Be Arami, Be Arami... A First Trip to Iran - I am officially a large blue wedding cake

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Middle East » Iran » South » Shiraz
October 3rd 2014
Published: October 22nd 2014
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Gate of All Nations, PersepolisGate of All Nations, PersepolisGate of All Nations, Persepolis

Hosein - pre crowds arriving
Hosein the driver/guide from PARS Travel Service arrives at 0730, 1/2 an hour ahead of schedule. What to do? Offer him some breakfast and tea. There's no way I want to forgo my last breakfast at Golshan, have I mentioned how much I enjoy these Persian breakfasts?

Before leaving Australia I organised a driver for 2 days so as to fit a few different things into 2 days and have a village homestay that would have been too difficult using the bus system. We set off just after 8 in his car for Persepolis. It is about 70 km north east of Shiraz. Persepolis was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 1979 (admission 150 000 IRR) and dates back to the Archaemenid Empire of 520 BC under Darius The Great. It is every bit as imposing as all the guide books say, even in its ruined state, and if you close your eyes to the new rails, fences, scaffolding, seating (for the night time sound and light shows), other tourists now arriving by the bus load, 2 cafés, souvenir shop and overhead light poles you can imagine just how awesome it was. It is already hot and sweaty, I can't imagine how the teams of workers laboured under a sweltering sun to achieve this. According to Hosein the work was done by paid workers, unlike in Egypt where slaves built the pyramids. The complex was plundered by Alexander the Great in 330 BC and burnt to the ground. What is left was only uncovered in the 30's!! If I was on my own with a lot of time I think the site would be worth at LEAST 4 hours, we are there just over an hour! Took lots of photos- the columns, the statues and the reliefs- nothing went unrecorded much to Hosein's amusement. Hosein, I learn, is quite the historian and spoke without pause for the entire time we were there. Actually, not the entire time- when he was smoking it was quiet. Hmmm.

From here we sped, as in very fast, to the Necropolis, also known as Naqsh-e Rostum and Naqsh-e Rajah. They are about 12 km away and are 4 ancient tombs carved into rock face with accompanying stone relief work. You are able to walk relatively close to the rock face to look at them, take photos, etc. The scaffolding here was very unimposing - I think they may have actually finished whatever work was going on. It was 100 000 IRR admission. Should you need to you can hire a camel to ride in the car park. While Hosein was having cigarette number 10 I went off for a detour into the surrounding fields, I'd spotted a herd of goats and a herder. Surprisingly fertile fields around the ruins growing corn and other crops. Think I got as many goat shots as monument shots- I think Hosein is starting to realise I'm more of a person/plant/creature person than a history buff. He started to suspect I think when I couldn't answer a single one of his questions at Persepolis!!!

Anyway, 1130 by now, time to press on...

We then drove through a succession of small villages and towns in a generally easterly direction, passing a massive salt lake. Arsanjan and Bakhtegan Lakes were on the initial agenda, so I think it was Bakhtegan. The countryside was interesting, lots of pomegranate plantations, desert, wheat silos, desert, trucks with camels, trucks with goats, and then the beautiful Zagyros Mountains. Veeerrry, veeerryy good, veeerryy, veeeerrry beautiful... According to Hosein. At this point I need to mention that Hosein is actually a retired aircraft engineer who worked on the F something's fighter planes for the Iranian Airforce. He's an interesting guy who is happy to talk on a wide range of subjects- politics, food, history, politics, history, family, social services, etc. We chat throughout the entire 270 km drive to Deh Murd village - my home stay location that no one seems to have heard of. Ah, also forgot to say- Hosein's phone had been ringing frequently for most of this drive- it was the home stay family wanting to know when we'd be there.

Arriving into the village was exciting- lots of small houses, lots of trees, lots of garden, lots of people sitting around chatting. We found the right place - or rather people stopped us to tell us where we were meant to be an hour ago! So, Hamid (our host) comes out to greet us, followed by his wife, his Mum and the 3 kids then about another 6 random kids. We go into the house, which has the most awesome mountain view from the front window, and sit on the floor for lunch- eggs, leaves (not exactly sure what, but there was some lemon basil), flat bread, tomatoes and oregano tea- all grown in the garden... Organically Says Hamid, it's fantastic. Hamid speaks a handful of English words, Hosein is now officially guide/driver/translator. After lunch more kids arrive to have a look at me then Hamid's sister arrives. "Would I like to go to the wedding in the village this evening"? Ah, of course!!!!

Sister drags me off to her shop- I need to wear something more suitable- she is going to lend it to me. So lucky! What an opportunity! At the shop, sister finds not 1 but 2 dresses- I pick the blue one- wrong!!! I have to wear both. So over my clothes, she pulls on 2 enormously frilly, big skirts then 2 layers of long sleeve luridly bright, glitzy tops, then to top off my wedding cake look, a vey netty, scratchy headscarf with my headscarf around that. Remember back in the bazaar in Shiraz I wondered who bought the lurid sparkly frothy fabrics? Well now I know. From here we have to walk back to her house, down the Main Street, past a thousand people - I felt, shall we say, a little self conscious? However, in the spirit of it all I went along with it and had a great time. EVEN when they were teaching me how to dance traditionally... for a very long time, AND, recording it on their phones. I'm thinking "Please don't anyone post it on YouTube!!!" Actually, I think I did pretty well- I don't care if it's on YouTube. Hosein thought so too... Veeerrry, veeerryy good, veeerryy, veeeerrry beautiful... Hmm.

So, after this Hamid announces it's time to go sightseeing to the waterfall and have a picnic for afternoon tea... I thought we were going to the wedding- nope, that's later. I have to peel off the multilayered wedding cake apparel to get back down to my modest pants and top covering my rear end- now pretty crumpled modest gear.

Hamid, his mum, and I pile into Hosein's car and drive up towards the mountains.its about a 10 min drive and we're overlooking the village, there's trees, hills, water, waterfall and lots of picnics going on. We have more oregano tea and fruit and I've brought some biscuits. "Drink", says Hamid, and presents me with a cup of waterfall water- O...K... This will be the test of my intestinal fortitude And flora. I drink. At least I have a very comprehensive kit of antibiotics, anti emetics, anti diarrhoeals, etc. I'll be right. It's a really lovely afternoon.

Meanwhile, back in the village, the wedding is now underway so it's time to get ready. The couple formally married yesterday but it is a 2 day affair. Tonight is the dancing and celebratory part. The celebrations are segregated- men in one area, women in another. I agree not to take any photos, I am guessing because the dress isn't as modest as usual? Not sure. Anyway, it's fantastic. About 150 women some in chadors, some in frou-frou dresses of all colours are assembled. There are about 20 dancing in a circle and really enjoying it, some of them are really old and they are so into it in their multicoloured attire, I feel very lucky to be a part of it. This bit then comes to an end and we all have to go to the brides fathers house where the newly married couple will be arriving soon. I am keen to go but explain to Hosein that I will only go if I can remain in the background and watch, I don't want to take anything away from the couples occasion ie- everyone watching the foreigner and not paying attention to the proceedings. That idea gets brushed off- of course I must go, etc, etc. So I do. It's still segregated. There's more dancing, lots of chatting, lots of kids asking me questions and reciting numbers and letters and general mayhem which amps up further when the bride and groom arrive. The bride is in full traditional western bridal dress- strapless, white, big skirt, big makeup, big hair. It's amazing. The women go nuts with spaghetti string in a can, plastic BB gun pellets and little fireworks. It's very cool.

We head back to Hamid's house for a late dinner at 9.30- roast chook (I notice 1 chook appears to be missing from the chicken coop!), rice, salad and flat bread. Hamid, Hosein, Hamid's dad and brother and 2 brother in laws and I sit on the large day bed outside and eat while everyone else eats in the kitchen. I hope they are eating as well as this. I take a small bit of chicken and insist I only need half the rice they've put on my plate. It's great food, really fresh, really tasty. We finish up with pomegranates and more tea. Hamid's brother in law shows me his coin and note collection, his wife shows me their photo albums, the kids show me their dictionaries. They then are keen to have medical consults because they know that I'm a nurse - My Farsi dictionary is getting a great workout. Consultations over we sit a bit longer outside before calling it a night at about 11:30pm.

Bed is a mattress on the lounge room floor. Hamid's wife brings me a fan just in case it's too hot, I tell her I'm happy to just open up the windows, I think they might need the fan as all 5 of them are sleeping in 1 room. Hosein's in the family room area. I lie down, close my eyes and am asleep. What an amazing day!

Additional photos below
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22nd October 2014

Dear Large Blue Object . . . . I love your blog ! Not only some splendid mountains, but a delight in the culture, and particularly the people, that you encounter. Brings a big smile ! Keep blogging please !
12th November 2014

Hi Alan- my number one blog responder!
Thanks for the encouragement! I fear I am developing an addiction to another country!

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