1000 years ago people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan emigrated, or were merged into the country now known as Iran. Now, in Iran, live 80 million people, with many different cultures and languages, and they have retained these cultures and languages.
Saeed regards himself as an Azerbaijani Irani. He would not consider choosing a wife from any of the other cultures. He points out to me Turkmenistani Iranis. He doesn't like them, or their culture. "They dress funny, and have odd beliefs". It amazes me that these different people can live so close to each other, for so long, yet not mix. I explain to Saeed about NZ, how our history is only short, but very few of us still associate ourselves with our origins. We are not English, Danish, Scots, but regard ourselves as New Zealanders, kiwis. He is amazed.
I'm having a rest day, or should I say "clean up " day. Everything is caked in mud from my morning in the rain. I give Fiona a make over. She has mud in every crease from sliding down the slope with me. Last night, the friendly mechanic had adjusted the gears, so by the end of the day, she's looking pretty good. Saeed also wants to show me around. He takes me to see a tower. It costs a lot to go inside, but I thought we'd get to climb it and see a view. Nope. It's just a hollow vertical tube..... but must be significant historically, because it was rebuilt after it got blasted in WWII, by the Russians. Anyway, it seems the tower is the only significant attraction in the whole city, except maybe for the artificial lake.
Saeed's father died two years ago, at 47, of cancer. His mother, a Primary School teacher, has kept herself well out of my way. I have glimpsed her through a window. Etiquette dictates that I, an unrelated male, should not be in the same room or house as her. I'm using an apartment upstairs. Saeed brings me deliciously prepared meals, but my host, mother, eats alone downstairs. I will be surprised if I meet her. (She came out for a photo as I was leaving).
Because his father has died, Saeed is excused military service. All other males must serve two years. My host yesterday, Ali, lost a brother, no one knows where he disappeared to, in the Iraq Iran war. Ali's brother had the misfortune to be serving when war broke out.
I'm learning everyday. Here's some stuff I've noticed:
Twice I've been served sandwiches that have consisted of meat, tomato and pickle, surrounded by two or even three, french bread sticks. Makes for quite a mouth fill. Triple layer sandwiches.
Many cars run on CNG. Passengers are not allowed to sit in the car while the fuel tank is refilled. CNG stations have a special waiting area for the passengers.
Irani "dairys" sell bottles of frozen water. Fantastic for cycle tourists.
Many also have large electric water heaters outside, so people can fill up their thermos for tea.
After a meal, left over bread is rolled up in the table cloth, so it's available for the next meal.
The Persian script is written from right to left, but numbers are written left to right.
Road side Service areas have gas stations, food outlets, toilets, and mosques, so you can pray.
Today 160 Iranians died at Mecca, crushed in the crowd.