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Some of you already know that I write a couple of blogs (when the mood takes me!) my other blog being about my travels and experiences in Iran-Persian Posts. Over the past few days I have been catching up with my articles based on my 3-week holiday back in July 2014. Thank goodness then that I always keep a travel journal which I religiously and lovingly write up each evening so that I don’t forget even the smallest detail. It is amazing what you do forget and I love re-reading my journal weeks and months after my holiday.
My travel journal has come in very handy this whilst writing up my posts and I have managed to complete quite a few. We are already planning our 2015 visit so I must catch up before we go!
Travel journals are easy to put together and good fun. Collecting tickets and stubs, receipts, leaflets, postcards, menus, photos, labels and anything else that will stick onto the pages or slip into pockets is addictive but they give a great flavour of your travel experience and trigger memories otherwise filed away.
For this trip I used a great wire-bound book from paperchase. For £7.00 I got
lots of pages, both lined and plain so I could add my own drawings, plastic pockets and half-page paper pockets which were really useful to keep the leaflets and menus in.
You can buy the book online-Paperchase
If you are short of ideas but have collected a wealth of material, you will do worse than look on Pinterest for inspiration. There are lots of completed pages to view, ideas for travel-themed embellishments and layout designs as well as suggestions for what works well.
I will be writing another journal to cover my 2015 travels and have already got the book ready to pack! All I need now is to sort out the rest of my equipment to take and I will be set. Only 5 months early!
I will soon be able to resurrect my other Blog “Persian Posts” as we have now booked our tickets for our next visit to Iran. This time we are taking William with us and I am relieved that his Visa came through just this week so we can plan properly.
It will be an amazing experience for him especially as it is his first time in Iran but we will try and prepare him as best we can. Of course, nothing can prepare him fully for the different culture, food, weather, family, customs etc but there are certain things we do need to go through with him before we land in Esfahan.
William is looking forward to his trip, as am I, and I hope he loves the country and its people as much as I do. There are not many Western boys of his age that get this opportunity and we will try and show him as much of the country as is possible in the 3 weeks we are there and in temperatures up into the 90’s.
The good thing is that Feri’s nephew is exactly the same age and they will be housed together on the self-contained second floor-God help us! I have packed a spare English-Farsi vocabulary book so here’s hoping they manage to communicate! We will be there during the World Cup and as both love football I am sure that we will witness the evidence that football is a truly global language!
In the meantime, Will has his A Level exams to finish and his last school Prom to navigate so he is going to be busy. I have marked out a few things and places that I would like to see this year so look out for more Persian Posts coming soon!
A big “THANK YOU” to Megan’s Miscellaneous Menagerie for nominating me for the Liebster Award. It really made my day 🙂
I will now answer the 10 questions that Megan has asked, and very good questions they are too!
- Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
I’m very happy where I live at the moment but given the choice I would have to take up dual-residence in Swanage, Dorset and Esfahan, Iran. We have had some amazing holidays in Swanage and it is a place I feel very close to. By the sea, unpretentious and beautiful in a natural way.
Esfahan, my husband’s home city is so beautiful and full of history and culture. I think I must have been a Persian in a previous life as I feel so very comfortable in the country and am perfectly at home with their customs and attitudes.
- What is your favourite pet that you have ever owned? (that is cat, dog, horse etc.)
This is a difficult one to choose as I’ve had many pets and they are all lovely. I guess my two cats Tom and Tess are my favourites, especially Tom (close your ears Tess) as he stays with me, by my side, whenever I am poorly. He senses when I’m ill and looks after me.
- How would you describe your fashion style?
Ha! ha! What’s fashion? At work, smart. At home, my son calls me a hippy! I love bright colours and funky shoes (I even tried to turn up to work in 1 red shoe and 1 purple shoe last week!). I guess if I had to describe it, “Young at Heart”!
- Are you a spring, fall/autumn, winter or summer person? (that is which season do you prefer)
Apart from my flowers in the summer, I’m not great in the high season. I get very out of routine and agitated and love it when autumn comes around and everything settles down again. Born in February 1963, winter snow is always welcome and there’s nothing like yellow daffodils in the spring.
- What is the one thing you wish you were good at that you currently struggle with?
- Would you prefer to work, or go to school as a student?
Without doubt I would be a perpetual student. The first thing I would do if I came into some money is chose a University course and start over. That’s my dream. My son is looking to start University next year and I’m so jealous! I’d swap tomorrow.
- What is one thing you haven’t tried that you would like to have a go at?
Driving a steam train.
- If you had a million dollars to donate to a charity, which on would you choose?
Oooo, a difficult one but most likely a charity that supports young people with mental health conditions and M.E/ CFS get qualifications and into employment.
- If you were to open a business, what product or service would you offer?
- I would offer to go and talk to businesses and employers about employing more people with disabilities, especially mental health conditions.
- What 3 things would you change in your local community if you were elected mayor?
Firstly I would make sure to open the old railway line between our village and Market Harborough for walkers and cyclists to travel safely. AdamSmile.
Secondly I would veto the building of any more houses within a 5 mile radius of our village.
Thirdly I would try and encourage someone to open a village shop!
The bloggers receiving this reward today are;
The Project: Me, by Judy-great inspiration and support always.
We Are One-by Ruth- My journey out of the darkness of depression. How I changed from not just surviving but thriving.
Roots To Blossom-I am living proof that you can in fact return from the point of no return.
My Fibrotastic Life– The journey of hidden blessings
Leanne is learning to Drum-It’s nice to know I’m not the only nutcase!
My ten questions for you all are these;
1) What is your greatest achievement or proudest moment and why?
2) What was your favourite subject at school and can you remember a particular lesson?
3) If you could have fresh flowers delivered every day, which would you chose?
4) If you could employ ONE of the following, which would you have? A chef, a massuer/euse, a chauffeur, a gardener or a personal shopper?
5) What is you favourite book or story?
6) What was the last song or piece of music you listed to?
7) What makes you laugh?
8) When and what was the last thing you did for YOU?
9) If you could do anything you want today, what would you do?
10) If you were an animal, what would you be?
The past two days have been marked by the gorgeous blue skies and ever-increasing temperatures to the extent that by 10.00am yesterday morning it was too hot to be outdoors and we abandoned all thoughts of planting our flower beds as intended and retreated inside.
By midday the tiles were scorching hot and without shoes it was like walking on burning coals.
After the heat however came the rain storm, although we were clearly on the edge with only one clap of thunder, and it proceeded to rain like I have never seen here. Massive puddles formed quickly on the roads and we could hear the water pounding on the roof as we ate dinner. It was strangely comforting though as it reminded me very much of home and being on holiday in England.
This morning the clouds have disappeared and have been replaced by clear blue skies once more. Not only did the rain water all the plants but it also settled the dust which has plagued us all week.
We have our mountains back.
On a beautifully warm and sunny mid-morning Feri and I walked along the Chahar Bagh (Persian: “Four Gardens”) and into a park. What struck me immediately was how very green everywhere was. The trees and the grass were a vivid and verdant green which only comes from copious watering. Gardeners bearing hosepipes make sure that the Bagh-e-Bolbol (“Garden of the Nightingale”) is kept well-watered and the lawns and flower beds full of smiling pansies in full bloom were immaculate.
A marble pool filled with crystal clear water sits in front of the Hasht Behesht ( “Eight Paradises”) palace and the fountains spout cascades of water all the time whilst gentlemen abandon their bicycles and sit round on benches telling stories all the time rolling strings of prayer beads in the palms of their hands.
It is a peaceful and calming place and just as beautiful as the Hasht Behest pavillion which opens onto the gardens and draws visitors into its rooms.
Sadly, the upper story is closed due to restoration work but there is enough beauty to admire in the ground floor octagonal rooms without having to climb upstairs and it will be something to look forward to when we return.
After an interesting visit to the old Jewish Synagogue and Cemetery we made our way to the shrine of Pir Bakran, a Sufi saint and mystic who died in 1303 and after which this small town is named. On arrival the gates were locked, but the phone number of the guardian was posted on the inside gates. We called the number and within 5 minutes the guardian arrived on his motorbike.
The shrine is noted for the stucco work which is particularly ornate and it’s amazing to think how long ago these carvings were done. The mihrab and entrance doors are fine examples of the famous stucco and I hate to think how long it took for the craftsmen to complete them. The shrine is also famous for the surviving Kufic script which, when written in blocks as it is here, looks very much like a maze.
As Pir Bakran’s fame spread, so the building in which he preached was extended to accommodate the increasing number of followers who came to listen to him and several rooms were added. From the outside the shrine looks like it is a 4-story building but in fact it is only 2 storys high which is reminiscent of the Ali Qapu Palace in Esfahan which appears to be 7 storys high but is only 4. This is no coincidence as the architect and project manager of the Ali Qapu Palace was inspired by Pir Bakran’s shrine design and carvings 200 years later and some of the designs are reproduced in the royal Palace.
One of the rooms has a circular area carved out of the floor where apparently Pir Bakran used to sit and meditate for up to 40 days at a time eating and drinking nothing and surviving only by touching sacred stones which provided him with the sustenance he needed to see him through these lonely periods.
In an adjacent room Pir Bakran’s tomb, together with that of the shrine’s architect Mohammad Naghash rest side by side covered in green cloth.
The guardian was extremely helpful and very knowledgeable and again, this site is well worth a visit if history, Persian culture, architecture and design are what interest you. Unless you speak Farsi however, it is advisable to travel with a Farsi speaker who is able to ring the guardian and ensure that you get the most out of your visit. You won’t be disappointed.
Before travelling to Iran, I usually do a little homework so that we have some interesting places to see whilst we are here. It is amazing what a little planning and forethought can produce and today was a diamond. I had read about Pir-i Bakran in both of my guidebooks about Iran/Esfahan and decided that I would like to pay a visit as it is not far from where we are based although we did need a taxi for the day. Taxis are no obstacle as some of the family own a taxi business so not only did we get a great guide in Ramon who we know well, but also he could join in the fun and have lunch with us.
When he picked us up at 9am, I could tell that Ramon was not convinced that there was anything to see at Pir-i Bakran but all that changed when we arrived 45 minutes later at the first site, the old Jewish synagogue and cemetery.
The write-up in my Brandt Travel Guide was not promising saying that the guardian of the site “is monosyllabic and unhelpful” and “as yet, Jewish colleagues in the UK can find no information about the complex, known locally as Esther Khatun ( Lady Esther).” However, they clearly didn’t have the advantages I had today being that hubby’s father was the highly regarded Mayor of Esfahan province and the guardian remembered him from childhood. In addition I was accompanied by two charming Farsi speaking gents so that all paths and doors to the usually closed and hidden rooms and gardens were opened before me. We also got a full description of each room which was translated into English by my husband.
The synagogue itself is derelict but pilgrims from all over Iran gather at the site once a year in September staying in the side rooms built in a quadrangle. None of the maintenance and upkeep of the site is paid for out of Iranian Government funds as it is paid by the Iranian Jewish community and families of those buried at the site.
Whilst we were free to walk around the synagogue gardens, all the gates to the interior were padlocked but after some persuasion, the guardian agreed to unlock them and show us around for which I was most grateful.
In the corner of this room there is an arched doorway hung with a heavy stone door carved with Hebrew text. The door is opened and locked by a “secret” handle hidden in the hole in the wall to the right of the door. The guardian told us that women who cannot conceive or cannot find a husband enter the doorway and crawl along the narrow and low chamber all the time praying and asking to be blessed with children or a husband by next year’s pilgrimage.
The guardian then took us through to a blue room where he told us that the son of Jacob had disappeared through the walls never to be seen again. My guide-book tells me that it was Esther (or Sarah) who disappeared so a little more homework to be done methinks.
We spent a good couple of hours at the site and I felt privileged to have done so. It is not well-known that this is a sacred place for the Iranian Jewish community to gather every year, and neither my husband nor Ramon were aware that Jews who have been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem are afforded the same title and respect of those Moslems who have been to Mecca on the Haaj. Unless you know the area very well, or have read the guidebooks you’d never know that this place existed as it is so well hidden from the road. In fact, there is no direct access to the site from the road and you have to attract the attention of the guardian by knocking at the big metal gates before you can get in.
But it is well worth the effort.
I still get lost in this town and have to find my bearings before making a directional decision. When I get to the end of our street “I Lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help” which in Sede means the Sala mountains, and I know just where I am and which way to walk.
This morning however I came unstuck and had a reminder of where I am in the big wide world. The mountains had disappeared in a dust storm which is the outer edge of a sandstorm originating in the desert and I couldn’t see a thing beyond 500m. The sandstorm had hit Qom, a city between Tehran and Esfahan and we got the dregs. In fact, we still have the dregs although the dust is settling slowly. It’s a weird experience as it is like looking at the world through a Vaseline lens and I want to take my glasses off to clean them but no amount of cleaning will make the vision any clearer and we have to wait for nature to take its course.
I took the photos above and whereas you can normally make out the mountains very clearly, you have to look hard to see their outline-but they are there!
In the meantime, the weather has turned from comfortably warm to hot which means that our adventures are restricted to mornings and evenings as it is too warm to do much at midday and early afternoon. But that’s OK as it gives me time to catch up on my blog whilst everyone else is asleep. They will just have to put up with Mrs Grumpy later.