Dates!

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
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54
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Iran  ,
Friday, September 30, 2005

Bam was devastated by an earthquake in the early morning of 26th December 2003 when over 26,000 people were killed. Amongst the dead were only a few tourists. All of the town's people lost family members and many friends. It's nearly two years since the quake and alot of these people are still living in temporary accommodation. Some in tents and some in metal containers. Most are too frightened to move into proper housing in case of another earthquake and, of course, lack of funding. The town's population was severely affected and it will take some time to rebuild.

David had wanted to come here for a long time, even after the earthquake, just to see the Arg - the monument that Bam is famous for. So once again we headed out to the horrible taxi rank just outside of Kerman to barter for our seat. After much too-ing and fro-ing and arguing over the correct price we had a seat and were off for our 175km ride. We were actually ripped off slightly (only by about a $US1) but not as much as they'd originally wanted. As soon as they see you almost getting into another car, the price comes down very, very quickly!!!

We arrived to the 'bus station', which is actually just the dirty, rubbish stewn round-about just outside town. We found an honest taxi (not many of those about!) and went to Akbar's Tourist Guest House, the only place in town open that caters for tourists. He's done really well to bounce back from the horrors of the disaster. However, after speaking with him, he is a terribly lucky man. He lost everything basically, but at least he has education and a little money behind him to help rebuild his life and business for his family. His own house and his 20 room guest house was completely destroyed and he lost two tourists. Spookily we read the names of the tourists that had lost their lives in his registration book. It was terrible to think they had so innocently signed in two days before and were never to leave alive. It dulls the flames somewhat and makes you realise that anything can happen anywhere. Natural disasters or man-made. They had lived in a tent for about 9 months afterwards and now had built this temporary Guesthouse that housed up to about 15 people. Akbar also lost his son's best friend, his closest. 'Like a son. So, so close.' When he speaks about time before the earthquake and the actual happening, his face is filled with so much sadness. It made me almost cry. At times he had to get up and walk away to compose himself before coming back and speaking of more positive times and the happiness he gets from meeting so many tourists. It was absolutely stinking hot so very hard to imagine Christmas time here when it would have been freezing cold. He fed us homemade 'ash' which was lovely, and also lots of tea and then drove us down to the Arg.

It's an awsome 6 square kilometres in size and there's not much left standing. It's huge walls are now just a mess of what looks like melted chocolate. You can see the remains of the 38 massive towers surrounding the citadel. The parts that had been restored survived the best and can be identified. There was a bazaar area, a teahouse and some of the inner walls leading up to the palace and the palace gate. Mind you, these are also in ruins. Peole we've met that had visited It was also deathly quiet. You could have heard a pin drop. It's very sobering wandering through the main path. Most of the areas are roped off so you are directed down to stare at the huge palace gate and wall. We spent quite a bit of time just taking in the big-ness of it all. The place was huge. There is now an amazing amount of spare mud. The rebuilding process will be very, very slow. Apparently the Italian branch of UNESCO are overseeing the restorations. No one was in the Arg when the quake occured as it was so early in the morning and no one has lived in it for a very long time. Apparently the structures date back to the Sassanian period so it's had a good innings I guess. Arg-e Rayen is dwarfed by it though. We had seen photographs of it before the damage and there is really not much left at all now, although much of it was badly in need of restoration. On the way out we saw what looked like a big viewing plastform so we climbed it. It wasn't a viewing platform and we were whistled at to get down. It was a magnificent structure.

We wandered around the remains of the town, amazed at the amount of shops in containers and rubble. It had a kind of relaxed feel about it though. People had motorbikes and cars that they sped around in, and I mean sped. They drive really fast here. Really fast! On one street there were at least 5 headstone shops. Bit unnerving, even if they haven't had any aftershocks for quite a while! We ended up finding a pizza place for dinner. Not very conventional but it was the only food place open. Whilst waiting for our pizza, an old man came up and gave us a big bag of dates, Bam's speciality. Then we saw a little boy get hit by a motorbike. The young guy on the bike stopped briefly to see if he was still alive and then rode off. His family picked him up and we couldn't see any evidence of blood. He was really lucky and got away with a few bruises.

Back at Akbar's place we met two ladies from Doctors-Without-Borders. One German, Elke and the other orginally from Holland, Margaret. They were here setting up a homeopathic centre to help the people of Bam. They said it was really hard and had heard such sad stories. One lady had lost three of her four children and had no will to live. She couldn't see the point in going on. They said there were so many people. They wished they could help more but there was only so much they could do. They were also appalled at the lack of help from the government. Although two big schools had been rebuilt and a hospital, there was still so much the people needed. There were also three Austrians and a German so Akbar wasn't short of guests.

Next morning, Akbar's wife gave us breakfast and we went off to have another look at the Arg. Some of the ropes were off so we went in. I think they were for the workers though!! Even though there were workers in there, it was still so quiet. Not a sound. We took more photos and wandered out.

One thing that did strike us, was the amazing amount of date trees everywhere. Some heavily laiden with fruit. It gave the place a kind of tropical feel. At least the town had an industry to fall back on. I've never really been a date fan but Akbar's wife kept feeding them to us so they've kind of grown on me. There are so many around, you can just pick them for yourself from everywhere. We went for more of a wander round town in search of some items for me. Iran has a noticable absence of products for the ladies (if you haven't cottoned on yet, I mean sanitary items). We'd been looking around in other towns but they're not as obvious as one might think. I thought I might have to get a secret password and go to a darkened back alley to find some. We ventured into the last pharmacy and there they were. The old man got some out for me but they were HUGE!! No wonder the women dressed in loose clothing here. They have to, to hide those massive surfboards. The normal ones were big enough - imagine if you needed bigger ones? You'd be knocking people over in the street everytime you turned around!!! Get the picture? Awful things. When I asked him if he had smaller ones, he just glared at me and snapped, 'NO!', so I reluctantly took the smallest of the super size me's. There were only 10 to a packet. That's all they could fit in a resonable sized plastic package. So I had to purchase two. I wondered how on earth I would fit these 2 x 4's in my backpack. They'd take up loads of room! Top Tip for the Ladies: When visiting Iran, if you prefer using the smaller items or tampons, B.Y.O.! That afternoon we decided to relax at Akbar's and do nothing. So David went to have a kip in the airconditioned room and I had to stitch up his trousers. It was going to take me ages! Mrs Akbar came over and we chatted for a while in kind of pigeon/broken english and we ate dates together. She doesn't speak much english at all but we got our messagees across. She's such a relaxed lady. Very welcoming and warm. I can't imagine how hard it would have been for them all living in a tent. They have a grand-daughter too who is about 2 so would have been only a few months old when the quake hit. She's gorgeous. Hasti is her name. We had dinner there that night. It was much nicer to have home cooked meals rather than the pizza. We chatted to the ladies as the others had left and shared a big watermelon that we'd bought earlier.

We were having such a nice time we decided to stay another day and do nothing, which is exactly what we did. We did try to do some emailing for a short time and bought some more melon for later. We went back and laid around and chatted to a Czech couple that had just rolled in. They were going to Pakistan too so we decided we'd double date for the crossing. We were all in need of loo paper so Akbar took us on a drive round town to find some. We were unsuccessful but he promised us he'd source some later. He also drove us to his new house. He said he'd made sure it was very strong and that they would be moving in about two weeks. He estimated that it would be maybe two years before he had a new guest house. He's doing very well with what he has now. There are always people coming in.

We'd be off to Pakistan the next day. Exciting and sad. We'd really enjoyed Bam. I thought it had a nice feel to it even though it'd been through so much. There are still so many shops in containers and there's alot of construction going on but they have so far to go. The people were friendly and helpful, even though they drive even faster and crazier than in other cities!! The beautiful date trees added to the atmosphere and Akbar's Guesthouse was a fabulous place to stay. Simple but very welcoming and warm. All the tea and cool water you could wish for!!! I hope to come back and see how it's getting along.
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