Iran in Film

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6.3 Isfahan with Fatima

​ Fati told me about a French guy who thought Iran was a place ‘with many camels on the streets and only chadors and things like that’. She wants me to tell everyone COME TO IRAN!! IRAN HAS MALLS AND CARS and your m&ms and sushi and Coca Cola and your favourite cereal, just sometimes in different names ~~ And cool things like carpets of course.
We went into the shopping mall with glass-paned windows and doors, and M.A.C.
With a car inside.

 

 

 

‘Take pictures of these and show your friends!’

 

 

Sushi in the Iranian supermarket

On my way home that day, this kind lady helped me find my way to my host. She got off the bus and walked with me / waited with me for 15 minutes. I gave her a chocolate bar, the only gift-able gift I had with me.

6.1 Isfahan, Iran

​ My favourite days. Making chicken rice and milo and drawing connections – my host and the family I crashed.

One of my favourite cities, for sure. I had the most meaningful memory in Isfahan. But not really, Shiraz and Qazvin and Tehran were so special too, because of all the people I’ve met. Sigh.

Outside the Shah Mosque,  I think.

 
I was thinking and rewriting my favourite part about Isfahan. As I sat in the living room watching my host, and the girl whose next-door apartment I incidentally crashed the first day, with their deep excited chatter in Farsi and their occasional eruption of laughter, I knew it was that. 
 

 

Imagine all the little incidents and coincidences that had to happen for their (neighbourly) paths to cross; the date and time I chose, the driver I flagged, the wrong buzzer we pressed – the chances are almost once in a million. I imagine these events sowing a tiny seed, and the possibilities that take root from here. I think everything happens for a reason. I hope they stay friends for a long time. 

In the evening we ate saffron ice cream and cruised down the streets blasting Persian pop with the windows wound down, driving past watermelons

 

 

 

female drivers whee!

 

 

 

 

 

 

along the streets

Azar shared with me that sanctions against Iran have led to the closure of many factories and resulting unemployment; once she received 1 month’s salary only after 6 months. ‘But my father told me once that when you are in the sea and you feel you may be drowning you should not feel hopeless. You should try to reach out for a float or a stone, and you should not feel hopeless.’ I wish you all the best in your dreams, Azar.

 

6. Isfahan, Iran

​I arrived from Kashan to Isfahan in 2 – 3hours. The bus gave a banana bread and orange juice, which I gobbled down.
From the bus terminal I took a cab to Azar’s house. I showed the driver my address and despite the seeming initial agreement of 80k he insisted it was 100k rials when I got off…. Fine, except he dropped me off and rang the doorbell of a home I didn’t know. Well blessing in disguise!

What unravelled was a series of unexpected events.
So the doorbell rang and the door was opened, and I stepped in. Someone came down the stairs – it was a girl, quite a young girl. I showed her my message and she said it was the wrong address. I caught a glimpse of the house and it was lovely. She tried to call my host, but it could not get through. She invited me to her home and we laughed and I shamelessly accepted her offer (or rather she insisted).

Shortly after her mother offered me melon tea and some candied nuts which tasted awesome.
Her brother and father came home, and before long the living room was lively with conversations and the strums of the guitar. So kind of them to perform for me, really!
My host came after the brother of the family went over to the address to call her. They were engaged in deep conversation and laughter in lively Persian as I sat and watched, trying to guess (and clearly failing) what they were discussing about.
Shortly after (they invited us to stay for lunch!) we went back.

It was such a lively atmosphere.

the living room that came alive with the sounds of the guitar and their singing – how surreal it seems, now. stumbling into a stranger’s home.

my very first taste of those delicious candied almonds! I had to remind myself to stop eating so much. i really wanted to buy some back, but with SG’s humidity they’d turn into a sticky mess.

​ My beautiful company the past days – my host and the girl whose wrong apartment I crashed. Imagine all the little incidents and coincidences that had to happen for our / their (neighbourly) paths to cross; the date and time I chose, the driver I flagged, the wrong buzzer we pressed – the chances are almost one in a million. And there they sat now in the living room past midnight, like they’ve known each other forever.
(Although they’re already so beautiful(!!), nose surgery is not an uncommon status symbol in Iran.)

Before I left they put a jewellery in a gift box (with a ribbon!!) and gave it to me as a present, luckily I brought some SG magnets and Milo packets to spare. Such hospitality :’)

 

5.1 Persepolis, Iran (Day trip from Shiraz)

I took a cab to Persepolis (500k rials, + 50k for him to send me to my address beyond the city centre) in the evening. Around 3+ or 4pm, with less than an hour drive away, I could still catch the site before the sun set.



Persepolis exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture, and archaeological evidence shows that the earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. My appreciation of historical monuments and sites has increased with age. When you consider how many generations these sites witness in comparison to your minute lifespan, these are precious timekeepers, records of mankind from another age, an age I can only witness through these remnants.



I enjoyed the intricate carvings. There, I remember feeling so HOT (my lips and mouth dries up in this climate, really. First time feeling this for real. I am so thankful I didn’t visited Israel/Jordan in summer. After this trip, I’m not gonna complain about the cold in winter of the Middle East; hot weather isn’t comfortable either. Ok but then again I get hot showers all the time! And I hated showering in winter, and I was shivering quite bit. Hmm maybe this hot and dry weather is preferable…)

 
How they get on FASTING in this dry heat, I really don’t know. I am thoroughly impressed. 

My tongue feels incredibly dry and my mouth gets smelly (saliva). 



Spamming pictures from my phone. My camera died at this point.
Before that, though, I recall another incident which left a deep impression of Persepolis.
I walked to the Visitors Centre, and was dismayed when I found out that the water cooler had ran out of water, because it was the evening time. My water bottle was empty, and my mouth was so thirsty and dry my saliva was turning bitter (I know! How I’ve taken water for granted)
As I was about to walk away, a shopkeeper took out a cup (that he was selling from the souvenirs shop!) and the most glorious coke ever – cold, a saving grace in this heat) and he poured the fizzling coke into the cup, handed it to me and smiled. I was incredibly touched, and delighted.
He even offered me a refill, a second cup, but I politely resisted, though it would have been amazing.
That was, seriously, THE best taste of coke, EVER. EVER ever ever. I might have bought that coke for $10.
I wonder if he knew how much he made my day. Best Persepolis moment ever!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Shiraz, Iran (Nasir al-Mulk / Pink Mosque + Hosseini)

Hello to one of my favourite cities.



My photographer. He was really funny. Typical Chinese camwhore Millennial who went trigger-happy with poses, even brought a Lonely Planet book for a prop, and I was of course a happy Chinese recipient.

8am – I reached Shiraz after slightly over 6 hours, at 2.30pm or so. 

 

Shiraz. 
 
My first day in Shiraz, I took the metro (the guy just handed me a coin – and didn’t expect me to pay) and took to the metro stop near the bazaar. The metro of Shiraz is so clean and amazing, I was absolutely impressed, I wouldn’t have minded sitting there for another half an hour. It was new and clean and had good air conditioning that I was thankful for in this heat. It was like our MRTs, except it was completely empty and very, very clean. 


A memory of Shiraz: 

As I walked along the streets towards the bazaar, a man (shoe shop stall) said ‘welcome to Iran’ and another said ‘oh my god’ with a smile. As I turned towards the latter while continuing forward, the shoe shop’s worker handed me a pair of slippers. ‘For me??’ I asked in disbelief, he nodded and I waved thank you and walked on. I initially said ‘it’s ok i don’t need’, I wonder if that was rude.

 
It was a very warm gesture nonetheless, and it was exactly my size, I was impressed.
#iranianhospitalityHere, I spam the gorgeous pictures in the Pink Mosque, one of my greatest anticipations of the trip!

 

 

Early morning. I was the 3rd visitor to arrive.

 

trickle of sunshine



One of the many architectural gems, where sunlight trickles in through the stained-glass windows and spills rainbow puddles on the carpeted floors


 

Ah yes, > 9 am now you see the tourists.

Marieh was my host in Shiraz. I don’t have a photo with her (sadly, I regret, actually, not initiating) but we had a lovely time cooking dishes together. My bak kut teh honestly turned out to be yummy, and I loved eating/drinking some homely and familiar food too (though i haven’t been gone for that long, really).

Talking about religion:

‘So what do you do when you feel very sad?’
‘What do you think happens after we die?’
She mentioned, ‘in Iran we don’t have many close friends. We have many good friends, yes, 

but not so many close friends. There’s not much entertainment here – no parties…’

Gym is like morn to noon for women, noon to night for men
No marathon for women
Dogs / pets not really approved of
But she had a HUSKY!!! From Tabriz



She brought me to have some dessert in the evening. 

It was in Shiraz that I had my first carrot juice with ice cream – havij bastani. 

I tried to look like I enjoyed it.

Hosseini, the first driver I encountered in Shiraz. Early morning, after leaving Marieh’s apartment, I walked down and flagged a cab.

​Hosseini shares with me that he used to study English 10 years ago, and used to fluently guide many tourists. But his grandmother and father fell sick so he had to return to his hometown to take care of them. Now he’s back in Shiraz he has to work so he can’t continue his English studies. ‘But if I practice I know I will be very good.’ I sensed a certain hunger and frustration in his sharing, like stumbling upon a dusty book you once knew by heart.

When I was done with my trigger-happy friend and another Singaporean ‘travel blogger’ we met in the mosque, I was surprised to see Hosseini still outside. He asked me where I was heading to, and I said I wanted to take the bus to Qalat village. He offered to drive me to the bus station, and I accepted his offer.

We eventually drove to Qalat village (or Ghalat village), 45 minutes away.

We conversed in English. I drew mountains and rivers to illustrate the words, to remind him of these words he was once familiar with.

Hiked down a path where friends were having a picnic, as the sounds of the rushing river got louder. ​In this incredibly hot and dry weather, the cool waters of the river brought about a huge relief and felt like one of the BEST things I can ever feel in life. It feels THAT good, yes. Spent some time splashing and immersing in the coolness of the river water.

Hosseini later asked if I wanted to visit his sister, who lived along the way.

I love seeing these watermelons in the summer streets. Other than tasting incredibly amazing in this heat, watermelons remind me of the people who invited me to have some, and the interesting conversations over them. The construction workers, the hostel receptionist, the families who invite me in. These watermelons cool and warm me in ways I will always remember.

putting this picture of my first time for records. hahah memories

honestly, i can still remember her gentle fingers

as she placed the scarf over my head

tenderly fixing my cloth

over my face

helping me to fix my hair, pin it together

and she smiled.

she smiled because she felt she was blessing me. i can still recall those gentle fingers against my skin.

Shiraz is special to me. Isfahan was my favourite city because of the memories I forged, but Shiraz, thank you Hosseini. 

Imam Khomeini and his words on every textbook, I found from Hosseini’s niece



In the evening, I said goodbye to Marieh and her very active husky, went to the bus station, and left.

There, a short encounter that left me pondering. A man tried to help me clarify regarding the bus ticket, when the person at the counter told me there was none left except for the one that cost X price. The man told me in ‘English’ to follow him. He was later spoken to by some official-looking people from the bus station (security, perhaps? but men dressed in shirts). I tried to step in to say this man didn’t say anything to me; the officers (?) waved me off and said my bus was leaving. 

This was one of the more… prominent incidents I noted about my trip.


400k for my overnight bus from Shiraz to Tehran. 

 

6.4 Sofeh Mountain, Isfahan

Hello, Sofeh mountain.
selfie-ing every few steps, i recall

Our chicken rice for lunch. In my opinion, it tasted great :p I miss how Azar’s mum would prepare the SWEETEST HONEYDEW i’ve ever eaten in my life (no lie), so juicy and an absolute bliss in the heat 😥

 

Set off to Sofeh mountain!

 

 

 

Unfortunately, we didn’t complete the hike (barely started) because a man started asking me many questions about where I came from, how long I was here for, etc. Elhem got worried and decided that we shouldn’t proceed with the hike. While I was hesitant to stop, given my one-chance at Sofeh mountain and Cz’s recommendation, I could tell Elhem was growing increasingly uncomfortable as we bumped into the man again. Eventually she persuaded me again and i relented, and we went down. While I was a little disappointed about missing the hike i was looking forward to, i found consolation in spending the rest of my day with the girls.

Thank you Isfaha, it has been absolutely lovely 🙂

4. Yazd, Iran

 

​ Through three arched windows, dawn sends a sheaf of hallowed golden rays.

It takes a 4.5 hour ride or more bus ride to Yazd from Isfahan. I departed at 2pm and I reached in the evening, 



 
Yazd was hot and I had the worst night of sleep here. It was so hot, man, and so dry. Thank goodness for fountains that could be found when you need them. And also so many ice cream stalls! And signs that seemed to cater to tourists – coffee, ice cream, wifi – these were lighted in English, calling out to everyone near the square. 


I concluded tourists visited Yazd. 




It was here that when walking to the water museum I passed by a bakery shop and asked to take photos, and the baker called me over and handed me a bag of some biscuits. 



I remember their sticky taste as I gulped down my (precious!) water eargerly. It was incredibly hot and the gingery taste of the biscuits melted on my lips.



This map provided an insight into the desert town of Yazd. Imagine how they accessed water when they’re surrounded by so much dry land!

I enjoyed the water museum, and I was glad to have visited. There I saw the many tools used to collect water, something so pertinent to this area. I think I realised just HOW INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT water is in a desert town like this. I looked at the photos showing the Iranian farmers of the past and how they risked their lives to dig deep down for the aquifer and search for groundwater for their wells. The kinds of technology they had to come up with back then – separation of waters to split between different villages, different timings they could access the water (water clock), and how they wore white to be seen in the dark and also so that the white cloth could be their cloths to cover their bodies in the event that they die. 


Man, in a country THIS hot and dry, how frightening it is to not have water. Seriously!
How fortunate we all were to have such a steady flow of water from our taps. How I’ve taken it for granted! I know I’ve taught the Water chapter and have preached about its importance  but I felt that witnessing the step-by-step procedure they had to take in the past, the risks and sacrifices that allowed our technology to evolve, and perhaps this incredibly hot weather AND Ramadan made every sip of water so sweet – these augmented my gratefulness for its ease of access today.


 

Other than that, I decided to give the Zoroastrian temple and the Tower of Silence day trips a miss. I think I was quite tired, not that interested in these landscapes that perhaps I did not find enough interest in understanding. Zoroastrian is a pretty distant religion for me. Well perhaps it was a good chance to get acquainted, but I left for Shiraz the next morning. And thank goodness I suppose, I had many bites in the night – mosquitoes or something. I woke up at 3am to scratch my feet and had a pretty uneven sleep. 
 
My only night in a hostel for this trip……
 
At night an Iranian boy showed me the traditional ice cream. It was delicious – cream, cocoa and saffron. Love saffron ice cream!!!! 
 
I also just recalled that it’s in Yazd that the more sexual related incidents took place. Man at mosque, taxi driver……. I can fully and confidently say that it is NOT representative of Iran at all though. Why Yazd, though? Are they too suppressed that they are eager to broach on the topic of sexual relations with foreigners?

Nonetheless the decor was really beautiful. I wanted to depart for Shiraz at 8am so I even gave the rooftop view a miss.
 

 

Yazd and Shiraz is so hot, I had a newfound respect for those people who really fasted the whole day, their breaths turning sour from the lack of moisture. I think back to what Hosseini said about the power of Faith. With faith it’s not difficult. Faith can move mountains. Indeed.

When I ask ‘Do you like Iran?’ They say ‘Yes, my family is here, my friends are here, I know the culture…’Streets

 

 

More sights of the bazaar

 

 

​ I learnt there’s public hangings and its like the deed will be shown on newspaper or social media or telegram The name age crime of the person and where the hanging is To serve as a warning to others of the crime I asked the guy what he thinks about it He says he thinks it’s good cause it reminds people not to do such things

 

3.1 Abyaneh, Iran

Entering the historical red mud village of Abyaneh, one of the oldest villages in Iran.

The next day the Danish guy, myself and Amanda got a shared transport to 5 places (1. the Zoroastrianism temple from pre-Islam, I think, 2. the underground city of Nooshabad, 3. another random place with a view, 4. Abyaneh and 5. Fin Garden.)

We paid $10.50 SGD each, which was really cheap. Amanda knows her stuff! Hahaha.

Reminds me of Central Asia.
I’ll start with my favourite pictures first.

My favourite part of the day was walking randomly into the Kurdish workers’ rooms and they offered us sweet, delicious watermelon and even insisted we take their bread back with us, which we insisted not to, and they insisted again, and in the end we tore a part of it to eat so we were both happy. Such warmth!
Also, I liked the part where our guide decided to open the well-like ventilation and crawled down upon the almost random request of the other tourist, and they went down to the ground floor.

The underground city of Nooshabad, with its deep tunnels and labyrinths. We peered into their ‘living rooms’, their ‘toilets’ and I tried to picture how it’d be like living in a place like this.

Their source of air ventilation

Tourist who said he wanted to go down to explore the (unofficial) bottom storey, and the guide actually allowed.

Here, the morning walk towards the Zoroastrian temple.

 

 

Amanda. I wonder if she’s still frolicking around Central Asia.

 

That random place with a view where we stopped, but didn’t catch what our guide said. Hahah sigh. Tourists.

 

the narrow alleys

the doors

 

 

 

They’re so pretty
It was an eventful day.

We skipped Fin Garden at the end, which reminds me of the travel saturation thing. I was really fascinated and in awe of the mosques and their kaleidoscopic designs but I am slightly worried it’s starting to wear off. I wanted to visit Samarkand (Uzbekistan) so, so badly for their architecture but I have a feeling they’ll be similar to the patterns in the mosques here as well as Qom, for example. 😦 It’s like the churches in Europe, …