Can people get any nicer?

Trip Start Jul 2003
Trip End May 2005

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Flag of Iran  ,
Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Number 9 (10th November 2003 - 21st November 2003)

Map in hand?
We've now reached and passed the epi-centre of the Silk Road network.
Esfahan was a pleasant respite from the smog and dust of Tehran, if 'very' touristy (and therefore expensive). Once again feeling like Lord Elgin we turned down the offer of some 'rather nice' mosaic tiles from a workman 'renovating' a section of the huge Imam 'Blue' Mosque. The House of Strength was a nose-curling showing off of sweaty men spinning far too fast for their own good.
Having chartered our own bus through the desert (where was everyone else?) we stumbled across the beautiful mud city of Yazd: a Water Museum (the secrets of how a city like this can survive in the waterless desert), Alexander the Great's prison and an incredible hotel in an ancient courtyard house in the bazaar.
After a stop in Kerman we were trapped by the spellbinding date palm oasis of Bam. Sunset from the ancient citadel, over the stunning, huge, deserted mud walled city would have to be seen to be described (certainly the highlight of Iran). Having studied the Persian architecture at some length, and thanks to the latest loooong bus journey, our new house design is well underway.
To continue along the Silk Road to China would have meant a long haul through Afghanistan to Kabul, so we opted for the equally tortuous route into and up through Pakistan.
Afghanistan produces more than 6000 tonnes of opium every year (and would produce more if it not for war), while Pakistan grows 500 tonnes. Much of this is smuggled via the Sistan va Baluchestan province of Iran (bottom right hand corner) into Europe and beyond, with a 3000% price increase. The Sistan va Baluchestan province is a huge and desolate region, once a fertile agricultural area and the seat of many ancient kingdoms. Now, it's barren and lawless, full of swamps and salt lakes and fierce winds, supporting little more than a few oases growing bananas, dates and limes. About 85% of the world's drug busts (by volume) take place here.
It's with great regret that we leave the hospitality of Iran. We've particularly enjoyed some great food (despite our 30 day visa matching the 30 days of Ramadan almost exactly) and some pretty good accommodation (always a bargain). The thousands of years of historical rampaging and peace by many a great empire has been fascinating and the transport to get there has been good (32 pounds in total for both of us to cross the entire length of Iran by 1st class train, bus and taxi). Iran is reputedly the world's least expensive (not wanting to say cheap as that usually implies poor quality) country primarily the result of petrol being 5p a litre, and diesel less than 1p. We will undoubtedly be visiting this polite and courteous place again.

Will and Emma
ps it was noted that it's illegal to sell seedless watermelons here as it promotes homosexuality
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