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.

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