When you’ve been travelling for a while, even beautiful places become normal. I know I’m starting to become spoiled after travelling in the Middle East for 4 months, but I had this feeling at the first part of my Iran trip. Even though cities like Esfahan are like a fairy tale; I loved them, but missed the magic. Until I went to Yazd. 6 Hours east of Esfahan is the sleepy desert town Yazd. The place where backpackers are adopted as a part of the community. As you wander through the narrow lanes between the mud houses, you’ll be invited by craftsmen to watch them working. They obviously hope that you’ll buy their carpets, copper or pottery, but without pressuring you, it’s also fine to just enjoy their tea and sit down for a chat.
Spectacular in Yazd are the sunsets (as always in a desert). As the sun started to set, we headed towards one of the many rooftop terraces. For over half an hour, we all silently watched the sky colour, creating a beautiful view over the wind towers (kind of air conditioning they used back in the days) and mud houses.
When the town fell dark and we made our way back to the hostel, we were passed by women in black flowing chadors rushing through the streets. Yazd gave me the feeling of being in a completely different world, a world that intrigues me.
The next day, we headed to a traditional ‘gym’, which is called ´zoorkhaneh´. In a former water reservoir, men do traditional work outs, a combination of dance and cardio. The workout was assisted by a man playing the drum while reciting poems, which is to stimulate discipline. The woman next to me proudly told me this was the first gym in the world. I’m not sure if this is true, since Persians are proud and claim that everything is the first or the best in the world (best carpet, best pistachios, first water reservoirs in the desert, biggest ancient trading centers…), but I recognized quite a few things I did in the gym! Being able to watch sport as a woman is quite a thing in Iran. Only recently they allowed women to watch volleyball matches. Football is the #1 sport here, but women are not allowed to go to a match. So watching them work out in a stinky and warm water reservoir was a thing!
After Yazd, I moved 7 hours south east to Kerman. As soon as I got off the bus, I clearly saw the difference with other cities; people look differently here. They look somewhat tougher, which isn’t surprising, considering we’re in the middle of the desert. This is the hottest place of Iran, with temperatures in the summer over 50C, I’m so happy again that I’m travelling in the winter. I planned on just passing through Kerman, but when my couchsurf host suggested we could go into the desert, I already knew it would be better than just passing through. I clearly developed a weak spot for deserts during this trip. We drove for a few hours through the mountains, and ended up in a moon-landscape. And you know what the best part was? We ate dinner in the desert between spectacular rock formations while watching a breathtaking sunset. And again, I realize why I love couchsurfing so much: because people take you to places where you would otherwise never go to.
I’m more and more aware that the end of my trip is approaching, but moments like this make it really difficult to not keep travelling (don’t worry, after a failed attempt, this time I’m really coming home).
The further south I go, the warmer and dryer it gets. We head towards the most southern point of Iran, Bandar Abbas, from which we take the boat to Qeshm island. Just because the best place to finish a trip is on a tropical island in the Persian Gulf.
But, prepared as always, just before we board the boat, I realise that I don’t have any money anymore. Due to the sanctions on Iran, banks don’t accept western cards. So on Friday afternoon around 4pm (which is weekend here) we need to find an exchange bureau; impossible. We ask some people on the street and become slightly worried, because there is no place to change money and people are not as tourist-friendly as in the rest of Iran. Until a lifesaver appears and offers to change my money. They always warn you to never ever exchange money with people on the street, but this man looked decent and to be honest, we didn’t really have a choice. He exchanges my 50 euros for an exchange rate that’s so good, no one else would ever give. And not just that, he pays for the boat to the island and our food (travel hack #1, if you’re in a difficult situation and don’t know what to do, go and get some food. After that solutions appear). What a hero! He makes sure that we understand that he does this because Allah expects him to be good to others, like so many people told me on this trip. Yet, he also makes sure that we know that he’s single and looking for a foreign girlfriend. ‘Ok, thanks for everything and byeee!’ We board the boat just on time before a proposal follows.
Qeshm can best be described as the deserted version of Cappadocia, Turkey. It has spectacular rock formations, yet also a mangrove forest and dolphins!
The perfect place to relax, make fun and get some vitamin D (while Europe is covered under snow and ice, I’m enjoying 28C, sorry, don’t want to make you jealous). It’s the first time that I’m actually getting sweaty under my scarf and wonder how to cool down while still covering everything. The solution: drink a lot of water, straight from the well!
Qeshm is the place where locals don’t seem to care much about tourists and just live their own life. It can best be described in pictures.
There are only a few days left before I’m coming back to the Netherlands, which is scary, but also exciting. See you soon!