Tabriz to Marand 90km
I was dropped by my wonderful, but scarey driver, in the centre of Tabriz, in the centre of a motorway like, cloverleaf. I propped Fiona against a wall, and sat to eat and drink. I was hungry. I also tried to ring Masoud, whom I'd met earlier in the week. I got through, but couldn't hear him because of the traffic noise, and then suddenly, I was scooped.....
Mohammid, a Irani cycle tourist, and his son, are keen for me to come to their home for lunch. Okay, the cake and water hadn't done much for my hunger, so I followed their car. Mohammid is a Petro - Chemical Engineer, and his very pretty wife, a Sports Teacher, starting her first job on Saturday, Irani Monday. We are joined by stunningly beautiful, future sister-in-law, who is studying English. I can tell they are beautiful, because they are not wearing head scarfs, nor "body shape hiding" clothing. It's a revelation. They tell me this is the real "them". When they leave the house they are "actors", they have to be or they will get themselves in big trouble. Mohammed even has to wear black shirts, rather than his preferred blue, orange or green as its a special time of the year, honouring a long dead prophet. Not following this edict, will have him labelled a trouble maker, and will seriously harm his promotion chances at work . He tells me that maybe 10% of his collegues follow the law implicitly, and will report any indiscretions. The other 90%, are also "acting". I'm offered beer, wine or hard stuff, but decline. Lunch is delicious. Talk is interesting. They want me to stay the night. They've got friends coming. There's going to be a party. I'm very tempted, but I've already accepted a bed elsewhere.
Mohammed cycles with me to Masoud's house. I met Masoud earlier this week. His house is huge, and very central. Masoud and his wife normally live in London. They have a holiday villa half way up the big hill, property in Tehran, and their London home. A very good friend, and mountaineering buddy, house sits for them, with his son and his wife, when they're not in Tabriz. I meet them all. Lovely, lovely people. Only difference is, the ladies wear their headscarf at home. For three days these folk feed me, take me on excursions, entertain me, and treat me like a member of their family. I feel very honored to be made to feel so comfortable, to be welcomed into their "family". It's pretty damn wonderful.
Our first excursion, was a bike ride into a park. Persians use parks differently to us. 1000s of them wander the paths. Some have picnics. Some float on the artificial lake in paddle boat swans. It's all very "Victorian". But the young ones, teenagers and early twenties, use the crowds to hide their relationships with members of the opposite sex. That's why, policemen, armed with machine guns and heavy batons, patrol the parks on motor bikes. They're looking for liasons between obviously unmarried or unrelated males and females. I'm being serious here. And it's not like these young people are hiding behind bushes making passionate kissing and stuff, there are no bushes for them to hide behind. You are just not permitted, by the law of Islam, which is the law of the land, to associate with members of the opposite sex, that are not already closely related.
Another excursion, with these amazing ancient mountaineers, was up a local mountain, (hill). It was pouring with rain, and half an hour before twilight when we arrived at the car park. I was looking up at the summit following the very muddy steps up into the cloud. But no. I had the wrong idea. We jumped into a minibus, and drove to the summit, where there was a mosque, and some wind turbines.... oh oh. I remember them causing me problems in Australia. But it wasn't raining. So maybe a walk further up the road to the cable car.....? Now it started to rain. No it poured. And there was thunder and lightening, and I quickly remembered why I like to wear shorts in the rain. My longs were sodden. But us brave mountaineers strode on through the storm, hoping the cable car was still going. It was very dark by now, and our only light was a green laser beam, which looked pretty stunning reflecting on the raindrops. The cable car was still running. But the traffic jam when we were driving home, soaked to the skin, was intense.
Our third excursion was to the Tabriz Bazaar, the largest under a roof in the world. I've got to say, it was pretty amazing. Everything you can think of that might be sold had a section in the bazaar. You just had to know where to look. It was huge. Luckily, my guides, being mountaineers, had good navigation skills, and lots of mountaineering buddies who operated shops in the bazaar. Persian Carpets. Heard of them? Loads of them here, and amazing, amazing designs. Nope, I did not buy one. Hey guys, if you ever visit Tabriz, drop the ladies off at the bazaar for the day. You'll earn lots of brownie points.