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Published: November 18th 2018
We are writing this blog post from Amman, the capital of Jordan, thinking back to the last part of our journey through Iran, which remains a weird country if you think about the way the government and religious leaders don't respect internationally accepted human rights and laws. But these so called leaders are absolutely not representing the real country and its people as we discovered. We have fully embraced the people of Iran as they have embraced us with their friendliness, politeness and extreme hospitality. Iran truly is a fantastic travelling country.
From Masshad we went to Qa'en and then to Birjand where we arranged a car and driver willing to bring us to Deh Salm a small oasis village in the middle of the desert. The journey itself was already worth it and we stopped a few times on the way to see how the desert produces fruits and flowers like the beautiful crocus flowers (from which they make saffron), almonds and pomegranates in the trees and many bushes with truckloads of barberries.
Deh Salm is the most off the beaten track place we have been to in Iran and we loved it. We stayed at Zarah's homestay
hosted by a lovely young couple who took good care of us, prepared very tasty local dishes and took us to their small date palm plantation and later to the sand dunes in the desert for tea. Deh Salm is a true oasis consisting of a water source, mud brick houses, many date palms and more camels than people. The camels are herded into the desert every morning and they return to their homes at the end of the day.
The brother in law of Zarah was called in to bring us to Kerman where we only stayed one night before continuing to Yazd, taking us back onto the classic 'touristy' route. Yazd is a desert city, quite large with a lot of old houses, beautiful mosques, buildings with original wind towers and water channels and outdoor museum-like narrow alleys with thick walls. In Yazd we are able to attend (watch) a Zurkhaneh training session, which is a traditional version of a group gym session for men with heavy wooden weights being tossed around like they're feathers. One of the evenings we end up being the guests of honour at a birthday party while we just wanted to have
a coffee but were not allowed to leave for a long time while we were being treated to food and drinks. Another example of how people in Iran treat foreigners differently. Could you imagine inviting two random foreign tourists to your private family party in our Western society?
Next was Shiraz, one of the highlights for many tourists starting their trip. Shiraz made us clear that we had seen enough beautiful old buildings, mosques, mirror halls and wind towers. We did enjoy the convenience that comes with a city like this, especially the food. After visiting the huge, impressive Persepolis city, the pink mosque and the bazaar we were happy to end our trip through Iran at a completely different part of the country, the Persian Gulf islands.
We spent the last nine days of our extended Iran visa in a somewhat different world. The Persian Gulf islands Kish, Qeshm, Hormuz and Hengam are part of the Islamic Republic of Iran but the islands and their inhabitants stand a bit apart. Kish and Qeshm being free trade zones have become shoppers' havens and a proper holiday destination for many Iranians. At some of the islands people find a
hidden beach to go swimming together (male and female are not allowed to swim together in the country) and outdoor activities are allowed (although the women have to wear coveralls during a paragliding session) and people can go together on dinner cruises with a little bit of dancing and live music (usually male and female are not allowed to dance together in any public place in Iran) and we sadly realise that this is the most 'free' people can be in this country.
We hook ourselves up with Jimmy, a young local guide, with whom we visit first visit some very special places on Kish island, like a salt cave and an area that makes us feel like we're on another planet. Then we go to small and undeveloped Hengam island, which is a bit of an Iranian hippy destination, with Iranians who come here to camp in the wild and feel (a bit more) free from the omnipresent government and religious leaders. The guys wears shorts, we even see a few girls with skirts and uncovered hair and shoulders. There is smuggled booze and loud modern music and it suddenly feels quite like a different country and a
great way for us to experience a bit of 'normal life'. On the way to the island we spot dolphins. We go snorkeling twice and while the water temperature is not tropical and the visibility is not very good we do spot quite a lot of turtles.
After leaving Hengam island we pick up two German guys, geology students, and together we go to Hormoz island. Hormoz island is again a holiday island, on arrival it's busy with Iranians, mainly from Tehran, because it's a public holiday. Hormoz has got a good vibe but it's also a paradise for geologists and because we are travelling with our new German geology student friends we learn a lot about the different layers of sediments, rock formations and incredible salt caves and mountains of Hormoz.
After our little island holiday we fly to Dubai and experience quite a culture shock. Where in Iran we appreciated the authenticity of things and people, now we are suddenly in some kind of created plastic fantastic fantasy world. A small fake world created in the middle of the desert for rich people to spend their money on fake stuff or fake experiences.
enjoy drinking bubbly wine on one of the top floors of one of the high rise buildings and we liked to spend a few days on the beach wearing nothing but normal bathing suits and not having to cover all, but this extremely superficial bubble clearly is not the world we aspire to travel in. So after four days of rather indulgence we were happy to continue our traveling and flew to Amman, Jordan, where after only one day walking around the city and souqs we already feel more at home again.
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