Thursday, 17 April 2014

jewel of the dessert

it's a Brooks
Returning to the Silk Road Hotel feels almost like coming home.  Ali the manager is as busy as ever now the Easter holidays have brought more European tourists.  We still cannot understand how he manages such a good place with such lousy staff.  There isn't a single man in the place, aside from himself, who understands the basics of customer service.  The female staff work in the kitchen and do the cleaning.  Undoubtedly he needs more women to serve the punters. Unfortunately there is no room at the inn for Gertrude but Ali kindly finds her one in in another traditional courtyard house hotel and then suggests she comes to his hotel for breakfast with us.  I am embarrassed by his generosity towards us because he also discounts the food we order.
what to wear under the chador in Yazd
We spend a couple of days wandering around the old city and the bazaar with Gertrude and are happy to see she is enjoying it.  Maybe we are spoiling her because this is quite a special place.  We only hope she will enjoy the other places she visits later.  Yazd is described as a jewel in the desert, but it also ranks highly for having the jewel of desserts: pomegranate juice with ice cream floater.  Pomegranates out of season?  Try blood oranges instead.  And if all else fails there is the immortal date shake at the Silk Road Hotel, made with fresh dates from Bam.

quality tilework at the Masjed-e Jameh
But it's not for dates that we take the tortuous bus journey south eastwards to Bam.  The ancient citadel, the largest adobe structure on earth, was destroyed in an earthquake in 2003 that also killed over 25,000 inhabitants.  Since then work has started to reconstruct the buildings using the original construction techniques.  It is a slow process.  Nearly as slow as the buses that take us there.  Our second bus stinks of diesel and shortly after setting off from Kerman we fill up at a petrol station with a queue of trucks.  This is a common sight.  Eventually we are heading in the right direction and making good time.  About an hour before Bam the bus pulls off the road outside a mechanic's shack.  It's a long stop.  At first it seems we are filling up again, but then we realise that they are pumping the diesel out of the bus.  Fuel smuggling.  The fuel will be taken over the border into Pakistan.

This part of Iran is Baluchistan, a region that spans the border with Pakistan.  The men are wearing shalwar kameez.  Bam looks a bit poor and a bit rough but considering it was flattened only ten yers ago, it's not so bad.  Date palms dot the city in clusters.  The main palmeraie lies off in the distance.  Crystal clear water runs through the channels beside the road, irrigating the trees.  Our hotel is basic and over-priced so we decide to visit the Argh-e Bam in the morning and then cut and dash back to Yazd.  Walking to the edge of the new town we see the crenellated mud walls of the fort on the hill in the centre of the citadel. 

As we get nearer we begin to understand the scale of the old city and the amount of work involved in trying to restore it.  The site is perhaps not as large as Pompei, but the mud structures date back about 2000 years.  Photographs taken before the earthquake show many of the grander buildings that are now mostly fallen down.  However, wandering around on our own, the place deserted except for the workers, we can still get a good feel for the place.  The outer walls are being rebuilt and there's plenty of scaffolding propping structures up.  By midday it's blazing hot in the sun and we head back to Yazd, happy for having made the long trek out to this oasis. 

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