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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Touring Iran & The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away

When I travel, my camera is always with me.
I don't care if I never find the perfect souvenir.
As long as I have photos I am happy. 

It might be a day trip to Rye, a wedding in Sorrento, or a Persian adventure.
My trusty camera is always over my shoulder.

But there always seems to be the gem you miss doesn't there?
The one that got away.
Even with a memory stick containing over 2,000 shots I KNEW that one moment.
Small, seemingly insignificant.
But it would have summed up the entire trip.

Here is a little about an exciting two weeks

I hadn't returned to Iran in 8 years.
A lot had changed.

Within the family.
In Yazd.
Within the country.

Even getting there from the UK has changed.

We travelled by Iran Air for many, many years.
They had flights going to Tehran every Tuesday and Sunday.

Now British Airways fly there every day.
So we can now go at a moments notice.
Book easily online.
Use our Avios points!

When Nass's mother was ill earlier in the year, he was able to fly within hours.

In the family, brothers had married.
Babies were born.
My beloved mother in law had passed away.

Nass. my husband returned each year.
Mostly for Norooz. 
Iranian New Year.

He often said.
"Brennie you will notice the difference."
In dress.
In attitudes.
In cuisine.

Street style has changed dramatically since I last visited.

It's not like this anymore

It's more like this

Have a read of this

I guarantee, it will surprise you.

Photographer Olgac Bozalp wasn't sure how he'd be met when visited Iran to capture the conservative nation's style - but he was pleasantly surprised 

Embellished white pool sliders, a loose black t-shirt subtly stamped with a Calvin Klein logo worn and with a long skirt paired with black leggings: that’s an outfit that could easily blend into the streets of Berlin where minimal dressing rules. But this woman is in Iran, so her body and hair are also draped in a long, black chador veil. It’s this duality - of personal style and state-sanctioned conservatism - that photographer Olgac Bozalp has captured in his project on stylish men and women in the Middle Eastern country.

This is what he said about headscarves.

“Of course people are conscious of how they appear in public, especially women. But I felt like headscarf restriction in new generation Iran just part of dressing rule rather than religious belief, especially in young generations girl you can easily see most of them headscarf free on their social media accounts."

I was really interested to meet the person in the street this time.
Find out how attitudes are changing.

People who are the same as you and me.
Going to school, and work and uni.
Having families.
Decorating their homes.
Having meals with their friends and families.
All with the same dreams and aspirations as any of us.

The Wedding

We went for a wedding. 
Nass's nephew.

We had already decided to go.
Booked the flights.
Tried to keep it secret.
We were going to turn up the day before the wedding.

But Amir, the bridegroom, was devastated his uncle wouldn't be there.
Left phone messages.

"Dayi (uncle) Mahmoud. If you don't come to my wedding,
don't trouble to phone me again."
He said it in a wry, jokey way.
But we could tell he was upset.

So we told them we were coming.

There was a welcoming party at the airport.
Flowers in arms.
Smiles on faces.

They all hugged us.

That in itself was something,
Men and women are not seen hugging in public.
Many don't.
But even on arrival I could see some things were more relaxed,

The Wedding

The wedding was spectacular.
Four hundred and fifty guests.

Men and women separated at the door of the purpose-built wedding venue.
Then the women really had fun.
They threw off chador or scarves and manteau ( a short coat) 
to reveal the most stunning dresses.

A few years ago Nass and I bought women's clothes
 to help his niece start a business.

Weddings are BIG in Iran.
Women very rarely wear the same outfit to two weddings.
Just isn't done.
So the potential is huge.

Nass and I went to clothing fairs in London.
Some of the dresses we bought were fabulous.

But mostly got it completely wrong.
We were both locked into the notion that the dress had to cover.
But what women wear in their own home or in the company of other women
is much more exciting than you would expect.

We may give the business another go,

anyway back to the wedding.......

The lights dimmed.
The bride and groom appeared at the top of the dramatic winding staircase,
Smoke billowed from a machine.
The strains of Titanic came so loud the floor vibrated,
And 200 plus women made that high pitched Middle Eastern
 ululation mosly  reserved for weddings and funerals.

It was super dramatic,
I'm telling you the hairs on the back of the neck........

You'll notice the scarves often go back on when the groom is there.
As soon as he leaves, off they come again.

More of the wedding here


We travelled around more this time.

Met more people

We had been to Meymand in the past.

I was desperate to return.
Not too sure what the pull was.
Maybe to get a feel of the very simple life they lead.

This little girl was on a makeshift see-saw with her friend
Heres what Wikipedia says about Meymand

 "Meymand is a very ancient village which is located near Shahr-e Babak city in Kerman Province, Iran. Meymand is believed to be a primary human residence in the Iranian Plateau, dating back to 12,000 years ago. Many of the residents live in the 350 hand-dug houses amid the rocks, some of which have been inhabited for as long as 3,000 years. Stone engravings nearly 10,000 years old are found around the village, and deposits of pottery nearly 6,000 years old attest to the long history of settlement at the village site."

The village is on Trip Advisor and it's possible to stay there.

 We met a teacher from Tehran who wanted to get out of the rat race and had gone to live there.
He said he just couldnt go back now.

Some people had lived there all their lives.

This woman was in her 90's.
She had been born there and never moved away.

cutting tomatoes to dry them in the sun

her great grand-daughter.

the old lady made quilts and bags to sell to tourists.

She told us about her life as she cut up the tomatoes ready for drying in the sun.

notice the garage!

Nass's nephew travelled with us

so did his boba jun and mama jun....grandad and grandma
They were a little tired! Well, it was over 100 in the shade.

Last time we went, we were invited into one of the homes,
 Nass's brother in law (snoozing above) whispered,
"Look they have a computer,"
The old lady overheard,
"Sir, just because I live in a hole in the mountain,
 doesn't mean I'm not entitled to have a computer!"

After Meymand we went on a road trip.
Met some interesting people along the way.


Opium addiction has become a massive problem.

"A total of 90 per cent of the world’s opium is produced in neighbouring Afghanistan from poppy resin which is refined to make heroin. Despite the authorities' best efforts to clamp down on trafficking over the 600-mile-long border, Iran often serves as a transit point for export to the rest of the world, the AFP reports"

This old guy was 94.
Worked all day.
Smoked all evening.

We stayed in remote locations where people made us very welcome.

Some people are totally self-sufficient

our travelling companion just loved all the animals

There were acres of pomegranates and pistachio trees.

As we travelled around we noticed ancient buildings
 that for many years had lain neglected, were now being restored.
They were becoming tourist attractions.
Or hotels.

Yazd itself looked cleaner.
Tidied up.
More new roads have been built.
Beautiful flats and houses popping up all over the city.

It has been recently voted a cultural heritage city by UNESCO


One of the first things I noticed was how food had changed.
The way it's cooked and it's presentation.

I adore the way yogourt, served with most meals, is now being presented.
Dressed up with walnuts, rose petals and herbs.

There are still the traditional dishes, but they all seem to be being brought up to date.

"Writer Yasmin Khan, whose mother is Iranian, documented the food and contemporary lives of people in Iran for her new cookery book, The Saffron Tales, after she travelled 3000km through the country over three years. She hopes that it will change perceptions of a nation whose fascinating history and unique culture is clouded by turbulent politics."

There are a few books that I use all the time.

Coffee Shops

My first "proper" Iranian latte!
In one of the many coffee shops popping up all over the country.
It's where many young people spend their evenings.

We went to parks where throughout the
 evening families poured through the gates.

Many were laden with picnic baskets.

and stayed late into the night enjoying the cooler temperatures.

On this particular evening, my brother in law was delaying arrival at
 the restaurant where we were going to meet the family.
For once he drove slowly.
He was waiting for them all to arrive and be ready for Nass.
It was a surprise birthday meal.

They presented Nass with a framed photograph of himself.
It had been taken by the wedding photographer in her studio.

"That's the best photo I've ever had of me."
"It's been airbrushed."
"No, it hasn't."
"When did you last have a manicure and your eyebrows done!"
"Oh yes."

The restaurant had moments that just
 wouldn't have happened a few years ago.
A singer... to begin with.
Singing love songs.

It was a clever idea.
The restaurant itself set up for large groups such as ours to celebrate birthdays.
You bring all your own balloons etc.

The lights go down and the entire restaurant sings Happy Birthday.

The noise and laughter were LOUD.

All without the aid of alcohol of course.

(Saying that I did notice more illicit drinking going on this time.
The slight smell of alcohol on a breath.
Partygoers disappearing into the car park and boots of vehicles.
 Bottles and cash being exchanged.)

As we all tumbled out, a laughing, singing group,
 there on the stairs was the one simple shot I've regretted not taking.

The one that would have summed up everything we had done and seen.

It was a small blackboard.
Half hidden.

There were a few lines of farcie.

Then translated in English

Have a great day

If you've enjoyed reading this here are the links to other postings on our trip

Want to see for yourself?
Best way is through a tour who will organise visas etc