Day 61: Out of Tehran
Kashan Travel Blog› entry 86 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I have met and/or travelled with: Michael (Australia), Mostafa (Iran)
Kahsan lies only three hours south of Tehran, but it is quite a different experience. First of all there was the heat. I had thought that by now I was starting to get used to the heat. In Tehran I hardly broke into a sweat as I walked around town and into the hills yesterday, so I guessed I was getting used to the heat. Well, guess again. Though the thermometer in the bus said it was 'only' 32 degrees, when I got out of the bus I hit a wall of heat. It was like walking into a blow-dryer. Right, and it is supposed to get even hotter as I travel further south. Yikes!
The main attraction of Kahsan are the restored mansions from the 18th and 19th century.
I braved the blistering heat and walked around the part of town where these houses are. I was literally the only person out on the street. Sure, it was a public holiday and all, but even so people tend to stay indoors during the heat of day, sitting next to their air-conditioners, and they won't go out until 18:00 or 19:00 (traffic considerably increased once the sun set).
I visited several of the old mansions. At some of the places you could only visit the courtyard and the main buildings, whereas others offered extensive exploring of all the rooms and corridors.
And added bonus was that all these houses had cellars where I could sit for a while to cool off again.
One of these houses, the Khan-e Ehsan, is, apart from a museum and a library, also a hotel. After couch surfing with Araz for 5 days I had decided that it would be ok to splurge a little but and I treated myself to a stay in this wonderful hotel.
As I was walking around the old area of the city I came across some mud brick city walls. According to the guidebook it should be possible to climb the small circular section that still remains. As I walked around it I couldn't really find an entrance, so I decided to leave it for what it was and walk back to the hotel to get a shower (I really needed one).
I was approached by two Iranian men who had seen me walking around. One of them spoke a tiny bit of English: â��Entrance? You want door? I can drive you to door!â��
And before I knew it I got in the car with two total strangers to drive the 500 odd metres to the entrance of of the city walls. I guess it beats walking.
The citadel which once stood in the centre of the circular disappeared long ago, but the 900 year old walls are still standing. A tiny section has been restored, but the largest part just stands here crumpled like a sand castle after the rain.
After a quick tour around, the citadel they asked if I had seen Sialk yet. When I said I hadn't, they instantly offered to drive me to the site, 4 kilometres out of town. Sialk is Iran's oldest archaeological site, believed to be over 7000 years old.
My new friends drove me back to Kashan and dropped me off at the hotel. After some final handshakes and hugs we each went our own way again. Did I mention yet Iranians are the nicest people on earth?
I had received a call from Michael, the Australian I met in Tehran on Monday. He was also on his way to Kahsan and asked if wanted to meet up later tonight and share a room. Well, sharing the splurging definitely sounded like a good deal to me (besides Michael being a very nice guy of course, it is not all about the money.
In the evening we met up for dinner with another couch surfer, Mostafa. We had a very nice dinner with him in one of Kashan's most popular fast food joints (we were the only customers there). Fast food is on the rise in Iran. While the Iranian government frantically tries to ban anything Western, American cuisine, or at least an attempt at American cuisine, has really taken a flight in this country. Burgers, hot dogs, greasy pizza... in most cities it is easier to find these than it is to find a kebab!
Mostafa was very nice company and what made our conversations with him even more special, he was the first person either Michael or I had met who wasn't against the government. Of course, it is obvious that plenty of Iranians support Ahmadinejad, but these are generally the uneducated, lower class who live in the countryside.
Mostafa provided a balance here. He agreed that life wasn't easy in Iran, but he claimed that Ahmadinejad had done a lot of good things for the country. I agreed with him that the roads in the country are surprisingly good, though this was something initiated by Ahmadinejad's predecessor, the reformist Khatami. He also told us how under Ahmadinejad there had been more opportunities for students to get loans and to go to university. He also pointed out how Ahmadinejad's government had done a lot of good things for smaller communities, and did not just focus on the bigger cities in the country. This was evident in Kashan, which seems to be one of the richer cities in the whole country, without any obvious reason for being so rich.
As for the negative sides of the present government, Mostafa regretted not being able to travel until he served in the army. Generally in Iran you won't get a passport until you've served in the army (there are some exceptions though). He also mentioned that he wasn't allowed to walk through the street with his girlfriend, or in fact couldn't have a girlfriend at all. But on the whole he felt this lack of freedom did not weigh up against the good things Ahmadinejad had done, so on the whole he was a good president, he reasoned.
He was also our proof that - sadly - the propaganda the Iranian government spews out does in fact work. He told us he didn't like the negative propaganda in the Western media, which is aimed at discrediting Iran. We told him there was no such thing as negative propaganda in the West, but that it was obvious all attention goes to Iran's nuclear programme or Ahmadinejad's crazy verbal attacks towards Israel and the USA.
Furthermore he genuinely wondered whether the attacks of September 11th 2001 were an act of terrorism by Al-Qaeda or whether they were in fact orchestrated by the CIA in an attempt to discredit Islam and justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his opinion either was a very plausible explanation of the events.
It became clear that these thoughts were not born out of ignorance, but basically this is the information that is being fed to him via Iranian media. Without access to non-Iranian TV channels and with half the Internet blocked, it is easy to think that what is being said on Iranian TV is in fact the truth.
Both Michael and I were quite happy to have met someone with this point of view. Though neither of us agreed with it, it offered a refreshing alternative point of view. Everybody we had met so far made a point of telling us how much they hated the government within the first five minutes of the conversation. You'd almost think that no one in the country wants this government, and I don't think this is the case. I know for a fact that much of the country's poorer, uneducated population (which constitutes for about 80% of the entire population) will in fact believe Ahmadinejad, or at least the Religious government and Supreme Leader, is the right regime for this country.
The next morning we had a few more hours to spend before we would leave for our next destination.