holi-day in Iran
first impression: heavy pollution ROSE deep sleep
CISTA is waiting for the two outsiders (us) to wake up, so that she finally has the perfect victims to play with (us) and to confuse thanks to the language gap (me). Some new Persian words are on my way.
To not think about this new package of knowledge, we enter the 6th dimension and it turns out to be much better than the European 3rd dimension. Shortly after, I make the discovery of the day (probably of the holiday): NO TOILET PAPER in the TOILET. As simple as it (illogically) sounds. I need some time to master the technique.
PROUD of myself I process the upcoming events as a gift for my achievement: we partecipate the Tehrani DORDOR (even if Sourena keeps saying that if you don’t exchange phone numbers it doesn’t count), we eat faludeh (the sorbetto kind of thing) and we experience the fakely fake female division in Iranian buses.
note to myself: people are brave, A GAY COUPLE HOLDING HANDS proves it.
Getting used to the Iranian delayed schedule is going to be tough, but bearable if the meanwhile breakfast is served.
TEHRAN is massive and massively under construction. POETIC and RUDE it spreads for km till the desert and allows extra flexibility in a system that is not that strict itself.
KASHAN (maybe too high expectation at the arrival) shows itself slowly through the uncountable chadors.
The “greeness” of Fin is almost shocking in the dry surrounding and hides a cruel story of blood (remember: hammam dangerous). We get lucky anyway. A nicely nice hotel waits for us (or better makes us wait) [Eshan house] and allows us to easily move around: from the historical houses to the bazaar. Heat a part, Tabatabai and Abbassi had fucking cool places where to live and connections to the Hammam-e Sultan mir Hamad (gorgeous). The bazaar is slightly disappointing, but hides a really nice caravanserai. Last, but clearly the best Manoucheri House: completely restored (almost from dust) it shows that architecture is a cool thing and helps brightening up a sandy city.
note to myself: underground cinema is a great idea.
ah. OPIUM is on bread here. Just that you know.
We go to bed after enjoying chai in the outdoor courtyard of the hotel, a bit of breeze, with the awareness that there are useful tricks in wearing the hijab and a challenge for tomorrow.
Hijab LEVEL: able to turn my head.
Direction more South
Long story short: the challenge became officially a mission and it has not been accomplished. We are in Esfahan and the car is in Kashan. Simple. (a posteriori)
Beside this (“meaningless”) detail we manage to have a really nice breakfast with Mr. Goodarz Akkashe (just in case you need an Iranian psychiatrist who loves to taarof), barbari bread and uncountable cups of black tea. We visit the Islamic version of a seminary (the volleyball field carved in the ground was indeed pretty cool) and we take some time to hear the point of view of a restaurateur in action in the Boroujerdi House, we find where to go next time we will be in Kashan (the 9000sqm of Ameriha’s house are going to become a kicking asses hotel) (don’t forget to bring looots of cash) and we “discover” (better to say we have the confirmation) that swimming suits are not a popular item to buy (Sourena points out that it’s not true, then I just add that the one that exist shouldn’t be worn in nowadays society).
On the way to Esfahan, we have the Iranian taste of prey-stop at the gasoline station. FASCINATING. As much as to discover that the driver has been wearing flip-flops (more or less 200km, ndr).
ESFAHAN is lovely. Seriously. Buildings, traffic, lights, people and street lines merge and create a unique vibe. After a full-like-an-egg-10 -great-dinner at the Restaurant Shahrzad (note: khoresht-e mast € is a sweet cream of a weird consistency), we enter the 17th century. I have to draw those bridges, to describe them is useless, to say that they are gorgeous instead is compulsory.
Never, walking along a dry river has been more stunning.
note to myself: come back when they open the water and get a motorbike for the occasion.
Back to Abbasi Hotel we enjoy a nice tea and a great surrounding, plus the company of the only Iranian I know that Sourena doesn’t (probability has been rated to 1:2.000.000) With good tips for tomorrow we go to sleep and we keep thinking about what to order as room-service.
Hijab LEVEL: able to eat.
We didn’t ask yet for room service (shame on us), but we managed to start the day with a before-9am argument about the temperature of the air-conditioning. Breakfast and ready to go we head to Jameh Mosque that (at 9am) looks peacefully empty and nice, centuries juxtapose and the recent additions leave a pitiful smile on the visitors.
Through the bazaar we discover a talkative merchant, some beautiful prospective and a general feeling of dirt. But once out in the Naqsh-e Jahan Imam Square the gorgeous view cleans up all the bitter taste. The lipstick trick doesn’t really work in Esfahan and I pay visitor ticket for the stunning Lotfollaha Mosque, a barely worth Palace (just the story that we hear later on is fabulous about it, the shah used some imagination and cruelty and asked to design a room that would trap the sound, so that first musicians and that the shah would enter it) and the vandalized version of Masjed-e Shah Mosque. Here the pitiful faces turn into angry/sad once. The respect for Islam that is required (in 5 languages) all over the country has been betrayed by Islam itself.
We play with water, look at kids running away from the water-guard and recharge ourselves.
note to myself: the fact that the coffee is Lavazza doesn’t mean that it’s going to turn out good.
We walk the way back, ask for directions to the police and take a nap. At still-hot-5pm we enter the Armenian area of the city and everything changes: religion, architecture, nose sizes…traffic and happy faces stay thou. With sweets and (finally) vegetables in our stomachs we go back to the central Square, the Hotel, the bazaar: the night look of the city is simply great. I fall asleep on the “1001 nights”.
Hijab LEVEL: able to style it in public.
back to Tehran
We wake up unprepared at the 7:40am alarm clock, roll tho the breakfast saloon and recharge some (coffee) energy. Italian men with a beard are Iranian men. We walk toward the near by Kakhj-e Hasht Behesht and I fall in love. It’s a marvelous example of how to use architecture for your needs. In this case the need of the Price was to play hide&seek with his harem and to look at his women washing themselves. De gustibus…
While falling in love I have the second strange approach in Esfahan: no old, horny man involved, but young women who stop in front of me, stare at me amazed and, either call my name (heard from Sourena calling me) or say “hello”. Till now I replied with the Afghanian-girl-look.
We move around till the Chehel Sotun Palace, the privious one was better.
We take time till our ride to Kashan.
I was afraid that the day would have been a complete waste of time in a car, but soon I realize that being in a car in the traffic is THE Iranian experience, even the fact that the car breaks down is as normal as asking for directions. Over all we had the (luxurious) standard trip. Well, we almost run out of gasoline on the highway as well. That wouldn’t be funny, as much as if we were there when that track entered our lane from the other direction.
Safely back in the hinterland of Tehran, they drive me passing by the Azadi Tower. Thumb up. Great example and symbol for Tehran. Massive, elegant, light.
Home. Dinner. Sleep.
Hijab LEVEL: able to use it in a creative way (a.k.a.as a sun protection in the car).
10 hours of sleep is the best way to start this Tehrani day. Taxi, metro, foot to get to the Art Gallery is the right continuation of it. Exhibition, atmosphere, tea house (the “call for service” button is awesome) match just perfectly. It’s simply a great place, 9/10, no doubts.
The experience is enhanced by the fact that on the way we saw a man weighting people for money, a girl asking direction to me (still Afghanian-girl-look), we passed in front of Sourena’s Armenian Church ans sat at the connected coffee-shop, we saw Sourena’s middle school and we got watermelon juice as a drink.
We tried to enter a couple of extra Galleries but it didn’t really work so we just enjoyed Park-e Laleh and we went back home to get ready for the birthday party.
I change my mind: going to a (high class) party is THE Iranian experience. You can’t imagine how short skirts can get, how tight the dresses, how high the, hove loud it can get, how much alcohol and fb can be involved. There is a room for the extra-clothes, “alcohol” from a 5l tank and plenty of happy people, a pocket full of money for the police (pocket empty at the end of the night) and chocolate cake.
The awesome feeling raises even more when I’m able to give directions to go back home.
Hijab LEVEL: able to style it wind proof.
The day is not based on action but on feelings and I’m no poet.
But there is a story to tell: to come back to Tehran after a 3days holiday means being in a 500.000 cars traffic (and I’m not guessing high for drama sake, it’s an appropriate number). Fast&furious skills are required and when used properly they are super cool in reality. I go back to think that car is THE Iranian experience.
Hijab LEVEL: able to style it as a normal scarf and protect myself from the cold.
It’s difficult to divide the journal in days at this point (honestly also because I didn’t do my homework, but) mostly because Tehran is complex, illogical and full of pause-reward-play. Also the journal has to get the same speed.
We explored the center and the south of the city (and became friend with the ticket seller at the metro close to Neda Square), from where it’s all in turquoise tiles to where the chador becomes the 30%. We faced the problem of closed doors and of doors not worth to open (Carpet museum), but we also experienced great hospitality from a funny 70 years old man who like Italian and Russian chicks.
We entered the core of Tehranis’ night style climbing up to Darband (with stomach full of liver) to smoke waterpipe on a river.
We behaved like proper tourists at the Glass&Ceramics Museum and at the Golestan Palace (wow! hot, but wow!). We did it half right when we just walked in front of the National Museum because we have been recognized like tourists by a group of kids who were extremely interested in poking and welcoming me in their country. (Same interest in a man in the metro who asked Sourena to welcome me).
We discovered a lovely café just in front of the Glass&Ceramic Museum and one in the garden of the Film Museum (definitely worth a visit, both café and museum).
We raced in the bazaar, we met strange German tourists and we frighted before (what felt) 9am.
We saw how Tehran was before the discovery of the oil and I got in contact with memories (lovely, passionate memories).
We watched Tehran from above and from the street, we had proper home-made food and I saw how a traditional house looks like. We meet people and relatives, we did shopping and we discovered that postcards don’t exist. I stopped ending up with a piece of toilet paper in my hands in the wrong moment.
We sat in parks, we enjoyed shaded area and piazze assolate.
We had icecream affogato al melon juice, we had sauna and I was ready to drink an extra chai and close my luggage.
Hijab LEVEL: able to run :)