Yes it's true - Iranian Hospitality
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
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We were told it was too far to walk to the mini bus station and that we should get a cab. So we did what we usually do and ignored those instructions. We walked. It wasn't too far and the bloody taxi drivers would have ripped us blind anyway. We then had the task of finding the mini buses. We decided to scare an old lady and ask her but she didn't understand us and we couldn't understand her so she called in the assistance of two younger girls near by. They asked what our problem was and we explained our story. They couldn't believe we wanted to take the mini bus all the way out to Soltaniyeh! 'It's crowded and hot and bumpy.', they said. After a few minutes one of the girls said that she was going that way and we could get a cab with her so that we didn't get ripped off. Fab! And she spoke fluent english!!!
It turns out that Mona was studying english at the local college and was teaching to earn some extra cash. She was really nice and dropped us right at the door of the mausoleum. We swapped emails and we went our separate ways.
The mausoleum is supposed to be the tallest brick dome in the world! Very impressive because it was built in the early 1300's!! We were approached as we entered by a local guy wanting to chat and have tea but we hadn't even been inside yet so we had to decline. In we went. As usual with large structures like this, the inside was filled with scaffold for restoration, but it was still really great. Loads of beautiful tiles to look at. We were mobbed again inside by a bunch of very excited college students. One of them spoke english really well and was even more excited when she learnt that we were from Sydney. Her aunt lived there and she really wanted to go and study out there. She wanted us to go back and stay at her place in Tabriz but we explained that we had to move on, so sadly had to decline yet another friendly offer. We climbed up the spiral staircase and looked round the insides at all the wonderful brickwork and tiles, then went outside to circumnavigate the terrace. The views of the vast areas were amazing. We could see the distinct onion shaped mosque domes in the distance shining in the sun.
There was supposed to be a sub-terranian tea house in the grounds but we couldn't find it so headed out to get a cab back to Zanjan when we saw Mona running towards us. She was so pleased to see us again and told us that when she had told her mother she had met some infidels, her mother had sent her back to get us and wanted us to meet the family and stay the night. So the rumour was true! Iranian hospitality shines through.
We accepted with pleasure but had to go all the way back to Zanjan to pick up our bags then get a cab 90km to her village of Qeydar. When we arrived she rushed in to get more money to pay the cab (just over a $US1), but she had already paid for two cabs so we paid him and sent him away. When she found out she was not happy at all! We were her guests and we shouldn't do anything except relax and enjoy ourselves. Oops. We met her Mum and younger sister. They had prepared lunch for us but only Mona would be eating with us because the other two were fasting in preparation for Ramazan. We ate sofre style - on the floor like a picnic! The food was lovely. A kind of lentil soup and a meat dish but there was also bread and cheeses and doug (a traditional salty yoghurt drink, bit like Turkish Ayran). We talked for ages. Poor Mona had to translate for her mother and sister as they didn't speak english. We drank tea and ate a traditional local rice pudding. We were so full! They only had small house. Just a kitchen, reception/lounge, two other smaller rooms used as bedrooms and a longer room that Mona used to study in and their dining room. There were no beds though so we were curious as to where they slept (not having studied Iranian houses in school at all). When her father came home, he was really excited and pulled out his London A-Z street directory! He had stayed for 7 months last year with his sister and her husband whilst they worked over there. He had loved it but missed Iranian food. He thought it was amusing that people in London just bought one apple or a piece of watermelon instead of a crate of apples and two or three watermelons! And was appalled at how expensive it was. Iran is cheap - dirt cheap for fruit for the locals. Of course they rip tourists off. But it's still cheap. They took us for a little car tour and we visited a local shrine. The cleric was happy to see us and all the locals inside praying had a little stare. He gave us tea and we were offered lollies as well because the next day was a prophet's birthay. He kissed David goodbye and just to shock him I made him shake my hand. He looked horrified that he had touched an infidel woman!!!! We visited their family's farm where they had a little wolf pup and some other puppies. Mona told us that during the winter people had been killed by the wild wolves that come down near the villages in search of food!!! I was thankful it was summer. We walked round, picked apples and walnuts and then drove back. We were still full from lunch but sat down to dinner with all of them. The mother and sister could eat now because the sun had gone down and ate like they'd never had food before!! After dinner we rolled back into the lounge and talked for hours about different things. Politics, religion, families and other things. They were intrigued that we were not religious but respected our decisions. We decided not to tell them we were married. Didn't want to get spring too much on them!! Her mother was a Dr of Philosophy and taught at the local high school and her father was a sales manager for exporting goods at their extended family's business. Mona ended up nearly loosing her voice because she had to translate so much!! It was such a shame that her mother and father couldn't speak english as they were really interesting people. They had participated in the protests against the Shah and tried to explain why they liked the Ayatollah. Heavy stuff. We eventually retired, way after midnight.
So now, I found out where they slept. On the floor on, light cotton mattresses that they fold away during the day.
Up early the next morning for a breakfast of cheese, jam, bread, milk and tea. We chatted some more and were trying to work out how David and I would get to Qazvin when they decided they would go and visit their grandmother and cousins just outside of Qazvin and would drive us there! We couldn't believe how much trouble they were going to for us! They dropped us right at the door of the hotel and made sure we got the right room. We waved our adopted Iranian family goodbye and prepared to hit Qazvin.