Esfehan (blog)

Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
Trip End Nov 18, 2007

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Flag of Iran  ,
Sunday, May 20, 2007

Out of the desert rose Esfehan. And it was by far the best city so far. It was immense.

We arrived at 3pm and went to explore Imam square (2nd biggest public square in the world next to Tiananmen). As soon as we stepped into the square a man asked us if we were with the truck, which was strange being in such a large city but apparently he had already spoken to Steve. As me and Nicole spoke with him two girls hovered close by and he explained that they wanted to practice their English and suggested we go to a tea house just off the square. We sat in the 'family' section of the tea house, the male section could be seen through the beaded curtain and was pretty much the whole tea house. Women are not allowed to smoke so me and Hamid had a puff while the girls chatted. Hamid was not typical of all the other Esfehanians I spoke to (he was a little awkward in conversation) so me and Nicole were happy when he didn't sit with us when showing us to a beautiful restaurant afterwards.

This encounter where people would just come up and start talking with no reservation and self consciousness was typical throughout Esfehan. Difficult to adjust to at first
(coming from Britain) but I got used to it quite quickly. The trick is to not to feel awkward to saying no when invited for tea or simply to say hello and keep walking! Planning a day in Esfehan was never worked out exactly though as you always got side tracked in conversation.

I learnt a lot from talking to lots of different people - Ali who invited me into his stall in the bazaar to talk about working life in Iran and Scotland, Mehim who I started speaking to in a tea house managed a carpet stall and showed me them being made and repaired behind the stall, Mohammed who was the cashier of a tea house down at the bridges and talked about how the people of Iran are not happy with the governement and how he wished politics and religion could be separate and woman and men equal, a girl and her family (there were ten of them) who invited us to sit with them to have the tea they had brought from home to enjoy in Imam square and I talked football with her uncle (which reminds me that in Masouleh (Iran) a man asked where I was from and to Scotland he replied 'Kenny Dalglish!').

Though the most important thing I learnt was how unhappy the people were with the governement. Whenever they brought it up they always made clear their disagreement with it, with how men and women have to sit at separate ends of the bus, with how the age of marriage is 13 (it was 9 not so long ago), with how the president (who was actually going to be in Imam square 2 days after we left) shouldn't have said he wishes to remove Israel from the map (this came as no surprise). All reforms have to passed through the supreme leader (an old religious dude) so the people who want to practice Islam their own way and to their own degree will not be able to as long as the government is fundamentalist.

Esfehan has a lot more to offer in addition to its great people. The mosques were even more stunning here than in Turkey and there were more of them. I will let the photos do them justice (once I get them up). The bazaar was too large for me to get to grips with (apparently you can take a route through it that is 15km!) but that didn't stop me enjoying it, getting completely lost amongst stalls that sold everything: toys, spices, bags, butcher meat, clothing material, fruits, silverware, carpets, artworks... I found the bazaar of Esfehan better than those of Istanbul because the stalls were inside long barrel vaulted walkways, I was the only European there, the people were friendlier and the craftworks impossibly intricate.

I could easily go on about Esfehan but I will save you (and myself - I am missing out exploring Quetta at the moment).

From Esfehan we continued Eastwards into the Persian deserts...
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