Refreshed, but now a bit chilled from my bathing - Majid had a bowl of warming soup ready for me at a nearby shack. The white coloured broth was Ash Dugh - yogurt soup- yogurt, water, dill? and beans, which we ate with flat bread. Dugh is the yogurt and water drink flavoured with mint, that I'd first tried in Tehran -(which felt like a lifetime away from here). I wolfed it down!
We then collected the tents from the car. I wasn't sure where we were going to camp, but followed Majid across a small bridge over the river, over some rocks, then we stopped after a few metres at the side of the river. Majid said it was a good spot, but the river might be noisy! I was ok with this.
While he set about erecting our tents, I enjoyed the sight of Mount Sabalan in front of me, as the sun set. I also took some photos, including some with U.S. VTer PALS (Fred Siwak) beautiful butterfly pictures in the forefront. ( I got some cute shots later in my trip with the children of the Bakhtiari nomads)
For anyone who hasn't come across PALS page I'd advise you to drop by.
Fred has Motor Neurone disease, or ALS, (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in the United States, and so he now isn't able to travel away from his home.
However, he is the ultimate Virtual Tourist! - He produces some beautiful pieces of art (with difficulty) which he would like to see photographed all over the world, in places that people live or travel to.
You then send these photos to Fred, and he'll build his pages. He has 83 countries covered so far! From Poland eastwards his map is a bit sparce! Also America, Africa, Middle East. Check his map and see if you can help turn it completely blue!
If you're planning a trip anywhere in the near future, or can take some pics of your home town, Fred might well achieve his ambition!
The tents were soon up, so next task - build a camp fire! There were plenty of rocks, which we placed in a circle, then placed the wood that we'd collected earlier, the charcoal pieces, with some twigs and pieces of string that I'd found, plus some screwed up pieces of paper inside .
It didn't take long before we had a roaring fire! Which I was pleased of, as the sun had finally disappeared and so it was getting a bit chilly.
Majid set about gutting the fish, and threading them onto the skewers we'd bought earlier, with the tomatoes, then salting them. Back at the market, I'd thought he was intending making fish kebabs, with pieces of fish, onion and tomatoes. Instead we were to have whole fish grilled - We'd bought 16 fishes!
After a shower and rest, we headed for the fish market - it was mid afternoon, so most of the stalls had closed. We would return next morning to buy some fish to grill later.
Next stop was a mobile phone shop. Although I'd been able to use my phone in Tehran, I was having problems now. Majid had advised me to buy an Irancell Sim card, and said that a pay as you go service had started recently for tourists. This cost me 110,000 Rialls. It was quite easy to top up- with the help of my guides, as the text messages/instructions were in Farsi!
One of Anzalis attractions is a boat ride into the lagoons, which are home to many birds, waterfowl and plants such as the lotus flower.
After being fitted up with a life jacket, I stepped aboard our small boat. I'd imagined this would be a peaceful ride, where we slowly glided along - perhaps the life jacket should have been a clue!
Full throttle- we were off! Zipping past the wooden houses and shacks lining the river banks, with black acrid fumes belching from the speed boats motor!
With the noise from the boats engine, (check out my video on my Bandar-e- Anzali page to get a flavour!) I wasn't too surprised that we didn't see too many birds. Also, intermittently, the captain of our vessel sounded an alarm, with a high pitched 'duck sound'. I had wondered if this was an attempt at a 'mating call' but later found out from Majid, that it was a warning to other boats that might be in the vicinity. Apparently Majid had asked the captain to stop the noise as it was scaring the birds off, but he'd said that he'd had a nasty accident with another boat before.
So, we did't get too see much wildlife, but it was still an interesting experience, as we traveled through reed covered islets, and lotus flower pads - Apparently these are usually covered in red flowers. Majid was trying to explain why there weren't any flowers, but it was a bit difficult to hear above the engine.
Our captain, suddenly diverted to the shore, and headed for a small shop, returning with a loaf of bread . We were then off again -speeding back through the harbour, under a bridge that we'd stood on earlier, and into the Caspian Sea.
The sky was looking quite dramatic, with the suns rays piercing the clouds, and for a few moments, we silently floated, enjoying the moment.
All too soon, we were heading back to the harbour, passing groups of men fishing from the quay.
The road to Masuleh ended at a car park! This was the only road in and out of the village.
Majid parked his car, and we set off to explore this ancient village, where one houses roof is its above neighbours terrace.
Majid explained that we were going to go up a different route than most visitors walk to reach the village.
We climbed up some steps, passing houses and terraces. After a short while, we came to a mosque. There were some men inside praying, so we just viewed it from the outside. Walking past the Mosque, I recognised some Martyrs graves- identified by the Iranian flags at the bottom of each tomb.
In the walls at the side of the mosque, and on the footpath, were gravestones.
We continued on, arriving at a handicrafts shop. The friendly woman owner tried to get me to try on the traditional costumes on display - but I was a bit 'over heated' from the climb, so I declined. I did buy some knitted slippers from her, and promised to post on the photos I'd taken of her. Next stop was to buy some halva for Majids fiancee. I got the chance to try a few of the different flavours.
Despite these samplings, I was pleased that our next stop was a restaurant. After our kebabs and flat bread, I had the chance to do something that I'd been wanting to try for many years- smoking the qalyan (nargille, hubba bubba etc). Apparently this practice was prohibited in 2004, with many restaurants offering qalyans, being closed down.
If my guide hadn't told me that it was 'illegal' I wouldn't have known, because during my trip, I came across many people openly enjoying the qalyan.
Although, I'd enjoyed Bandar-e-Anzali, I was quite excited about our next destination We were going to be spending the night camping near Shabil, hopefully with the Shahsavan nomadic tribe.
So, our first stop this morning was the fish market, to buy our evening meal
There was quite a lively atmosphere, with stall holders arranging their fish in small piles, layered on wooden slats, while (mainly male) customers haggled over their chosen fish for a good price.
This wasn't a picture postcard Mediterranean fishing village scene, it was very much a working area, but it had a certain charm
Majid was ahead of me, peering at each stall, until he stopped suddenly. Apparently, he'd asked the advice of the restaurant owner last night, to which would be the best fish for us, and the best stall to buy it from.
The fish were a similar size to red mullet - Majid asked how many he should buy - he'd decided that he would cut each fish into small pieces to grill with tomatoes and onion on skewers. He kept adding more, until we were both satisfied that we had enough of these suffi fish, as I'd been told their name was.
I was a bit concerned as to the condition they would be in, after a days car journey in the heat.
No need to worry- after paying for the fish, I followed Majid to a stall opposite, which had been hidden by a lorry. Huge blocks of ice were laid on a table. A man with an evil looking curved knife, hacked lumps of solid ice from the blocks, and proceeded to pack these around the fish that had been wrapped in a couple of plastic carrier bags. I was surprised to find that about 10 hours later, these fish were still chilled.
Tehran was the start and end of my tour around Iran as I flew in/ out of the cities international Imam Khomeini airport.
It was hard to imagine that this concrete megalopolis (population 12 million plus) with its thousands of vehicles spewing acrid fumes into the air, was once a village, famed for its pomegranates. It became the capital of Persia in 1795, with the crowning of Agha Mohammed Khan
I was in my late teens, when I first became aware of Tehran. Frightening images arrived daily via our TV, radio and newspapers of crowds of people rioting, hysterical chador clad women wailing over graves, while angry looking men flagellated themselves.
I was particularly disturbed whenever the ranting turban wearing man with the white beard appeared on the news. Then a few years later, the Iran-Iraq War dominated the news. Although it was terrifying, it was still 'thousands of miles away'
So, there was no way then, that I would have imagined, that I would be there, standing by these same gravestones, and visiting the shrine of 'the scarey man' - and wanting to do so!
My first day in Tehran (and throughout my trip), I got the chance to learn a bit more about these events from people who had lived through these hard times, or whose parents had.
I learnt how much the martyrs are respected also.
Although Iran has some of the worlds most ancient history, its modern history is very interesting too.
to be continued
UNESCO heritage site.
Ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid dynasty.
The biggest touristic spot in Iran.
Why o why Alexander "The Great" demolished it?? "Great" people don't do that for sure. Sorry about my comment but I was so impressed and sad when I visited this place.
It's 70 km from Shiraz and must see !
Huh...when you walk down on Shiraz's streets you'll see so many beautiful young people. Girls are trying to provoke all laws they can with their hair and forelock; their finger nails will tell you how modern they want to be, how fashionable this city is and no matter what, they want to breath freely. This is unique city in Iran. Kind of easygoing, poetic (not just because of Hafez), kindest people in Iran we met here (and this is not easy in Iran). City is not as beautiful as Esfahan, but there are some good reason around city (Persepolis) to visit it. Atmosphere was so good that we even went to cinema just to check how they indulge themselves.
We had quite excellent guide here. Check later my Shiraz page.
City settled between two deserts, one of the oldest in Iran, with interesting architecture, with largest community of Zoroastrians in Iran, with interesting neighborhood, cool accommodation, quite religious, one of the kind in country.
You can easily spent few days here but in spring, if you come in summer, it won't be as nice as in other periods. Check more on Yazd site.
It's easy to come here, because it's central and on important roads (historic ones too).
If you are into nature and you like unspoiled areas, almost untouched by human hand and you don't mind being in middle of nowhere, and you like to rest and eat good, come here.
It's desert oasis where you can spend few days relaxing, enjoying sand dunes trip with fire in desert, or salt lake trip or hiking around or just sleeping - eating - sleeping - doing nothing.
It's the only place in Iran where my friend didn't have to wear scarf all the time. It's kind of liberal community. Of course, you can come here if you arrange it with owner of place where you can sleep and find some transport. More about on Garmeh page.
Probably the last thing you should do in Iran is to visit this city.
It's stupid to talk about its beauty and romance, it's just one of the best place on Earth. There are several spots in city that you won't be able to pass by and not stop for a while. And you'll keep coming back.
So, at least you should:
1. discover Imam Square and all the sites there
2. Zayandeh river bridges
3. Armenian quarter
5. parks, parks, parks
We were sorry that we didn't leave this city as a crown of Iran tour, but we don't regret at all that we spend more days here then anywhere else.
Check my Esfahan page.
This small village can be reached through delightful mountain valleys, it's touristic place and locals are aware of the fact that you'll travel half day from Tehran just to spend 24 hours here. Elevation is above 1000m.
Nature is amazing, green and wet, which you won't find easily in Iran and this region is popular among domestic travelers because of that fact. How to reach Masuleh, you'll find in my Masuleh site.
It's unspoiled attraction where you'll forget for all your worries.
Not only this is touristic free city, but there isn't any touristic office at all.
That's the reason why you should visit it. Probably there isn't such a city on globe, so big, so live and so local. Ok, politic can help to this situation but there are several things that you can do in this city:
0. if you coming by air, you'll probably touch Iran's ground here
1. book your flights, train, bus ticket for the rest of your journey
2. Golestan palace
3. Sa'd Abad museum complex
4. Imam Homeini shrine
5. introducing money, food, culture, habits
6. meet Iranians
7. worst polluted city in the world
8. enjoy mountains
I didn't really get to see much of Takab, just views from the car while going to and from the Ranji Hotel, which had been our base for the night. Near Takab I'd seen a huge model of a hawk on a roundabout, (pic 2) apparently this was Shahin Dezh, which translates as the fortress of the hawk!
Takab is a market town, agriculture being its main provider of income. It is often used as a base for travellers visiting the sites of Zendan-e-Soleiman and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Takht-e-Soleiman 42km away.
This was to be another busy day, it was also my last day with Majid, as he was leaving to lead another tour, so I was to meet my next guide, another Majid, in Hamadam that evening. I was a bit sad about this as I'd felt quite comfortable with Majid, and I was going to spend the next 12 days with my new guide.
Majid was quite excited about visiting Zendan-e-Soleiman, he said was a very special place with a surprise at the top.
We parked in the car park, and proceeded the 5-10 minute climb to this 'Prison of Soleiman' (Please see my next tip for info and pics)
Now, this area has nothing to do with Soleiman (King Soloman). The Temple and prison were susceptable to invasion in the 7th century by Arabic troops. The wily guardians realised that the Islamic Arabs reverred the prophets from the Bible, so when the Arabs arrived, it was said that Soloman had lived here, therefore their cunning plan had worked, as the area remained intact
Zendan-e-Soleiman or Solomans prison is a large conical peak, which can be seen for miles around. It is 110m high, and its crater is 70m in diameter.
Majid had promised a surprise at the top - phew! The huge crater had a drop inside of more than 100 metres. Swifts were flying around, darting in and out of nesting holes eroded into the calciferous walls.
Majid tried to pursuade me to lean over for a better view- Hmmm, this would have to be the moment that I suddenly got a fear of heights! I couldn't bring myself to move and felt quite weird. I had to hand my camera to him to take some shots inside the crater. I felt quite a Wuss, and was a bit disapointed in myself that I couldn't share in Majids excitement of the moment. I was happy enough with the bit I'd seen, but was also quite pleased when my shaking legs arrived back at the car.
So after a brief look at Gonbad-e-Arqala, a longer browse around Gonbad-e-Arqala and its grounds, we set off to find Gonbad-e-Qaffariyeh. My LP guide stated that it was in a riverside garden with a tacky trio of dolphins!!!!
Yes, they were quite tacky looking! This tomb had some interesting blue tile mosaics and calligraphy. You couldn't enter the tomb, but I spent a few minutes looking at the exterior, before wandering over to look at the nearby river. (which I think is the Safi River) Maraqeh is famed for its dry fruit, which is exported. The many vineyards and orchards are watered by the rivers and canals, which flow from the Sahand Mountain range, where the highest mountain peak reaches 3,722 metres.
Next, we set off to find the Gonbad-e- Kabul and the Borj-e- Modovar, which are next to each other. It took us over half an hour of driving around, stopping to ask directions, from people who hadn't heard of these tombs, or kept directing us back to Gorb-e- Sorkh. We just made it before the caretaker closed the gate.
Gonbad-e-Kabul, Kabood Dome, or Blue Tower, is thought to be the tomb of the mother of Hollakoo (Hulagu Khan) and dates back to the 6th or 7th Century AH. Hulagu Khan was the ruler during Mongol occupation of the city from 657AH.
It has a 10 sided prism like shape. Some of the remaining blue tiles can be seen on the exterior walls
Makeshift ladders allow access to this and the adjacent tower.
The Modovar Dome resembles a Watch tower, and probable served a use as a defence tower.
We'd eventually seen the towers, and so headed off to Takab, and our hotel for the night.
More Regions in Iran