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Weeks 26-27 – Ashura


Week 26, 10.10 – 16.10

So on Saturday morning I went with my parents to the bus terminal and hoped that I could get a ticket for the same bus, too. There was a free seat left and so 6h ride to Esfahan could start.
Having arrived we went to Imam square and went to Jolfa quarter to eat.
After we walked back to the hotel along the drive river bank and famous Si-o-se Pol (33 columns bridge).
Sunday we had breakfast like kings and until the afternoon my parents visited a lot of sights whereas I sat outside and read. I knew most of the places already and the travel guide can explain more about the history than I. Once I was sitting around, I could finally use my knowledge of Farsi to react to a stupid comment (“Hahaha, look! That guy is still sitting there”) and caused an awkward silence, which was a great feeling.
During sundown I took my parents to Ateshkadeh (a fire temple) lying on a hill at the edge of Esfahan where we had a nice view of the town that was greeting night-time. Initially I wanted to go back to Tehran that night by train, it just goes every two days and of course not on a Sunday evening. Hence I had to go by bus again.
Tuesday (13.10) M. and I went to Semnan to visit E. and A. for a few days. In addition we ate at a super delicious, traditional and original small kebab restaurant in a mountain village. In addition we went to Sharud and hitch-hiked from there to Bastam where we visited the Bayazid Historical complex, dedicated to Bayazid Bistami, a Persian mystic of the 9th century, and the old Fridaz mosque. Also we hitch-hiked further to the village Ghale-Nokharaghan. It lies at the foot of a more or less well-known cloud forest with the same name (Cloud Forest). Unfortunately we were too late to even go inside a little bit, because it started to get dark which was why we returned.
On Thursday (15.10) we just hang around Semnan and helped A. organizing things for her move to Munich. In the afternoon I went playing tennis with E., which I never did before and on Friday the holidays were unfortunately over and M. and I went back to Tehran.

Week 27, 17.10-24.10

A new course (the last one for me until now) started and our teacher seems to be a really religious woman, of whom we can only see the shape of her face and hands which are uncovered.
The second and third day I didn’t attend classes because I spent my time with my parents in Tehran who had finished her tour. As I noticed on Tuesday, I didn’t miss anything important.
In general I considered for quite a time to continue studying at Dehkhoda. Since the result of my last exam was the second best although it was not how I would have rated myself. Furthermore I think that I have enough general knowledge to teach Farsi to myself and that better than at the institute. On the other side I’m only allowed to stay in Iran, when I attend the language course, so I didn’t have any other possibility than to continue to December.

Saturday was the national holiday of Ashura. Shia moslems mourn the death of her third Imam Husayn who died as martyr in the battle of Kerbala. The day is celebrated on the 10th day of “Forbidden” month Muharram. The days before are used to celebrate mourning and even after black flags hang all over the city and officially it is kind of forbidden to listen loudly to music, wear make-up, bright clothes, etc. – all that is fun. But like Ramazan, only a few Iranians care. In the streets mourning processions and plays about Husayn’s journey and battle are held.
To see them, I went to the south of Tehran, to Nazi Abad. The quarter’s name has really a connection with the Nazi regime and Third Reich, since they supported a local railway company. Nevertheless there is no Hitler Boulevard of Goebbels Alley. Every hundred meters of so I was able to see a procession and it was really interesting to see all the marches and rituals being shown. Coming with the celebration it is custom to give away so called Nazri. It is free food or tea as symbol of gratefulness for Husayn’s suffer and not only for Moslems (although once a guy asked another one to give me some, but I was refused). When I went back home and waited at the bus stop, one man came towards me with a delicious lamb liver and kidney kebab and even gave me a short ride.

Ashura in moved pictures:

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Week 13 – In the Desert

Directly to the photos

Day 90, 16.5, Saturday

After the weekend was used for my relaxation, I started excitedly my desert tour on Saturday morning (Route: ).
The idea was significantly influenced by Frisco who would fly back to Sardinia after this week of holidays. I wanted to meet with him in Garmeh, a little oasis village. My plan was to hitchhike on Saturday to Naein and to spend the night there.
From Tehran I did auto-stop till Qom and then Ali Reza and his son gave me a lift in their truck till Naein and invited me to participate at their lunch picnic.
I arrived in Naein before sunset, that’s why I decided trying to continue to Garmeh respectively Khoor. While waling through Naein I bought some bread and was taken to Anarak. Meanwhile it became dark, but as I was walking along the road a truck driver stopped and took me till Khoor, where I arrived at 11.30pm. First I walked for a while in direction to Garmeh under the breathtaking starry sky and eventually I got a ride with some students to Garmeh. They couldn’t believe or understand that I wanted to camp outside the village: Someone would come and kill me, camels would trample me to death or what would I do when a snake came? So they told me I had to sleep in a little praying room. After they went away of course I went out of the village and pitched my tent behind a little hill, hidden from the road.

Days 91-92, 17.5-18.5, Sunday-Monday

The next morning I met Frisco and we strolled through and around the village. We went to a water spring, that supplies the field around with water and maybe even Garmeh. In the spring were many Cleaner fishes, that soon were occupied with my feet.
For lunch I joined Frisco in his hostel although it was quite expensive, but ok. Then we went for a walk to another village in the vicinity. This village was kind of hard to find and not very beautiful. But in contrary the way to there and the landscape was amazing. During dusk we were back to Garmeh. While Frisco ate dinner, I built up my tent at the water spring and lit a bonfire. Initially we and some other guests of the hostel wanted to go to a café in, but it was closed. So we went to my place and sat around the fire talking until midnight. Two times shady people came near, but when I went sleeping they didn’t return any more – or at least I didn’t notice.
The next day started in a relaxed way. I got up late and at noon Frisco and I hitchhiked to Khoor. There we ate lunch and at 4pm I started alone towards Tabas. Again, the first vehicle, of course a truck, gave me a ride. This road is acutally the main connection between Esfahan and Mashhad that’s why there are always vehicles passing by – at every time of the day.
In Tabas I wanted to see the Shah Abbasi Dam. It was 20km from the place where I was dropped off and it started to get dark. Thus I found an old cistern a bit offside the town to be a nice place for the night.

Day 93, 19.5, Tuesday

I got up quite early and a teacher drove me to the starting point of the way to the dam. There I saw a German Volkswagen car, but it’s passengers were still asleep. To get to the dam, I had to walk for about 40 minutes along a little creek through some stunning canyons.
The water was (unfortunately) surprisingly warm and the creek not really deep. After 20 minutes I decided to get rid of my backpack – since it was Tuesday morning 8.30am, who should steal it. Later the water got deeper and I couldn’t walk around it, so I turned my trousers into shorts and hence violated the dress code of the Islamic Republic.
Then suddenly the dam appeared behind a 2 meter kind of stone wall and it was an impressive construction.
When I returned I obviously met the two Germans. They went to India and were on their way back again. They gave me a lift to Tabas, from where I wanted to go northbound and then westbound again, taking a the little road 36 along the desert and through a national park.
Unfortunately at the cross roads there was a police check point. It wouldn’t have been bad, if the few cars going in my direction had given me a ride. But maybe they were intimidated by the police presence, anyway the only thing they did was staring.
The check point was just a little area with a small building directly on the street, another in the middle of the area and a caravan. In the building on the street a young police officer and a soldier were sitting. After about one hour they whistled in my direction as I was a dog, so I waited until they came to me. They were very bored, I could see it and the police officer asked for my passport. I wanted to know why, but he just pointed his shirt with a sticker saying “POLICE”. I didn’t have any other chance than handing him my passport in, but from that time on I refused to speak Farsi, but only English.
Two and a half hours later I got it back. In the meantime he called his boss, another traffic police arrived and they randomly checked trucks confronting them with fake violations just to get bribe. The officer in charge was a disgusting dickhead, sorry but it’s the truth. In general the officers acted very arrogant and rude. At same time a Danish couple passed the crossroads and of course they were stopped and asked for their passport, too. After their passports were checked, I got mine back and could continue; but it was already very late. I needn’t pay any bribe by the way but wouldn’t have done it in any case.
I had to change my planned route and instead of the small road I had to take the highway further north. A trucked stopped by the police had to take me to the next town (Bardaskan). There the driver stopped for gas and I decided to spend the night next to the mosque of the resting area – which is allowed – and before sleeping read a bit.

Day 94, 20.5, Wednesday

I wanted to hithchike to Semnan, where I wanted to couchsurf. Initially I planed to arrive the day before, but obviously that was history. From Bardaskan I went to Sabzevar, where I was picked up by a truck driver who thought I was Turkish. At first he drove really fast, but later only 40 km/h. That’s why having a guilty conscience I told him I had to leave when I made his lunch break at 3pm. I didn’t want to arrive at the end of the day again, kind of wasting another day – of course this is hitchhiking and it happens, but I wanted at least to try to get there faster. And it was the right decision, since 2.5h later I arrived in Semnan. But 25km before I thought it would be later, since a rear wheel exploded. Fortunately the car had a spare tire, so we could continue after 15 minutes.
My couchsurfing hosts were a young Iranian couple, who was of course very nice. The husband, E., picked me up but didn’t speak English, so I spoke Farsi with him. His wife, A., spoke English and both attended some German classes. It was nice to speak English again after a few days.
Since the drivers only spoke Farsi, I didn’t have another option, but adapt. I hope it helped, because the topics were always the same.

Days 95-96, 21.5-22.5, Thursday-Friday

On Thursday E. and A. went to Tehran and took me with them. The rest of the weekend I relaxed and did nothing.