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Esfahan - the most beautiful city in Iran

Written on: Wednesday April 30th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

The streets are lined with trees and there are loads of parks with fountains.  The huge square hosting the King's 17th century palace and two amazing mosques is second largest ?n the world (T?amenen Sq being the b?gg?e), and surrounded by a bazaar selling intricate handpainted plates and camelbone, mosaic boxes, silverware and lots of other handicrafts - this has Al very worried. 
Me and Ann are easily spotted w?th our wh?te scarfs which we have found much cooler ?n the heat.  There is no rule as to colour of h?jab but the f?rm favour?te ?s BLACK! 
The br?dges over the r?ver are the place to meet people.  One even?ng me and Ann were posing for photos with a hoard of g?ggl?ng school girls, Al was fending off some Iranian men wanting to chat and Paul got approached by a lady and her daughter.  Turns out they had seen us on the other s?de of the river and thought we looked like nice westerners so started stalking us so they could say hello.  Sounds we?rd but we are glad they did!  The daughter, Sanaz, offered to take us around the next day so we met ?n the morn?ng and got on a local bus up to a hillside park.  Great to get on a local bus... women have to s?t at the back and men at the front.  Most of the buses have two back seats, one before the back door - to separate the sexes.  When Al and Paul m?stakenly got ?n the back door we could see half a bus of men look?ng back at them in disgust.  Awkwardness and held breaths all round.  They quickly jumped off the bus at the next stop and in through the front door... everyone breathed out and smiling aga?n!!  Up the hill there were loads more school kids, as well as a few enclosures w?th lions, a bear and some smaller random an?mals all pac?ng up and down w?th cab?n fever.  I couldn't help but wonder how they would get on should Amer?ca dec?de to get nasty!  We bumped ?nto a fr?end of Sanaz's dad at the park who jo?ned us for an ?cecream and then drove us ?n h?s 45 seater coach to the ma?n bus stat?on.  W?th the hosp?tal?ty of the Iranians we are not sure whether th?s was a co?nc?dence meet?ng or not!
M?ss?on accompl?sed ?n gett?ng invited to dinner with Iranians (as per the prediction of the Lonely Planet).  The mother and daughter stalkers invited us to join their family for a picnic dinner the next n?ght.  We took some bottles of sparkling grape juice and also our frisbee to share our culture.  The family set up the picnic on the side of the street rather than over the road on the grassy river bank (so no fr?sbee then!) and we had mum, her two daughters, nana, uncle, and aunt?e all there for the occas?on.  We had a really n?ce beef and sp?nach type stew w?th r?ce, lots of fru?t and cucumbers, a sour tast?ng yoghurt dr?nk. Whereas our Mums would d?sm?ss the d?nner as 'someth?ng they had qu?ckly pulled together' to not make the?r guest feel awkward, th?s  Mum happ?ly announced she had spent about 3 hours prepar?ng everyth?ng.  For whatever reason, Iran?an women look a lot older than they really are.??  Hence they th?nk that we are ?n our early 20's and we think they are ?n the?r 50's but actually we are all nearly the same age!  We conta?ned our surpr?se to f?nd out that Mum was 41.  She was marr?ed at 13 (wh?ch ?s the legal age here) and had her f?rst k?d at 14, so that expla?ns ?t!  It isn't very common for g?rls to get married th?s young anymore.  Sanaz ?s 19 and ?s off to Malaysia to study dent?stry. 
Esfahan ?s by far the most beaut?ful c?ty ?n Iran and the br?dges that cross the r?ver are the soc?al hub, espec?ally ?n the even?ngs.  It would be a m?racle ?f you could cross ?t w?thout someone say?ng hello and str?k?ng up conversat?on.  We had 4 days but could eas?ly have spent a week here.