In the Islamic world you do see a lot of mosques. Like Wats in Thailand, Cathedrals in France, and religious paintings in Italy, after awhile you can get a bit sick of them. There was one more main one in Esfahan that LP made sound important so just before Julian was due to fly out we trekked across town to find the Jameh mosque. It was the only rainy day we had, and it was Friday, which is the day off. Roads were closed as people bus into the main mosque from out of town, shops are closed, it was pouring with rain. We got a taxi to the mosque, and got there just as it opened. Really I was all mosqued out, a guy showed us round and showed us some interesting parts, but it wasn’t all that impressive. We walked back along the road where they are trying to build a metro, the road was dug up and we were covered in mud by the time we emerged onto some tar seal.
Julian was off and the dorm had changed to include 2 other girls and an Austrian guy. Now 3 solo traveling females in one dorm is about as unlikely as you get. Sonia from Spain and Dayna from Australia, both well travelled and interesting. We spent one lunch time swapping sexual harassment stories. We headed down to the river and again it was full of families having picnics. While under the bridge I was captured by family who sat me down, shoved a cup of tea into my hands and literally pushed food into my mouth. They couldn’t speak any english, but in this case it didn’t matter. The were hilarious, and eventually I managed to get away to find the other girls.
(my adopted food family)
Down at one of the bridges a crowd was gathered around a group of men who were singing. It was beautiful. One of those moments that make you love traveling. We stayed for abut half an hour while about 5 of these guys sung these amazing songs with no instruments, or anything, just voices. There was a little kid, about 5 years old who sat on his dads lap while he was singing and joined in the bits he could, a younger guy emerged out of the growing audience and sung along with the older men. There voices were amazing. Afterwards, some people sitting near us came and told us about the songs, that they were about love They also told us how singing in public is illegal, people sing under the bridge often but move around a lot in case of police. Its awful to think that they are breaking the law by singing. The people telling us this just seem so sad that this is the reality of the country. Its really sad, things will change one day, hopefully.
The following evening I met Dayna in the square and we went up a tea house which is upstairs over looking Imam square. The seats all face outwards over the square and you can drink tea and smoke shesha pipes.
We saw Youchim up there, the Austrian guy from our room. He was with a bunch of guys he knew from couch surfing in Esfahan last year. One of the guys lives in NZ and was home for a couple of months. They were really cool guys, we sat around smoking and drinking tea for awhile then a couple of them work in a couple shop so we went back and sat around on the persian rug drinking more tea and discussing politics.
(who needs corporate American when Iran has their own version)
On my last day in Esfahan I meet up with a couple of guys from couch surfing, in the Armenian quarter. Which is, incidentally where lots of Armenians live, there is a big cathedral which looked really nice but was closed the day I had gone to try get in. But this trip was for coffee. The Armenian quarter, is known for being liberal and there was nice coffee shops around a little square where we sat around and talked for a couple of hours. It was really nice and really cool guys, both who have traveled/lived in Europe a bit.
On my last night I went out for some food with the Latvian motorcycle guy. I had walked past this shop which always had a huge pot of yellow soupy looking stuff, I suspected in was this aubergine dish I had heard about, so we went there, sat down and received our 2 big bowls of yellow gloopy stuff. I can usually east most stuff, but this was beyond me. It was been cooked with meat and had this really meaty taste, but a strange consistency, I just couldn’t eat it! But not too worry, walking back through the park disappointed after the shesha and tea house was closed, a huge family of 15 having a picnic called us over. They sat us down and shoved plates of delicious (and vegetarian) food into our hands, plates of dates, bread, cheese, tea and sweets.
(Picnics, Iranian style)
One of the younger girls could speak a little english, we sat and ate with the family while they took photos of us with the younger kids.
There is always just so much food in Iran. I think if I lived here I would be about 20kilos heavier. The food is different than the middle east. I seem to be surviving on falafel sandwiches, which the ubiquitous hamburger shops always sell, and then every so often when I eat at a restaurant it seems to be exclusively chicken kebab, a plate of grilled chicken with a tomato and a bit of salad, a huge plate of rice and of course bread. And loads of ice cream, banana shakes and the other popular snack, a cup of corn kernels, covered with mayo and salt and pepper. Another yum dessert I stumbled across is fereni, the consistence of custard its made from milk, rose water and sugar, the covered with sugar syrup that tastes like golden syrup.
In the mornings in Esfahan we would wander across the street to the bakery which churned out bread for about 20 cents, hot and fresh,then some feta cheese from the little man next door and a bag of walnuts from the nut man. Feta and walnuts on fresh bread, so good, and maybe some dates if your lucky. Bread is everywhere, and you can usually find a bakery with a crowd of people outside. One type of bread is a massive thing piece cooked on hot stones, which stick to the bread, or just smaller nan type bread, different bread shop each make one type of bread. Its always good when hot and fresh but never lasts the day. Once while waiting in the queue system I could never work out, looking confused, an older lady gave me her bread so I wouldn’t have to wait in line. That’s how nice people are here.
I did manage to get out of Esfahan, my favourite Iranian city, eventually. My time in Iran was coming to and end and I headed on a bus 3 hours north to Kashan.