless pit where food is involved. He certainly thinks of himself as a grown up and likes to eat adult food. He even insisted on drinking some of our tea on a few occasions (slightly cooled of course), which surprisingly he liked - mainly because he sees us doing it. Cameron on the other hand has battled with a complication from the virus we all had when we left Australia. He developed a bad sinus infection and for the first week of our trip has felt pretty ordinary. I know the micro and medical people reading this would be horrified to know that there was a bit of self diagnosis going on. We guessed he had a bacterial infection now and he first he tried a course of Rulide (in our medical kit) which did nothing, then he went to the pharmacy and bought a packet of over the counter Augmentin Forte, which initially helped but after a few days he seemed to have his symptoms back as bad as ever. The pressure behind his eye and cheek was very painful and he was worried about the complications of an abscess in this area. He was miserable and although we were seeing amazing places he was just struggling to get through the day with doses of paracetamol and hoping that the antibiotics would eventually work. At his worst he even said that he wanted to go home! Luckily for him, he married a microbiologist, who suggested that he probably had mixed anaerobes in the abscess and perhaps a course of metronidazole would help along with finishing the course of Augmentin. We went to another pharmacy and, over the counter again, obtained 30 tablets of metronidazole. Cameron conveniently knew what the proper dosage should be (it’s a bit of a worry for those who don’t, especially since there is no medical guidance). Budget travellers would be interested to know that the total cost for 20 tablets of paracetamol, and 30 tablets of the antibiotic cost a mere 40 cents. Iran is just so cheap, it is unbelievable. Anyway, after just 2 tablets in the evening, he woke the next morning and felt almost 100%. He was so happy as he hadn’t felt this good for ages. (Don’t worry micro people, he will be finishing the entire course). 24 hrs later he says he feels pretty much back to normal. Last time I wrote we were in northern Iran at the Zoroastrian ruins of Takt-e-Soleiman. We travelled onto a place called Hamedan, mainly to break up the journey to our next destination. I wasn’t holding high hopes for Hamedan being very interesting, but surprisingly it was quite good. It had tree lined streets and huge snow capped mountains rising over the city. As in a lot of Iran, there was a lot of hustle and bustle. People were out on the street, hanging out, and going about their business, so it was very interesting to just be amongst it. A lot of the women wore the full chadors here. One site that was interesting was the tomb of Esther (after which an old testament book was written). It was inside a tiny building behind a huge 400kg granite door. It turns out that this is a hugely important pilgrimage place for Jewish people, as apparently Esther used her feminine ways to prevent a planned slaughter of the Jews. Consequently, the tiny building has an even tinier synagogue. Hamedan was also Ecbatana �" one of the ancient world’s greatest cities �" and apparently mentioned in the bible. We are talking very very old here. Much of it is under the new modern city, but some of it is being excavated. If you are interested in Ancient history, Iran does not disappoint. Next we went to the city of Kashan. Our hotel was right near the bazaar. Much of the city is made from mud bricks and from our hotel we looked down on the expansive bazaar roofs, which from above, were a series of gentle mud domes. The lonely planet said that you could climb up on the roof so I asked H about it. He said he did it last time he was here with some other tourists but they got in trouble with the police. But he didn’t seem concerned about doing it again as he said the police just told them to get down. He asked someone at the bazaar where the stairs were, and a boy appeared and led us through alley after alley of the bazaar and eventually showed us a set of stairs. With a quick look around for police we dashed up the stairs. It was a pretty good view over the city and we walked over the domes of the bazaar roof. Each dome had a small opening through which you could see the bazaar life going on below (I don’t think it rains too much in Kashan which is pretty much in the desert). We didn’t run into any police luckily. We stopped for dinner at an old converted bathhouse which is now a teahouse and restaurant and ate dinner, Iranian style, on Persian rug covered platforms. We drank some Islamic beer �" which comes in a beer bottle but doesn’t taste anything like beer and contains no alcohol. There are many different flavours �" strawberry, pineapple, mango, lemon, pomegranate. Which tastes like strawberry, pineapple etc softdrink. A family near by kept smiling at us, and after a few minutes asked H if we minded if they took a photo with us. Of course we didn’t mind. They were lovely, but we couldn’t speak Farsi and they couldn’t speak English, but through H, we learned that they lived in a city called Marshad near the border with Afghanistan and that the man was a truck driver. We both finished up our dinner at the same time and they wanted to pay for ours. It was very nice of them, but we did not let them. It is the Iranian way to be hospitable to strangers. We also visited another archeological site of a ziggurat (like the pyramids of Egypt but instead of straight sides, it is stepped). This is amazing, as it is thought to be built around 4000BC. That is certainly very old. Excavations are continuing and so far they have found all sorts of pottery etc which is now in the National Museum. Iran would certainly be an interesting place to be an archeologist. We also visited the Fin Gardens. We probably wouldn’t have gone there if we were travelling alone, but H took us there. Being so hot and landlocked, Iranians just love gardens and anywhere there is water. These gardens had a natural spring and a series of shallow fountains were built throughout. It was such a hot day and it was nice and cool there, but they were just gardens (albeit, extremely crowded ones with all the Iranians travelling during the New Year holiday). There were no rules about keeping out of the fountains (they were only ankle deep) and children were having a great time. Hugh had a little play in the water and loved it. He got quite wet though. While he was playing, a group of ladies came up to me and asked the usual questions “Where are you from?” “What do you think of Iran?” “Where have you been?”, plus some others “What is the religion in your country?”, “How old are you?”. They also said that they were worried that Hugh would get cold in the water. This, mind you, was a 35 degree day. It was so hot, and we weren’t the slightest worried about it. When I saw many other babies being carried around rugged up in tracksuits, hats and socks, I realised why they thought Hugh, in shorts and a T shirt, playing in the water, and now with wet pants, may be a little cold. However I think Hugh certainly thought it was a bit of relief from the heat and his shorts very quickly dried. I however was feeling very, very hot in my coat and scarf. I was getting a bit grumpy with the whole thing, but reminded myself that I was only in the country for 2 and a half weeks. Iranian women have to wear this every day of their lives, and it was only a bit over a week that I would have to do it, so I tried to snap out of it! Kashan is also famous for its many traditional mansions. We visited one of these (which was very beautiful) and then the huge mosque, which was also quite stunning. I was also surprised that so far in our trip, I had not once heard the call to prayer played from the mosques. When we were in Istanbul as few years ago, it was a constant sound. It appeared that there was always a mosque next door to wherever we were staying, which would sound very loudly at dawn and wake us up. When I told H this, he said that in Iran it is only sounded 3 times per day, not 5 like in other Islamic countries. Apparently the branch of Islam in Iran is ironically (since it appears to be such a strict Islamic country) quite lax. People aren’t that religious and as H said, when they try to push you too far, people do the opposite. He even said that sometimes the mosques forget to play the call to prayer. The president would not be happy. Next we moved on to the city of Yazd. And what a stunning place. This was definitely a highlight so far of our trip. It is a delightful place with a romantic old city with many twisting alleys made of mud bricks. You could easily get lost in the twists and turns, but you can usually look up and see the minarets of the huge Mosque (they are 48 metres high) and get your bearings. Around a corner there might appear another small mosque or a square, or a lady in a chador, or an old man sitting on a step holding prayer beads. People live in the old city and a lot of their doors were very elaborate with different knockers for men and women �" they make different sounds so the occupants could know who was calling and whether a man or woman should answer the door (this was mainly important in the past I think) Also the roofs in the city were covered in ingenious ancient (or at least old) mud towers, which work as natural air conditioners. Somehow, in their design, they draw in air. There is a small pool of water underneath, which, when the air hits it, through evaporation, makes the room beautifully cool. Standing underneath, there really is a breeze. Amazing. Our hotel, the Silk Road, was a real find. There are only 9 rooms set around a gorgeous courtyard with gardens and fountains and many Persian rug covered platforms to eat on. It was also right in the old town so you could walk to everything. The huge mosque was only 100m away and this was just stunning �" covered in blue and green elaborately designed tiles, and flood lit at night. We started to see more foreigners in Yazd as this really was on the traditional tourist trail. A highlight of our trip to Yazd was visiting the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, a few km out of town. Out in the desert on rocky twin hills, there are towers which, (up until the 1960s) were used by the Zoroastrian people to place dead bodies. They believe that burying or cremating a body pollutes the air, so they simply brought the bodies up to the towers (which are open to the air) and birds of prey would pick the bones clean. The bones would then be swept into the central deep hole in the middle of the tower). It was quite an amazing sight. We were also joined by a young woman called Far who is a Zoroastrian. She looked like any other modern Iranian woman, in that she didn’t dress in a certain way to indicate her religion. She was pretty snappily dressed and was constantly receiving calls on her mobile. She had excellent English (she is an English teacher and interestingly has finished a degree in microbiology). She told us a bit about her religion and how it is mainly about doing things to improve oneself. Once a week she tries to get to the Zoroastrian fire temple (as they worship fire). They may be a dying race though as she said there are only 2000 in Iran and many are emigrating to the US. (There is a sizable amount in India, in Mumbai, where they are called Parsis, however I don’t get the feeling that many Iranians are keen to emigrate there). Keeping their blood line pure is very important to them, so they only marry other Zoroastrians, (which makes the pool of available men pretty small I would think. I wonder if they suffer from a man drought too?). But she didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get married. When I asked her if she was, she laughed and said, “No, I am free”. So that is where we are at so far in our trip. Our next destination is Esfahan - from all accounts a beautiful place with glittering mosques and the absolute highlight of any trip to Iran. Yazd is a Zoroastrian city, Esfahan is an Islamic city, and then, our final destination, Shiraz, is an ancient city. Quite a contrast.
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photo by: macajam