Iran – The New Romance Capital Of The World?

Abyaneh Travel Blog

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The joy of finding a good air conditioning unit
“Pahaye asbi dari” Hmmm, not sure if I appreciate being told that I have the legs of a horse even if it is considered a very good compliment. Why is it that men think being compared to a work beast is acceptable praise?

I have been traveling around Iran for about a week now and during this time I got to see a lot of the countryside and cities, the old and the even older. Persepolis was one of the really old ones and it was just tremendous (I love that this word) but hot.

I apologise about going on how hot I’ve been, but when your kneecaps are sweating you know it is pretty warm. I didn’t even think there were sweat glands the knees but my body is certainly telling me differently, or maybe this is a coping mechanism to all the warmth I’ve been exposed to recently while wearing full-length clothing.
In the bazaars

As I mentioned before I went on the tangent of overheating, Persepolis was spectacular. The ruins there have been restored and you can now really envision what it was like for Darius I (who constructed this) and Xerxes I. The restoration has provided a chance to see the Apadana Staircase which depicts the tribute paid to Darius I by people from around his territory – Ethiopians carrying ivory and antelope, Lidians with giraffes, Alamites brought lionesses (?) and her cubs, Armenians bringing horses and Indians bringing the spices plus a whole lot more - truly awesome carvings to see, but it was the mythological Griffins which captured my imagination. Only recently uncovered (during the 19th century), these columns were never used and are still in original condition.
Persepolis - wow!
Perhaps they fell out of fashion or favour although other similar columns have been discovered in parts of Turkey.

While at the site, Janet and I decided to walk up to the tombs of Ataxerxes II and Ataxerxes III and while there we freed ourselves from the heat retaining hijab (head scarf) and let our hair blow in the wind. This was such a relief after the hard climb but a highly illegal act in a country where all women (locals and tourists) must wear the hijab in public. However, our moment of normality was too soon interrupted when we heard the sounds of voices and in a scramble quickly removed our hair from sight just moments before two men climbed up to where we were. It was nice to feel the wind in my hair, albeit only for a moment.

After Shiraz we traveled to Yazd.
Part of the detail that you can see on the Apadana Staircase
This city still has a small pocket of Zoroastrian followers and while there we walked around their funerary site.

Zoroastrian is an ancient religion that predates Islam in this area. It is a belief in three things; Good Thoughts, Good Talk and Good Deeds. What I found fascinating about this religion is the way their dead are treated. The deceased is taken up a large mountain to the Tower Of Silence and after it is stripped, the body is left in the elements for the birds to come along and eat at it leaving behind just the bones. After this process the bones are taken to a pit, which is within the Tower. As Zoroastrians do not believe in contaminating the earth, they used this practice for centuries. However, now as this religion is slowly being strangled out of existence, today’s followers are buried in coffins; a sad state for these peaceful practitioners.
Persepolis: The griffins that fell out of favour - this is them with no reconstruction
(For those of you reading interested, Freddie Mercury was also Zoroastrian).

Yazd was replaced with another city – Isfahan. This religious city once again showed me how liberal Iran can be with the locals wearing a mixture of western and Islamic clothing. One of the highlights of Isfahan was the Iman Khomeini Square. Around this complex you have the bazaar (which translates to ‘I Have You Want’ with almost anything you could possibly want to purchase, on sale; jewellery, scarves, art work, food, perfume, spices, carpets …. I could on. While in the bazaar I befriended an elderly gentleman who allowed me to practice my burgeoning Farsi on him and in the end I left with a small miniature he presented to him all because I had been talking to him in his own language.
Close up of the scary griffins

On the opposite side of the bazaar is the Iman Mosque, which was breathtaking with all the details. This mosque began construction in 1611 and was completed in 1638. In order to visit woman need to wear the chador which is always quite a task, not because you are adding more material to your already warm outfit, but because I have yet to perfect the art of wearing a sheet of material around me hiding my body and my hair while only using one hand. Whilst wearing this ensemble I am always impressed at how much I remind myself of a little babushka as I am so hunched over trying hard to hold everything together.

The afternoon in Isfahan was spent smoking the water pipe where Dan and I tried to outdo each other by acting like locals who puffed effortlessly and blew smoke rings.
In front of the Tomb of Cyrus the Great
Needless to say I am now a pro at it and Dan needs to bow in my presence.

Furthermore the afternoons were whiled away in the square talking to the locals and with students practicing their English. Once again talking with the locals provided many offers of invitations to stay for a drink of chai or coffee and also for romantic interest. One of the funniest conversations I had was when Janet, Dan and I were hanging out outside the mosque and two Iranian men were talking to us.

Iranian Man 1: “Are you married?”
Me: “No.”
Iranian Man 1: “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Me: “Yes”
Iranian Man 2: “How many boyfriends do you have?”
Me: “Er, just the one.”
Iranian Man 2: “Really? I think you need more than one man to handle you”
Me: “Hmmmm, thanks?”

Again, what is with the horse references?

Another place we visited, which may explain the fascination with strength is the Zurkhaneh or the House of Strength.
Having climbed to the top of one of the Towers of Silence, I broke the law, took off my scarf and posed for photos in front of the other one. The wind in my hair was so nice I couldn't resist.
This is similar to a men’s club but with a difference – the evening was spent sitting around the ring while men worked out, quoted Quranic verses and a man on a podium played the drums and banged bells. Strange was one word to describe this and there were times I felt like I was intruding on a private gym session while the men in the ring did push ups on wooden planks, weights with 20 pound wooden bowling pins (or at least that is what they looked like) and jumped and turned around in a maniacal, and yet highly compelling way. For 30,000 Rial (USD$3), it was a unique way to spend the evening.

One of the highlights of Iran so far is the talking with the locals – the students we encountered in the bazaar were eloquent and spoke very good English. Although some of them wanted to talk politics (which we’ve been advised to steer clear of), they are articulate enough and thoughtful enough to tell us that they do not like the way their country is being run.
A local Zoroastrian in Yazd
It makes for a sobering thought when the youth of Iran are unhappy with the way of the current regime and are hanging out for change. After swapping email addresses, receiving a lot of business cards and being told I am more than welcome to stay, we left for Abyaneh.

Abyaneh is a quaint village off the normal Silk Road route, but well worth the visit, if only just to have a break from the travel. The locals were Zoroastrians but converted much later to Islam and wear traditional clothing that gives them a look unique to Iran. The local language there is a mixture of Farsi and something else, but they still appreciate it when you speak to them in Persian and are happy to smile for photos and speak in heavily accented tones which I had trouble understanding.

Now I am heading back to Tehran for a few days – for a break before heading up to Europe for a nice relaxing time with the family and a washing machine.
Isfahan - if you look carefully you can see two women in their chador
Is it strange that I am starting to fantastise about whiteware? I have been hand washing for three months, and although it is fun, having technology sounds exciting and exotic, which is a lot like me – a person who is part woman and part horse – kheili ghashange apparently.

Huda hofiz from Abayneh
Saskia007 says:
Hey Frans, It seems I haven't responded to this comment either. I'm not being rude - I'm clearly just useless!

Never heard of the painter Stubbs, but I think I should ceck him out. When did he paint? When I search Stubbs and painter on Google, it comes up with a range of options. :)

Thanks for the compliment - I live in NZ and I teach History, but every now and then I trip up on some English, especially when I write report comments! Still, who doesn't eh? Such a complicated set of rules.

Huda hofiz is goodbye in farsi :)
Posted on: Oct 10, 2010
fransglobal says:
A horse is not necessarily a workbeast and many are very beautiful. Do you know the English painter, Stubbs?

Very interesting blog again. Your English is really excellent, even for a Dutch person. Have you lived in an English speaking country?

Huda Hofiz (I presume that's not something rude) from Dublin. Current temperature 20 degrees.
Posted on: Jul 25, 2010
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The joy of finding a good air cond…
The joy of finding a good air con…
In the bazaars
In the bazaars
Persepolis - wow!
Persepolis - wow!
Part of the detail that you can se…
Part of the detail that you can s…
Persepolis:  The griffins that fel…
Persepolis: The griffins that fe…
Close up of the scary griffins
Close up of the scary griffins
In front of the Tomb of Cyrus the …
In front of the Tomb of Cyrus the…
Having climbed to the top of one o…
Having climbed to the top of one …
A local Zoroastrian in Yazd
A local Zoroastrian in Yazd
Isfahan - if you look carefully yo…
Isfahan - if you look carefully y…
photo by: Saskia007