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Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Joanna Lumley Showed the Real Iran

Did you happen to see
Joanna Lumley on her Silk Road Tour.
Week 3 she was in Iran.

Well,  to Joanna and her team.
Huge Congratulations.


Because this was the first programme we have watched
 that really shows the Iran that we see.

The one we visit year after year.

Not the Iran of the news stories.

But the people and
the breathtaking sites.

Catch up with it if you want to see what Iran is really like.

Thanks, Joanna you have done an absolutely fabulous job....oooouch sorry.

Last year we went for a big wedding.

Visiting Iran

"I'm going on holiday."
"Oh, lovely! You deserve a break. Where are you going? "
" Iran."
 these wondrous camels are just outside Yazd beside the road

made by a local artist

The friend goes silent and physically blanches.

Then quietly,
"Will you be OK? Will you be safe?"

It happens a lot.
But not all the time. 
Some friends have been to Iran and know the country and it's people well.

"Oh! How exciting," they say breathlessly, their eyes lighting up, 
" I wish I were coming with you."

Lonely Planet on Iran 

"Welcome to what could be
 the friendliest country on earth."

Check it out if you are thinking of making the trip.
Seeing for yourself.

The photography is brilliant.
There are videos and information overload.


And yes, although I feel safe.

There are a few things that unnerve me.

The traffic mostly.

Imagine the lanes around the Arc de Triomphe on a bad day.
Then multiply that by 5 and you are getting close.

Many people don't wear seatbelts.
Mobile phones are clamped to ears of drivers speeding through traffic,
one nonchalant hand on the wheel.

Five people on a motorbike is not a rare sight, though crash helmets are.
I saw a man wearing one last year.
I pointed him out.
The first I had ever seen.

Crossing the road can be terrifying.
You have to walk, and not feel scared by the traffic hurtling towards you.
They will go round you.
Unless you run.
Which is your instinct.
Then you would run directly into the path they are taking to avoid you.

If you get me.

The only way I can cross a busy road is to hang on to someone who knows what they are doing.
With my eyes closed.

This is the lovely Farhad.
Once the smallest, quietest person in the family.
Now the most gregarious.

When he was a little boy he used to say,
"Aunty Berennie I will take you."
And he would put his tiny hand in mine while I closed my eyes to run the gauntlet.

I laugh with him and say he could just carry me now.

The same scariness applies to being a passenger in a car.

I mostly close my eyes.


It's not the just historical sites that make the visit so amazing.
It's the people.
As a foreigner, I'm regularly stopped in the street.

"Welcome to our country"
"What do you think of Iran?"
"Do you like Yazd?"
and so it goes on.

"Welcome. Please come to dinner at our house."
And it's a genuine offer.

I was surprised just how many friends made in later years had been to Iran.
They had mostly gone pre-revolution.
Some just getting out in time.

I first went when I was 17.

Strange, to meet and marry an Iranian man
later in my life and return to a country I never thought I would see again.

One or two friends had stories of getting out just in time before the you-know-what hit the fan.
Some made their way through Turkey.
Oh to be 17and slim and carefree again

A few have visited in recent years.
Going on tours mostly.

But all will tell you the same.
"What a beautiful country."
"What welcoming people."
"How kind the people are to strangers."

I won't mention politics.
You can't blame a whole nation for who is in charge n'est pas?

I just want to tell you about my experiences in a country where I've always felt welcome.
Of a people who will invite you to their home for dinner on the strength of a chance meeting.

Of women who are mostly living a life that you would never guess, being on the outside looking in.

Have a read of this......


Airport Control

Going through passport control at Tehran airport in the early days of my return,
I always felt on edge.

One day as I walked through and breathed a sigh of relief, the man at the desk called me back.

Red and flustered I returned, wondering which bit of paperwork might be out of order.

"Er.... Yes?" My voice a bit shaky.
"Madam," said the passport controller, and in halting English added with a smile,
"Welcome to our country. Enjoy your stay."

And that's been the case since.

This Trip

We returned for Nass's nephew's wedding.

We arrive in Tehran and always go to Nass's aunt's house while we await the internal flight to Yazd.
Aunty never seems to stop smiling

Jabbab is his cousin.
He has Downs Syndrome.

For twenty years he didn't see Nass when Nass was stranded in England.
Younger and only 6 years old when Nass left, he still remembered him.

He adores Nass who jokes with him constantly.
Waits by the door for days when he knows we are about to visit.

Jabbab takes a lot of flack from Nass that he wouldn't accept from anybody else.

He mimics everyone and even when he doesn't see me for years
he puts on a scarf and takes me off to a tee.

The family live simply.
Mostly in two rooms.
With little furniture.

Out comes the chai.
The routine in every household in Iran.
Followed by fruit.
And however much you say no....

(Taroff. Have a look at the links. Taroff  the Persian art of etiquette)

..You mostly give into it


We went for a walk in the park nearby and sat in the shade 
watching these two old friends doing their keep fit regime.

It was 40C plus.

Many parks now have these fitness areas.
They are well used.


On our first evening in Yazd, we went to a coffee shop.
It's been 9 years since I was last in Iran and things are definitely changing.

Coffee shops have sprung up all over town.
At last, a decent coffee.
The cafes are places families like to spend time in the cool of the evening.

Some of them have the most beautiful decor.
Lots of cool to the touch marble.

The first two days were in preparation for the big wedding.

Dramatic, noisy, dressy, affairs.

If you want to see more heres the link

Family Lunches

We always stay with Nass's sister and her husband at their large house in Yazd

Family turn up most days at the house to eat lunch with us.

A plastic tablecloth is set on the floor and we sit around it.

Nass's sister and husband have a table.
But I have never seen it used.
They prefer the floor.
The same with many families.

Ten/ fifteen sit round eating/talking/arguing.
But mostly laughing.
And they are not without their any family.
But just for that short time, they are forgotten.

I've never known a family laugh so much.
and so LOUDLY!
I wriggle a bit.
I have never ever been able to sit cross-legged.
Even when I was really young and did yoga... I struggled.

You try sitting on the floor leaning on one hand, eating with the other.
It's not easy.
Then when you think you've cracked it....try eating spaghetti.

Incidentally, the Persian way of cooking spaghetti would make any Italian turn pale.
But crazily, it seems to work.

After lunch, one by one in the heat of the day, people have a couple of hours sleep.
I really could get used to that.

Once we went to lunch with people I hadn't met before.
I felt sleepy after eating.
Nass said
"Lie down and rest"
" I can't do that!"
"Everyone else will soon."

So I closed my heavy lids.
Two hours later I woke to see every guest fast asleep.
The hostess had put a small cushion under each head and a blanket over every snoozing body.

Places Worth Visiting

There are many tour companies
 that visit all the relevant historical sites.

Yazd is always on the list.

For good reason

Last year

 Yazd was added to the coveted list of World Heritage cities endorsed by UNESCO.

Yazd is now the only UNESCO-listed Iranian city where people
still live. It is also believed to be the world's largest inhabited adobe city.
( buildings constructed from adobe clay or bricks.)

meet the family ..outside Yazd's famous mosque

Nass and Omid, his youngest brother

as antique dealers, we just can't stop ourselves looking.


At least 1800 years old.

Nass and his brother Omid

Omid and his lovely wife Nasim.
They looked after us well.
Nasim speaks good English which was wonderful.

What we didn't know when Omid and his wife took us out for the day,
was that he had worked all night.
And was going to be working the following night also.

There are the most spectacular views from the top of the old castle.

and then it's off to the restaurant in Meybod for lunch.

and no we didn't snooze afterward.....felt like it, mind.
My husband sneaking off to the toilet...when actually he's gone to pay the bill..Taroff.....

Desert Sunsets.

Would we like to go into the desert and watch the sunset?
Would we???
Oh yes.
we jumped at it.

Just outside of Yazd city we drove on to the deserted desert roads.

Down some pretty scary tracks.
On the way, we noticed the occasional four-wheel drive vehicle heading the same way.

We had heard it was on the tourist agenda, so assumed it to be for tourists.

Sliding down a steep dune, we arrived at the oasis.
We stood for a moment. 
No one spoke.
It was stunning.
And peaceful.

The sunset when it came was beautiful.

Leaving, we kept looking back over our shoulders.
Wanting to take it all in.
We headed off to a meeting point where we were to link up with others from the family.

For ice cream

It was a wonderful trip.