Thursday, 3 April 2014


wonderful bridges over a dry river
This city is Iran's main draw card.  We came here in 2008 and we're happy to return, despite our little hiccup.   The city is busy with national tourists - the No Ruz holidays continue - so there's a buzz about the place.  The main square, built back in the 1600's when the city was Shah Abbas' capital, is a great architectural sight, with a grand mosque at one end, a fancy portal into the bazaar at the other, and an arcade all the way around.  To one side is a crumbling palace terrace and facing it, the smaller, but perfectly formed Sheik Lotfollah mosque.  The place is packed with people in holiday mood.  While I nurse my toothache Gayle revisits the Shah's Mosque (now rechristened renamed the Imam Khomeini Mosque).  She is gone for a while.  I watch as the bored drivers of the pony and traps carrying tourists around the square start to race each other.  Finally she emerges with a man at her elbow.  I understand now.  I wondered what would happen if Gayle walked around without me and now I know.  The first opportunity and some bloke starts chatting her up.  And he has no shame, still turning on the charm even as they get nearer.  And he's disguised as a mullah.  Crafty bugger.  They are speaking Spanish together.  He introduces himself and claims he wants to practice his Spanish. I give him the old "no entiendo amigo!" and try to walk off in a huff but he insists on a photo together.

mullah my arse

We wander through the bazaar, beyond the busy lanes and deeper into the quieter parts where the old shops are shuttered up and abandoned. Out the other side we emerge onto a busy shopping street.  This is where most of the trade is these days - in ordinary shops where locals can park outside, or double-park, without traipsing through the dusty old pedestrianised bazaar.  The car is bringing an end to traditional shopping.

mixed spice

Sitting in another big square we are surrounded by Iranian families who poke and prod us to see what we're made of, figuratively speaking that is.  A young child is pushed forwards to ask us where we are from, what are our names, the usual questions.  Before it gets tiresome, a film crew appear and the female director asks us to say what we think about Esfahan into the camera.  Our thirty-second platitude-filled effort is sure to be deleted. Walking up to the Friday Mosque the shopping intensity increases.  And then entering the huge open courtyard of the mosque all is peace and tranquility again.  We take our time examining the tilework inside and around the four large portals that overlook the courtyard.  A man with a feather duster remonstrates with women who are not wearing a chador - and directs them to the box of spares kept handy for visitors.  Gayle joins the trendy young Iranian women in skinny jeans and tight jackets who are being dusted into submission and dons the extra bit of material.  Meanwhile a chatty young boy shows off his good English to me.  He wonders whether we've had any problems cycling in Iran, especially Gayle, as it's illegal in Iran for women to ride bikes.  His English is good, but he clearly lacks criticial skills.  We explain that it is not illegal for women to ride bicycles in Iran.  Mohammed might not have gone to the mountain on a mountain bike, but nor is there anything in the Quran about it being forbidden to females.  A lightning bolt flashes down at my feet from the heavens.

mmm, would it work in our bathroom?
One evening, as we walk through one of the tree-filled parks, a young man starts chatting to us.  Before long he mentions a carpet shop.  We decline politely.  He urges us to come for a tea in any case.  We say we don't need a carpet.  He flashes back with a smile "You might not need a carpet, but I need your money".

No comments:

Post a Comment