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Deserts & Desserts- The Islamic Republic of Iran

IRAN | Wednesday, 1 October 2014 | Views [423]

It was around 8pm when we got off the bus in Khoor, a small town a few hours north of Yazd- the desert city in Central Iran with an old city centre still made of mud bricks. From there we were met by a taxi driver from the tiny oasis town (max population of 200) of Garmeh, who had enough English to tell us that’s where he’d take us. We’re not sure if he was trying to make us feel at home by driving on the left side of the road but he seemed to know what he was doing.

At blind corners he’d move back to the middle of the road and hover his hand above the horn after flashing his high-beams. The speedo didn’t work but that was probably a good thing because there’s no way we were going less than 100km/hr for most of that trip.

The taxi driver spoke very little English- probably a few phrases more than we knew in Farsi. But we had a great time together. He was crazy. Just after we sped out of town, we flew over a speed bump which made us all come off our seats. This made him throw his head back and laugh hysterically. It was at that point I said my little internal “sorry and goodbye” to my mother before I joined him in laughing. Laughter is definitely a universal language. Basic road safety is not.

A couple of hours later, when my body had had an adrenaline overload, we arrived in the small oasis. We stayed in what could be considered a bed & breakfast. Without the bed. After Quinten and I had eaten enough to feed a small family (a common theme for our time in the country- the food is just so good!), we went to our giant, carpeted (with multiple Persian rugs of varying sizes tessellated to fill the rooms), gas filled room. We were told not to worry about the gas smell though because the heater had been doing that for a few days.

The next day we got to see Garmeh in the light. It was exactly what you would expect from an oasis in the middle of the desert. There was one small lake (pond?) surrounded by date palms and mud brick houses. Where we were staying had a small pen at the front with some goats, chickens and camels.

We climbed the closest mountain for a better view and because there was nothing to do until dinnertime. The oasis seemed even smaller when we only had to climb for a few minutes before being able to see its entirety. Behind the town was a whole not of nothing until the horizon. On the other side of our mountain was a spectacular view of seemingly endless desert and dry mountains. We stayed atop the mountain until just before sunset. We moved around each side and sat admiring the vast emptiness for hours. That and eating fun Iranian candy.

Despite thinking I was going to die because we didn’t take lunch, probably the first meal we’d skipped since the trip began, it was amazing having all that to ourselves.

It was the first time since arriving in Iran that I took my headscarf and butt-covering coat off in public. It was the first time I hadn’t been freezing, and we figured no one could see us. At least we were hoping no one could see us because we had to get the standard photo of Quinten as he stands facing an amazing back drop, butt naked.

Thinking the day/trip/year couldn’t get any better (unless maybe Quinten had’ve brought lunch…) we headed back to Mustafa’s, the carpet and breakfast where we were staying. We were wrong, the day got so much better. It was back at the B&B that we found what really makes Iran one of my favourite places; the people. Shay and Barham were in the main area eating weird nuts we’d never tried and drinking bootleg liquor.

Alcohol is illegal in Iran. Which apparently just means you can’t waste it so when someone pours you a cup of vodka, you drink it all. And I’m not exaggerating when I say cup of vodka, Barham taught me that “coke is for the colour” and is only to be used to disguise what’s making you so red-faced and giggly.

Barham and Shay were a highlight for me. They were the loveliest couple. Originally from Iran, they moved to England after the government got a little crazy (not technically PC but appropriate) and had moved back in the last year to sell off the family real estate. Quinten and I eventually went to stay with them in Esfahan and again ate all their food and drank all their liquor.

A little later in the evening and everyone was enjoying their dinner and liquor and woah, the headscarves start falling off. In Iran, it is now law that women have to wear the hijab in public so when in private company of family and friends, this is not continued. Barham told me I could take it off because they wouldn’t be afraid of my hair but wow did I feel exposed all of a sudden. It’s weird how something like that can change so quickly. A couple weeks prior I was walking around Brisbane in short shorts and a singlet and now I was so uncomfortable having my whole head exposed.

 

We were told that there was a group coming that night who would be going on a little day trip the next day we could join if we liked. Of course we agreed. The group hadn’t arrived by the time we were stumbling to our carpet bed but we met them at breakfast.

We’re still not entirely sure of the group dynamics but it was primarily a family reunion. There were sisters who hadn’t seen each other in 5 years since they’d all moved away to different countries. And they did what sisters do- there was giggling, dancing, joking and a hell of a lot of laughing. It was amazing to be a part of.

The bus left after breakfast and we sat down quietly before we had ladies cooing all over us. There was so much flirting. Everyone was so friendly and keen to have a great time. Afterall, if you’ve only got a few days together, you have to make the most of it. They were dancing in the corridor of the bus and it wasn’t long until we were joining them. They instructed me on the best way to slowly slip my headscarf back and back until it falls off, as to avoid a sudden change, and cheered when I complied.

The first stop for this family reunion? Jail. We just had to swing by to see if the guy who was arrested last night was doing ok. The reason they were so late getting in the night before was that they’d been stopped by police. The police found a lot of alcohol on board. This meant that someone had to take the fall. The man stayed overnight in jail and had to appear in court to pay a fine the next day. He was released that afternoon and joined us in the desert. He arrived with a few coke bottles full of wine he’d somehow acquired.

We then continued joking, laughing and dancing until we got to the salt flats. The natural beauty of Iran is astounding. It has everything. No matter what part of the country you’re in, there is some incredible show of nature.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur now (perhaps the coke bottle wine?) but there was camel riding, standing in the back of a 4wd truck, endless sand dunes and sitting around a giant fire listening to the group sing old Persian folk songs.

As we were sitting atop a massive sand dune, laughing at the group rolling, jumping and sliding down the side, singing and just having a great time, Quinten and I reflected on where we were and what we were doing. People back home weren’t all pleased with the idea of us gallivanting around the Islamic Republic but sitting in the middle of the desert, between Iraq and Afghanistan, is one of the happiest moments of my life. It is a very misunderstood destination that I recommend all my friends visit- and not just for the fantastic food!

The country itself is gorgeous, but the people are the most beautiful you will ever meet. 

Tags: desert, iran, islamic

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