The road to Tehran (1 October 2015)
It was time to leave Isfahan. Although I was sorry to leave the marvellous city, I was also quite excited since we were heading to Tehran next. This is after all the political centre of Iran and all of the headaches caused to the West come out from here.
But before we could reach Tehran, we were to see some other aspects of Iran that were less grand than the marvellous palaces and mosques that the country has plenty of, but no less interesting.
We drove up the mountains to reach the little village of Abyaneh. This is a traditional village of red adobe houses situated 2,100 metres above sea level. And I thought it looked just like an old retirement village. All the youngsters had left the village, seemingly never to return. The only young people that I came across in the village were visitors. In fact, the old folks who were in the village actually lived with their children in the cities and towns outside of the tourist season.
The ladies of the village are famous for wearing white scarves with colourful patterns. They sat around offering all sorts of souvenirs and other things that tourists might want to buy. Some of them made a dehydrated apple snack that tasted a little too much like flaccid rubber for my liking.
The entire village seemed to have been given up to tourism. Its present existence is largely fuelled by tourism and an apparent desire of the old villagers to continue living their traditions (even if they do not do so throughout the year). It is hard to imagine what would become of the village after the last of these elderly villagers had left this world.
But would I want to live in a village like that, high in the mountains hours away from the nearest big city and without the usual facilities and amenities that I take for granted? I would not, so I could not expect anyone else to.
I guess it is tourism that will save Abyaneh eventually. Even now the village did not feel entirely authentic but somewhat commercial. But I still do think that it is better for the village to continue to exist even if only for tourists. Better commercial than extinct I say.
I have never believed in visiting a city in half a day. In fact, I would not even call it “visiting a city”. It was more like we had gone to visit some places in a city. And that is what we did: we went to visit two places in Kashan.
The Fin Garden is another Persian garden but somehow managed to be relatively more interesting than those we had visited previously.
There was a nicely preserved hammam on the garden grounds and this was the place where an eminent politician of the Qajar period was murdered. Amir Kabir was the chief minister of Naser al-Din Shah during the first three years of the latter’s reign. The minister was a reformer and his views were considered a threat to the interests of the royal family. The very influential Queen Mother got him sacked from his position and banished to Kashan where he was kept under house arrest in Fin Garden. Later, fearing that foreign influences might allow Kabir to regain power, the Queen Mother got her son to order his execution. An assassin was sent after him and he died while having a bath. It is believed that Iran’s chances then of reforming and strengthening died together with Kabir.
The whole theme of Kabir’s story just sounds so familiar. The Queen Mother was powerful in court and she exerted undue influence over the king her son. But her decisions were based on selfish motives and she ruined the country because of that.
For the first time on our trip it rained. I must admit that it never occurred to me that it would ever rain in Iran. Well, at least not during this time when everything just seemed so hot and dry. But it was practically a thunderstorm!
We were supposed to have lunch in one of the couple of traditional Iranian houses in Kashan and then visit the Borujerdi House after that. The rain however forced us to visit the one we had lunch in, the Abbasi House, instead.
There were six areas in the house and the restaurant took up one of them. We were quite happy wandering around the different courtyards and many rooms. And generally fooling around.
In another time and place, the Abbasi could have been considered a palace. Even in Iran there are lesser buildings that are called palaces. It was a magnificent house although its upkeep must have been very costly. The house was said to have belonged to a cleric. I wonder where he got all the money from. Was preaching and praying really such a lucrative occupation in those days?
Our bus journey continued through the night. N played a video on Iranian archaeology and at one point when it showed Susa and the ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil K got a little excited because she had been to see them before the group tour. I thought that we would never reach our destination.
We finally arrived in Tehran in style after 9 pm. It was raining and it was windy. We alighted from the bus and dashed across the road to get to a posh restaurant for our late dinner. I am sure the rain and wind and a whole day of travelling made us all look really elegant for the occasion.
Those who had ordered the shish kebab was raving about it. I instead ordered a chicken dish and it was weird. It was cooked in a pomegranate sauce which made the chicken taste sweet. I can only say that it was weird. It was just unexplainable.
Well at least there was Tehran to look forward to the next day.