The remote mountain village that lies in the Esfahan province really is astonishing. While walking through the small streets you feel as if you are walking 300 years back in time. The strangest thing is that you only see elderly on the streets, trying to sell dried fruits to tourists. When asked where the young people were, we were told that most of them are in foreign countries. Since they looked quite poor, we were surprised. Our guide laughed and explained that while they may look not wealthy, they most certainly are! Most of them have multiple houses in Tehran and other cities in the world. Apparently after having worked hard in the big cities, the elderly come to Abyaneh to retire. Why? It is one of the few places in Iran (maybe even in the world) where time seems to have stood still and life is not about technologic advancements, but just about life itself in the most purest form.
Small side note: If you take a look at the picture with the two old men you see a wooden door with two knockers. They both make a different sound, so the residents know if there is a man or a woman standing in front of the door.
Ashura is the 10th day of the Moharam month, the month of sorrow where Shia’s throughout the world morn for the slaughtering of holy Imam Hosseini at Karballah around 1400 years ago. Ashura is the prime day where all kind of (sad) festivities are organised and some ‘punish’ themselves to feel what holy Imam Hosseini had felt with his small army and families. However in Iran is self-punishment which has extreme forms of punishing with blood involved has been declared haram by a fatwa of the Ayatollah. At ‘Hosseinya’ meeting centres you can witness the fierceness of the mutual pain everyone feels every year, from young to old ages.
The remainings of the US Embassy look like a ghost house. A lot has happened in here during the Islamic Revolution; the movie Argo is definitely recommended if you’re interested in this. If you look closely you can still read “Embassy of the United States of America” in the emblem. Only couple of weeks a year, a special division of the Revolutionary Guard showcases the special underground operation bunker the CIA had to run secret missions of helping the Shah oppress opposition. The graffiti drawings on the walls outside showcases the enormous hate some feel against America and Israel. However this does not display the thoughts of the Iranian public in general towards American citizens. We have seen hordes of US tourists happily exploring Iran without any problems. Israeli’s on the other hand are not allowed to enter Iran, same way Iranians cannot enter Israel.
Faces of Varzaneh
1. This cute grandma may be the definition of independence herself. At this age she lives completely solitary and makes a living by weaving table covers. She does not accept any financial help from her rich children living in the Western countries.
2. When I asked if I could take a picture of this man, he laughed and said ‘no’ to me. Surprised, I asked why, then he told me he does not want to look like one of them Hezbollah fighters and explained he had only put the scarf around his head for the enormous headache he was suffering.
3. ‘Carpet making has been in the family for generations’, she explained. The daughters learn it from their mothers at a young age. When the men go out for work, the women of the house earn some extra with these handmade carpets. It takes up to 10 months to finish one and it is sold for around 2000 dollar to a carpet dealer who ships them to the West and sells them for up to 20.000 dollar.
4. This man was a fierce communist fighter during the Shah-era and after the Islamic Revolution he was sentenced to death for his ‘anti-islamic’ activities. After an official apology he was forgiven by the government and since then he has been a devoted Muslim owning this small shoe-repair shop.
5. This friendly man is the brother of one of the most wealthy men in Iran. While his brother chose for a job in the trading business of Persian Carpets, he chose for a simple life in his hometown. With having far less than his very rich brother it is believed that he is far more happy and you will hardly catch him without a smile on his face.
Since my name is extremely rare in the West it always amazed me how quickly my name was already in use when registering for a username on a new internet service. It is now clear to me why: Iran. Farhang literally means ‘culture’ in Persian (I already knew this of course). In Iran it’s not only a common name, but is also used for a lot of landmarks and place names. In Tehran only I saw the Farhang square, Farhang restaurant chain, Farhang street, Farhang Metro line, etc. One time I had to pay a bill in a restaurant and the waiter asked me if I was Farhang. A thousand things went through my head (from maybe loosing my passport which they had found, to that the Iran secret service had tracked me down and were about to arrest me, to thinking I was famous because of a reason I did not know yet). But apparently he asked if I was a “Farhangi”, which means a foreigner. Same thing happened when people in Thailand used to make a joke of my name by saying I was twice Far(h)ang; my actual name and me as a foreigner.
Yes, Iran has the best kabab in the world. They are absolutely delicious. Just imagine the best barbecue meat you have ever had in your life, triple-thousand that and that’s what you will taste in Iran. Basically all the kababs are nice, but the best you can find in Teheran at ‘Naderi’ and in Shiraz at ‘Haft-Khan’. If you are an actual carnivore like me, go to Iran for the kebab.
While most of us might have heard about the Persian empire multiple times in movies and history documentaries, it still struck me that there have been 3 big Persian empires throughout history, each having major impact on the world. Not going to bother you further with geeky stuff, but apparently there is still a lot of ancient stuff undiscovered in the Iranian grounds. So one day I will go back there for an adventurous archeology mission a la Indiana Jones. First image might be cool for the “300” movie fans (Yes this is Xerxes with behind him the ‘Untouchables’). Second image is of one of the oldest skelet in the world found in Iran, it kind of reminds me of Richard Brandson (has he already invented his Virgin time-travel machine?).
I really loved the mannequins that were used for displaying cloths in Iran. They always had facial hair and for some unclear reason they looked REALLY angry. Maybe that’s how Iranian men want to be? And when I saw the extremely friendly fat mannequins (I think the largest sized mannequins I had ever seen in my life), I just couldn’t stop laughing. Every morning I wanted to pass this shop with the friendly fat creatures, which would just make my day.
Nowadays you don’t really experience much of the International sanctions at Iran at the moment. Except of the Dutch (and probably other Western countries as well) government targeting Iran as more dangerous than Afghanistan which is totally wrong of course. If you go to a supermarket you will find everything from Nutella to Kitkat, to Dove, etc. Apparently this is all illegally imported from Dubai and surrounding countries. Funny thing is that you will always find a ‘copycat’ which resembles a major brand and might even taste the same. You do experience the enormous devaluation of the Iranian currency. You’ll walk around with millions of Iranian Rial and that does feel in a way kind of bad-ass, being a billionaire for a few days.
First image is just what I love about the Central Asian culture: The carpet life. In old typical houses you will find a large floor with only carpets where is no room for furniture. You sit, eat and sleep on these magical carpets. Second image is a sheep that was slaughtered outside on the streets just in front of the butcher shop. I really felt sad for the other sheep that they just had to watch their friend being slaughtered knowing they will be next. The final image shows how the Iranian governments tries to motivate people to live healthier by placing fitness machines in public parks. This actually is a free gym outside. I would totally go for it, but we never saw anyone using them.