Sunday, 22 February 2009

Another Trip through the Desert of Central Iran

The course at Islamic Azad University in Khorasgan was over and I had a free week for some traveling in Iran before returning to the Arctic. Hamadan, the Achaemenid capital (Ecbatana in ancient times) and home of Esther and Mordecai at the court of Artaxerxes (or one of his successors on the throne) would be one of my favorite destinations. But it was far away and most probably also too cold this time of the year. It has to wait for a future visit to Iran. I decided to go to Na'in, halfway to the other desert city Yazd, which I had visited in 2004. The German couple that I met in the breakfast room of the Dibaee house in the old city of Esfahan (he was interestingly enough a diplomat at the German Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan) planned to go further to Yazd. When I suggested taking a bus rather than a taxi for the after all more than 300 km, they were not interested.

To get to the Jey minibus terminal east of Esfahan’s city center you must take a taxi which will cost you more than the 140 km bus trip afterwards (IR 15’000, if I recall correctly, about $1.5). The bus would go in half an hour. So I bought the ticket and sat down on a bench of the small concourse of the terminal. There were many students who, after the weekend, made it to Na'in’s other branch of Islamic Azad University.

East of Esfahan (which is in fact a huge oasis, located at the banks of one of Iran’s major rivers, the Zayandeh Rud) the desert of central Iran stretches for hundreds of kilometers. Every now and then caravanserais can be seen along the highway. The bus terminal in Na'in was very close to the excellent traditional tourist inn with its beautifully renovated, two-storey rooms (IR 30’000, or $30). The receptionist gave me a brochure of the city and I started my sight-seeing tour.

Na'in is not a tourist hub. I met a Chinese group that had hired an Iranian driver. They, too, were on their way further to Yazd, which is bigger and definitely more famous. Na'in itself is charming. Not really a ‘one-horse town’, but slumbering and a bit provincial. Most interesting is its historical old city, which, sad to say, is more a museum now since most people had moved into other areas. Huge water reservoirs and wind towers (badgirs) everywhere. An enormous castle, known as Narin Ghaleh, dominates the center of the ancient buildings’ fabric. It originates from Sassanid times.

No carpets from here. Although very popular in Iran and in the West, there are several aspects which I do not appreciate very much in Na'in carpets.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Two weeks ago, Iran had launched its first satellite into orbit. It is hoped (and Iranian officials are not getting tired to emphasize) that Hope (the name of the satellite, omid in Farsi) will increase our knowledge and eventually lead to more harmony and peace on Earth.

Its inhabitants do well (especially when considering the most recent underestimations of what is called global warming) when taking a search for alternative places to live into serious consideration. One extraordinary and most beautiful area (although barren and yet icy cold) might be the Victoria Crater on Mars, an impact crater at the Meridiani Planum near the equator of the planet. The crater is about 800 meters in diameter and had been visiting by Mars roboter Exploration Rover Opportunity. That little sojourner of our second nearest neighbor in space can actually be seen on the image TRA_000873_180 which was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on October 3, 2006. After 2 ½ years, Opportunity (the robot) had just arrived at the rim of the Victoria crater after a drive of more than 9 kilometers. Provided high resolution, it can be seen roughly at the “10 o’clock” position along the rim of the crater. Whether it has crashed into the crater in the meantime is not known to me.

Crater Victoria has a distinctive scalloped shape of its rim. Erosion and material having fallen down the crater walls can be seen on the picture. The very special sand dunes in the center of the crater remind of similar structures in the Rub’ Al Khali of the Arabian Peninsula or the Dashte Lut in Iran.

Thanks to John Baez for attracting my attention to the beautiful crater.

First published at Freelance

Happy Valentine

A Saudi-Arabian man was shown in the Al Watan newspaper earlier this week trampling on a bunch of roses in a flower shop, making clear that he despises Valentine's Day (February 14). Bad for him. My first thought which came to my mind was the pogroms about 70 years ago in Nazi Germany when Jewish shops were demolished ("Kristallnacht"). These fundamentalists threaten people who they urgently need for running their societies, for instance, Philippinos.

It is quite a shame that Arabs still need some extra lessions in humanity, tolerance, love and peace.

I was also wondering whether Saudi Arabian men wear winter dishdashas these days. Could it be that the picture had been taken in Kuwait? I suppose, many Philippino flower shop owners in Kuwait were scared last week as well.