I was concerned before entering Iran that it may be rather similar to Turkey in many ways. Not that there’s anything wrong with Turkey, but after spending what amounts to over two months there, on two separate trips, Laura and I are both looking for a change.
Luckily for us, Iran feels like a whole other world, and we’ve only been here 24 hours. The landscapes have been unique, like crossing the giant, salty Lake Orumiyeh. According to the Lonely Planet it has salinity levels like the Dead Sea, with the same you-can’t-sink-effects. Unfortunately, we were flying across it’s long causeway in a taxi and couldn’t test it.
The house architecture is different. In Turkey almost all buildings are concrete-framed with cinder-block walls. Here, houses we’ve seen are strangely tottering affairs, made of brick (mud-brick?) and ornamented with pillars often on the second and third storeys. Infrastructure seems better too, with smooth asphalted roads that best the bumpy monstrosities that pass for highways in remote eastern Turkey.
We’re in a city called Tabriz as I write this. Both of us finally putting our bouts of Traveller’s D behind us. We haven’t a clean outfit between us, and will be doing some laundry this morning so it can dry in our warm, breezy hotel room overnight before we push on tomorrow, likely to a place called Zanjan. From there we can make a trip out to Takht-e-Soleiman, the site of a beautiful crater lake that was the centre of the Zoroastrian religion in the third century. Today we’ll be exploring Tabriz a bit, maybe hitting up the large bazaar, as well as finding some new, slightly more appropriate clothes for each of us. Laura, of course needs to obey the country’s relatively strict female dress code, which at its least, involves wearing a headscarf, long sleeves, and long skirt or pants. We also want to get some photos printed of our families back home, in order to show people a bit of our life back there. The people we’ve met so far seem quite interested in learning from us, just as we are learning from them.
Already we’ve experienced some of the country’s world-famous hospitality. We were given snacks on our bus from Van, by a friendly Iranian hotelier and his family. We got Farsi lessons (Farsi is the language here, sometimes called Persian by outsiders), travel advice (“Tehran: Good; Shiraz: Good; Kermanshaw: Veeeery good!”), and a heap of hotel help from our friendly Taxi driver Amir, who spent almost as long here in Tabriz helping us hunt down a decent hotel value as he did actually driving us here. And we enjoyed very welcoming small talk with some students who beckoned us over on a street corner last night.
In Iranian tradition, visitors are considered gifts from God. I think we’ll need to work on our humility.
p.s. — Facebook seems to be blocked here, so don’t expect a lot from us on that front.