Saturday, 20 October 2012

Day 197 – Iranian television stars. (Iran)


From Tehran we drove South towards Esfahan and Shiraz which we’d been assured were must-see spots in Iran. Between Tehran and Esfahan are three places we wanted to stop. The first was Qom which is historically the religious and academic centre of Iran, and even today is home to the majority of Islamic teaching and is very religiously focused. As a result it’s a highly conservative city and quite a change from our previous two destinations - the bustling and modern Tehran, and the relaxed holiday destination of Babol Sar. The main sight in town is the Holy Shrine which as expected I had to wear a chador to enter. Most of the areas are male and female segregated, but the central square and a few religious areas are free for families to enjoy together. The female section that I went to was busier and noisier than the uni-sex train carriage in Tehran (Blog Day 194 – Economics and Gender Studies), and quite different from the hushed and relaxed female section in the mosque in Gonbad e Kavus. Every woman was rushing to reach the centre of the room, throwing themselves on top of each other and screaming hysterically. The entrances and exits were like mosh-pits, with everyone straining to kiss and touch the doors. Almost every woman on the street was in a chador and we saw more mullahs than we’ve seen throughout the rest of the country.

Our next stop was Kashan which compared to Qom was a liberal frontier, but in comparison to the rest of the country was a total back water. After eating lunch in a cafe which turned out to be the centre of some sort of fist/broom/stanley knife fight, we wandered through the domed mud brick bazaar and an archaeological site, before visiting Kashan’s highlight – the Fin Gardens. Iran is a country that knows how to do blissful gardens with charming water features and quaint teahouses, and this was no exception with natural springs trickling through the shady grounds. The springs were ideal for leaf and twig racing and as we were doing so a man approached and asked if we’d mind appearing on an Iranian television travel show. Why, of course not! We left our twigs mid race and followed him to meet the eccentric director and smiley cameraman. Unfortunately the microphones were broken so they weren’t able to interview us as planned, but they took some delightful footage of us meandering through the gardens with the host (the man who first approached us) and we got some useful travel advice ourselves. We have no idea when, but at some point in the future we should appear on a show called “Iran Travel Guide” on an Iranian channel called “Sahar TV”.

Egos stroked, we headed towards Abyaneh, the village that the tv host had insisted we visit. Set into the hills, away from any major towns or roads, Abyaneh is a traditional red mud village. Seeming to be inhabited mostly by old ladies it is a typical country township. I found intriguing the fact that all the ladies seemed to wear exactly the same design of headscarf – a large white square with twee pink flowers dotted all over it. I would have bought one if they hadn’t heaped on a tourist tax when I asked the price.

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