Be arami, Be arami .... A first trip to Iran - Ateshooni Guesthouse, Garmeh

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October 7th 2014
Published: November 2nd 2014
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I am hereI am hereI am here

Central desert- Garmeh, Dasht-e Kavir
Ateshooni is a Zoroastrian word meaning, "night time celebrations around a campfire". Sounds good to me- I'm not quite sure WHEN my campfire will eventuate but it's not going to be today.

Early wakeup because I've left my curtains open (I like to wake up with the daylight)- the sun is streaming in and it's still pleasantly cool. I get a chance to have a look around the house in the daylight and am very impressed. There's a small garden, geese, date trees and lots of turquoise tiles. I love it. Take a trip up the stairs next to my room to the roof top- very cool space. Head over to Ateshooni through the 2 underpasses; it looks like a medieval mud brick fortress in the light- probably because it was! The actual structure is about 400 years old and is located next to the remains of a Sassanian period (224 - 637 AD) citadel. Maziyar's family started the renovation of the building using traditional style mud bricks turning it into an operational guesthouse by 1999. The front of the guesthouse is occupied by a bunch of goats and camels. Wander in and breakfast is in full flight- it seems that the Europeans have not slept well- it was hot and noisy. I slept like a log. Breakfast is fried eggs, flat bread, halva, cream cheese, jam and tea. There's also Nescafe. I have a perfect breakfast sitting cross legged on the carpet chatting to one of the French women- she is a retired anaesthetist who worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres for a number of years. She is loving Iran. Me too.

The Europeans leave in their large buses and suddenly there are only a smattering of people left. The staff now outnumber the guests. I'm not in any hurry so spend another couple of hours sitting around drinking tea and chatting to 2 guys- Bart and Peter, they are from Belgium and have been at Ateshooni for a couple of days already. They have been really lucky in that a production company had been there filming a segment on the area, the lodge and things to do so they had been invited along for some wild rides in the desert showcasing the dunes and Maziyar and his music. They are very nice- very funny. After all the sitting around I decide I need to go have a look around the village- it is really awesome- there are more doors that I can photograph - my door collection blows out by another hundred or so. I love the colours- sort of muted but colourful too. I am forced to start deleting photos stored on the phone- Bali is the first to go... I cant quite bring myself to delete Nepal.

Then make a monumentally dumb decision (although it turned out absolutely fine- looking back it probably was a bit stupid)- I decided that the mountain I had been looking at all morning needed to be climbed (big hill really but mountain by Perth standards). Not withstanding the fact that I was alone, no one knew where I was AND it was nearly midday i.e- maximum sun exposure, off I went. In my defence I did have an umbrella and a water bottle (which I had to leave at the base of the hill because I needed both hands to climb some bits). Anyway, it was a pretty easy climb, just super hot (if any of you reading this have walked in the heat through the gorges at Kalbarri or climbed up Bluff Knoll, a 1000m peak in the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia, well... you get the picture). Got up to the first plateau and I made a few piles of stones to act as markers as I kept going up so that I could retrace my steps back down again. It was actually quite a long way and after reaching a 2nd plateau I figured I had better head back before I reached the very top as 1. My brains were boiling (despite headscarf) and 2. I didn't want to miss lunch. Coming back down was easy until the very last bit where it was more of a jump (potentially twisting ankle/breaking legs and die in the blazing sun) and slide affair. I made it intact though and found my umbrella and water bottle (containing water hot enough to make tea with). Headed back to the house via the shade of the date and pomegranate plantations.

Back at Ateshooni some more people had arrived;

Austrian couple- an engineer and industrial door mat supplier

Tehrani group of friends- one of the girls was a French Patisserie chef who owned a bakery in Tehran

A Spanish guy (Ignacio) and Italian girl (Serena), friends travelling as a couple.

Enjoyed a great lunch- rice pilaf, salad and pomegranate paste (seriously amazing, up there with the Saffron icecream), and very nice company. Very cruisy afternoon doing nothing but chatting and looking out the big window whilst strategically moving to the best spot under the ceiling fan to get maximal breeze. Serena and I headed off for a walk around 5pm - the sun was going down and it was generally cooler. The almost full moon was on the rise as we were climbing some smaller hills to find a good vantage point. Bart had seen a jackal earlier that day so I was kind of hoping to see one too. The hills were interesting in that there were a lot of surface cracks and crevices- a second opportunity to break an ankle! The views were pretty fantastic in the dusk and then the moonlight, shame the i-phone doesn't capture dusk too well, also got to see a jackal and a bunch of big birds which I now think were sandgrouse. By the time we made our way down it was pretty dark, we went back the long way via the town's shrine (we had thought it was the mosque)- the caretaker spotted us hanging around the closed front gates, put down his wheelbarrow and came and let us in. He gave us a guided tour in Farsi and we made agreeing type noises- it was interesting.

Arrived back at Ateshooni where Maziyar was giving a concert to a new large tour group, this time of Italians. When he had finished we all headed up to the roof top to sit on the rugs in the moonlight.. There was a German girl there who told Serena and I the story of her temporary marriage to an Irani guy that she had met earlier in the year. Apparently temporary marriages- Sigeh in the Shia Islamic faith occur relatively frequently. Apparently the couple appear before a mullah, the groom pays the bride a prearranged sum and the length of the marriage contract is specified (hours to years), they both sign the contract and they are "married". Apparently the man can divorce at any time before the contract is up but not the woman, the German girl doesn't seem to have a good understanding of the implications of it all. There has been a doco made called The Bazaar of the Sexes, it looks interesting. I wonder how it will turn out for the German girl..

The wind picks up to the point that we have to move inside. Dinner is great- pilaf with barbequed chicken and salad. Another late night, more music, more conversation. Plans for my desert trek to start tomorrow morning are announced in the vaguest of fashions- "leave maybe after breakfast, maybe 10am?". Sounds good. I feel like I have had a great rest here. Walk back to my room through the deserted village around 11pm, the sand is swirling in the air. Peter and Bart get on a bus for Tehran and the wind howls all night.

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The Bible

Single most common seen book in all of Iran! English or Chinese versions.

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