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.
Leaving home in the UK at 08.00am on Sunday morning we faced a long journey by road and air before we would arrive at our house in Iran the following morning but armed with plenty of books and with I-Pod fully charged I am well prepared. Tom and Tessa (our cats) are not happy that we are leaving them behind and sulk all the time we are getting ready to go. Tom heads for the top of the kitchen cupboards where he watches our preparations with disdain whilst Tessa prowls between the front room windowsill and stairs hoping that we will change our minds. They certainly know how to make you feel guilty but we know that Jenny, our next door neighbour, will look after them during our absence and at least they don’t have to go away from home and can fret in their own surroundings.
The flight from Heathrow to Tehran via a refuelling and crew-change stop at Yerevan in Armenia was a trial of constant turbulence all the more noticeable as recent flights to Iran have been smooth and pot-hole free. I found the repeated vibration and noise very disturbing and extremely stressful. I can’t maintain such a high level of anxiety for long before the adrenalin rush subsides and exhaustion takes over and it is at this point I calm down, simply too tired to care anymore and I am able to complete the 4 ½ hour flight to Yerevan without further ado.
Refuelling and changing crew at Yerevan took a surprisingly efficient 45 minutes before we took off again for the short 90 minute hop to Tehran. Iran only allows a few airlines to refuel in Tehran due to the economic sanctions and without these “technical” stops many planes flying this route do not have the range to travel there and back without a top up but in fact the short break was welcome and an opportunity to regroup before completing the flight to IKA.
No wind and no clouds meant a lovely smooth flight and landing at IKA and progress through customs was, as ever, smooth, efficient and hassle free, unlike the ridiculous check-in system at Heathrow Terminal 1 we had endured earlier.
Saeed and his taxi were there to meet and greet us as arranged but as we found out later he was only just on time. Earlier he had parked his car in a restricted zone outside Arrivals and after only a few minutes it had been lifted by crane and impounded. Thankfully he had the time (and money) to retrieve his car before we arrived so our departure from the airport wasn’t delayed. Amazingly he didn’t seem at all perturbed by this minor diversion and laughed it off good-naturedly. I can’t imagine that I would be so sanguine. Perhaps I need to be more “Iranian” and chill out more. Then again I wouldn’t have parked in the restricted zone in the first place.
We found the car, parked properly this time, and as usual, a welcome basket of goodies containing tea and food as well as blankets and pillows for our 4-hour drive home was waiting courtesy of my thoughtful sister-in-law. I drank my tea and snuggled down on the back seat for a snooze, the perfect antidote to Saeed’s driving which I know from previous experience can be erratic at best! I woke in time to see daylight breaking over the mountains and to realise that we were only 30 minutes from home. The roads were quiet but the town was clearly waking up for a new day when we finally arrived in Sede at 06.30 local time (03.00 hrs English time).
Think you can buy an Iranian National Team football shirt in Iran? Think again. Certainly not in Esfahan or surrounding areas anyway. Perhaps in Tehran? Who knows but every sports shop we went in almost laughed us out of their shop with derision for their team.
We gave up trying in the end as when we asked for an Iran shirt, the retailers were looking at us as if we had got two heads and with such a look of pity I couldn’t bear it any longer.
So, instead we settled on a yellow and black shirt for a local team Sepahan. Not great but at least it’s an Iranian team even though no one has ever heard of it back home!
What we could have bought instead were any number of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona and Brazil shirts with the player’s names on the back. Key rings, sweat bands, shorts and socks. World Cup footballs, Adidas shirts, Nike joggers anything except what we really wanted.
Never mind. Perhaps if their results pick up and the citizens of Iran support their home team instead of the highly merchandised and marketed popular European club teams we might get a shirt next time.
Looking at their prospects however this appears unlikely so it’s off to E-Bay. Bet they’ve got one.
Well it really doesn’t seem two minutes since we were saying our goodbyes to the family and heading home from Iran last October. Now, I’m packing again and getting anxious about the journey.
Packing is so much easier now that I know what to expect, and hurray for Wallis who have yet again provided me with my perfect Anglo/Iranian wardrobe; long sleeves, long lines, and fabulous printed flowing fabrics that I know I can wear here or there quite comfortably. Wonderful! I also popped into my favourite scarf shop in Nottingham today and treated myself to a new scarf! Very decadent but it is gorgeous.
Over the next 2 days I need to keep myself busy and try not to think about the 6-hour flight to Tehran. Flying and me do not mix and I get very anxious with claustrophobia and the general feeling of being out of control which can lead to aggressive behaviour and panic attacks (brown paper bag always on hand) The Valium is also packed and I am just hoping for a smooth flight.
Esfahan is the nearest city to where we live and it has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. How lucky that it is only a 20 minute drive away. I fell in love with Esfahan at first sight and I was amazed by its stunning beauty the likes of which I have never seen. Here are a few of the sights I can look forward to;
This time round I really want to visit the Armenian Christian cathedral as it looks spectacular and strangely not out of place in a predominantly Moslem country. However, I reserve final judgement until I have seen it for myself.
So there we are two days to go until we travel and I need to wrap presents, pack my case, paint my nails and generally get ready for part 2 of my Iranian adventures. I just wish I’d been more diligent with my Farsi 😦 but I’ll get by!
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you all over the next couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy them too.