The magic of Iran

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Persian poets, magical nights under clear desert sky and people who are truely touching your heart. If you really want to experience a country with all its different sides and colours, Iran is the country to surpise you and take you on an incredible journey…

 

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wDSC_8987Ancient  caravanserei

wDSC02121Historical house in Kashan

w421803139_129746Among friends

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There are mountains higher than any mountain in Europe, deserts and semi-desert, forests and lakes and in the south the Persian Gulf with its dreamlike little islands. Beside the nature, there is the rich history of the old Persian Empire which will make you feel like set back in time.  Also the famous Persian poets are from these days and in the minds of the people these old poets still live on…

 

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Mausoleum of Sa’adi, one of the most famous Persian poets

wDSC02321Books of Hafez, the most famous Persian poet

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wDSC00145Dasht-e Lut Wüste a.k.a. the hottest place on earth

wDSC02502Dasht-e Kavir desert

wDSC02547Azadi square in Teheran

wDSCF4259Entrance to the Dasht-e Lut desert

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I haven’t had any concious expectations before entering this country. Yet what I experienced here was beyond everything I could imagine. Everywhere I read about the hospitality of the Iranians but when I experience it by myself I couldn’t believe it. There is one thing that is really special about Iran: If you want, you can get really close to the country and the people even within a short periode of time. If you allow it to happen, you can get a look beyond the touristic sights and beyond the imagine media maybe created in your mind. You can really get to know the people, their culture and their country in all its various facettes. Because they simply love tourists! They are so happy to spend time with you and talk to you about anything in their country. You really can have an unforgettable time with them. For me it was exactly these Iranians that made my trip so special.

 

wIMG-20160301-WA0002André and Mohammad, who was like a company for my whole trip helping me with everything

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wDSC02513Teheran with Ali Reza and friends

 

“You are my guest!”

Never before I heard so many times „Welcome!“. From ever corner „Welcom in Iran!“, „Welcome in Shiraz!“ – „Welcome“ everywhere. Whereever I went they also told me: „I will give you my number. Just in case, you can call me anytime. If you need something, I will help you!“ Basically they love tourists and they are so happy to welcome you as a guest and take every opportunity to make you having the best time. I got invited so many times by totally strangers to come their home. At their home we ate together, we had tea, we slept next to each other on the carpets and made the most amazing trips together. They would did everything to make me have the trip of my life – and they were leading me deep into their world.

 

wwYDXJ0293hitchhiking with motorbike – even if we have no language in common

wIMG-20160420-WA0022In the footsteps of the poetss

wDSC02057On the road – getting invited for tea

wDSC02058Toy sellers that invited me to stay at their museum

wDSC00548Melon guy that we were hitchhiking was exciting about letting us taste his melons

wDSC02052Said and his family, one of the first cars I was hitchhiking

 

 

Through their eyes

In the graceful city of Esfahan I sat on the Naghsh-e Jahan square and watched Iranians playing badminton and having their picnic. That square is one of the largest city squares in the world and is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It literally means „image of the world“. In this moment a little boy approached me with a cookie in his hand which he was offering me. I saw his young family smiling to me and took the cookie.

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The young family walked me around the old town and showed me the whole glory of this former Persian capital. Seeing a place through the eyes of someone that loves his country is an experience of its own. They brought me to some outstanding objects of Persian-Islamic architecture like palaces, mosques and great covered bridges. The city remained much of its past glory and the famous architecture led to the proverb “Esfahān nesf-e- jahān ast” (Isfahan is half of the world).

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Walking through the bazaar I had to try all the Iranian specialities. I was really touched how much they were smiling and being happy to spend time with me – even if I was a total stranger.

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Together in the footsteps of the poets

The big gap between the government and the people is omnipresent. In particular for women things are very difficult – and this even sounds euphemistic. They told me about all the problems in injustices that it deserved an own article for this. Yet what I want to say here is that I saw many women strong and confident despite all these obvious injustices. It is there way to survive: They have to be strong. A gleam of hope for a better future.

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Woman in a tea house – Photo by André Santos

Shiraz was maybe the most beautiful city for me. A city with a very special atmosphere. The Shirazi people enjoy the reputation of being extraordinary relaxing and welcoming.  Maybe this comes from the famous historical gardans and their roses. The city is therefore also called: „Garden of Iran“. Maybe this specific atmosphere is connected to the fact that Shiraz is the city of the old Persian poets or maybe it is the mild and comfortable climate that makes them smile all the time. I don’t know! Maybe it’s all together!

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one of the gardens

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Mausoleum of Sa’adi

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Here I was on the way in the metro with my backpack when I noticed a young Iranian woman. An older man entered and she stood up insisting that he could sit down on her place. Curious she looked to me and my backpack. After a little hesitating she came to me and asked: „Where are you from?“ Her name was Nastaran. We left the metro together and she asked at the exit of the station: „Did you already visit the historical gardens of Shiraz?“

mausoleum-of-saadiAt the mausoleum of Sa’adi

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Mausoleum of Sa’adi

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Vakil Mosque

The next day I met with Nastaran in front of an old castle in the city center and she walked me to the old gardens of the city. The atmosphere of the city is just marvelous. At the edge of the city the two most famous poets are buried in garceful mausoleums: Sa’adi and Hafez. Unmistakably you feel how much these poets mean to the people here. Everyone in Iran should have visited these tombs at least once in life. If there is an important question or decision to make many Iranian will open the book of Hafez to find advise.

Nastaran and me explored all the magical places and revived the spirits of these old poets. We laughed a lot and quickly became friends. Nastaran organized a free appartement for me and we spent the next couple of days exploring and relaxing. We made day trips, enjoyed our time in the parks and gardens of Shiraz and I got to know her family

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Old village out of Shiraz

wIMG-20160420-WA0022 Mausoleum of Hafez

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The best ice cream of Shiraz

wIMG-20160423-WA0002Always something going on in Iran

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I was profoundly touched when she made me a special gift for memory. „So that you will not forget me!“, she said. How could I!

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Night in a museum and being part of a group of friends

I hitchhiked to Kashan and just when I arrived in Kashan a young woman talked to me on the street. She asked me where I was going. She said I could go by taxi with her. Her English was pretty gppd and she told me of her husband’s historical puppet museum. Then she offered me to stay there with them.

wDSC02094Historical puppet museum – a bit creepy by the night

wDSC02103Always visiting friends and family during Noruz (New Year’s fest) time

wDSC02106Symbols of the New Year’s fest Noruz

Kashan is a tiny village in Central Iran. This region is part of the cradle of ancient Oriental civilizations.

wDSC02107Aqa-Bozorg mosque

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wDSC02162In front of Ḫāne-ye Ṭabāṭabāʾī

wDSC02128Aqa-Bozorg Mosque

wDSC02070Traditional tea house

wDSC02086 Mosque with the religious leader of the country (left, Imam Khamenei) and the former religious leader (right, Imam Khomenei)

 

The next day I visited the historical part of the city. I was surprised about the high entrance fee of an historical house and decided to talk to some young people that were standing in line. They explained me that the price for foreigners is about ten times more expensive. Before I realized what was happening they were pretending that I would be in their group of friends. One of the guys put his arm around my shoulder and after a short discussion with the officer I had to pay only the local price! Which now they didn’t even let me pay by myself anymore. „You are our guest!“

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This is how I became friends with this four amazing guys! We spent the whole day together, visiting all the historical places like ancient houses and majestic gardens. We went to eat Kabab and had some great shisha. And to all of that they were inviting me.

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In the evening they took me to their holiday house. It was the house of Sina’s father and more than 200 years old – yet uninhabited for the last 7 years.
There we played darts, checkers and had some islamic beer. We laughed and talked a lot about Germany and Iran. In the night we slept next to each other on the carpet floor.

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Within a short periode of time I had the feeling I was part of a group of friends. They want to study in Europe and I truely hope to meet them again there to show them my hospitality in Germany!

 

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From Kashan I went hitchhiking in the desert

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Everything under control – these two guys were confident enough to give me a ride

wDSC02251Hitchhiking in the desert

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On the move

wDSC02276wild camels

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Special couchsurfers and a special desert place

Just when I entered with my backpack to a hostel in Yazd a Korean girl asked me: „Are you camping?“ while she pointed on my sleeping bag. I turned around and told her about my desert camping. When she heard that, her eyes became big. „I also want to do that!“, she said determined. Her name was Silvia and we decided to hitchhike together to Kerman to camp in the amazing Dasht-e Lut desert.

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In Kerman, a city close to this desert, Silvia found two couchsurfing hosts for us. It was Mohsen and his Swiss girlfriend Nadia. When she first came to Iran she also stayed as a couchsurfer at Mohsen’s place. Then she came back again. And when she came for the third time she stayed – for almost three years now. Every year they have to renew their temporary marriage to live together legally.

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They already warned us in the beginning: „You have to know that Kerman is like a trap: People intend to stay for one or two nights and in the end they stay for a week.“ From the beginning they made it very clear: „Just feel like at home.“ and underlined with a welcoming smile: „And you can stay as long as you want!“

 

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Shah Nematullah – persischer Dichter, Gelehrter und Gründer des schiitischen Sufiordens Niʿmatullāhīya

We talked so much about Persian poetry, life in Iran and about Sufism. Sufism is a spiritual and mystical way which was also practice by Maulana Rumi, one of my favorite poets. In this time I really got a new connection und a better understanding of the country. From both, Mohsen and Nadia, I learnt so much about the life in Iran. We shared many stories late in the night, made music together and went together to sleep in the desert. It is their positive and serene way that I will remember. I guess it was those positive vibes and made us staying there for almost a whole week.

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wDSC00572happy Iranian

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wYDXJ0127In front of the mausoleum of Shah Nematullah in the tiny beautiful town Mahan

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Not only special for tourists:

The grave of Shah Nematullah – I remember one man standing there all crying and holding his heart. It is something special for many people to visit certain mauseleums.

 

wDSC00538They give what they have to give – melon guy that gave us a ride

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A night in the biggest desert of Iran: Dasht-e Lut

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Endless street through the hottest place on earth: Dasht-e Lut

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unique place to sleep

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In contrast to for exampe the Sahara, there are now indications of ancient settlements. They haven’t even found any fossils or other traces of any ancient life. Due to its inhabital conditions this desert today is still uninhabited.

wDSCF4124In between the sand castles of Dasht-e Lut

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A surprise on the Persian Gulf Islands

After Kerman I went to Bandar Abbas, a city in the Persian Gulf, where I just wanted to take a boat to some of the dreamy islands. On the speed boat I noticed that people look very different here. They not only have darker skin but also there cloths are very different. Women wear colorful traditional cloths and sometimes you see sophisticated hennas or scary masks of iron or lether.

 

w421804795_69472Traditional Wedding on the tiny island Hormoz – exceptionally I was allowed to take a photo (at least of her hands). They are very religious and really live the old traditions.

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On a small speed boat I arrived on the biggest island called Qeshm. There I was hitchhiking motorbikes all around the island, camped on the beaches and enjoyed the relaxed island atmosphere for three days.

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wYDXJ0169Islander who was working in a crocodile farm

wBild10Motorbiking in deserted areas

wBild3 (2)Camels on the street

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wBild1 (2)Diving on Qeshm

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wYDXJ0246Remote beaches

wcampingCamping with some travellerswBild62On the road

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Extremely friendly and relaxed islanders – not even one was asking for money

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with a little boat to the little sister island Hengam

wBild23Being a little bit disoriented and the tiny island

wYDXJ0211Hengam streets

wBild22An islander helped me to find the dive base where I could even borrow some basic equipment for free

wBild33I just went to a remote beach and jumped into the water

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Back in Bandar I actually just inteded to move on to Shiraz and then head back to Teheran. So when I walked out of the harbor I didn’t know that my time here wasn’t over yet. The best time was still about to come. Walking a bit aimless out of the harbour in the city a man talked to me out of his car: „Hey, where are you from?“ First I ignored him because I mistook him for another taxi driver. Then I decided to turn around though. He asked me where I want to go and I answered: „Just to a cheap hotel.“ He indicated I should enter his car and he will give me a ride. His name was Behnam and on the way he offered me to come to his house to stay there. Within seconds I spontaneously had to decided – and I thought that it might be a good idea. Let’s see what happens…

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Behnam was an extraordinary host. I couldn’t even pay a single cent – for anything. He organized my visa extension where he also acted as official guaranter during my stay. „You will not have any problems with me.“, he kept on saying.

Yet the highlight was still waiting. For the weekend Behnam planned to camp on the beach of Hengam island with some friends. It was such a good time!
We were six people: Behnams friend Sorush, Kimia and the two sisters Sadaf and Maryam. Behnams brother-in-law Ismael lived on this tiny island. He drove us with his boat around the island to camp on a remote beach. We went diving, water skiing and played volleyball. In the evening we were eating, drinking and dancing in the sands until late in the night. Then we went swimming in the ocean and got fascinated by the glimmering water in the light of the moon.
In the next morning Ismael picked us up with is boat. We went on the ocean to fishing and diving. We were singing songs on the boat and in the end we had the caught fish over a fire at the beach. I thought, so many Iranian are dreaming of living in Germany – and many Germans are dreaming of a place like this.Zu Hause bei Behnam

wenglishclassHe took me to his English classes.

wbehnam_sorushIn the evening they invited me to some traditional food and we smoke shisha at the beach

Behnam introduced me to her friend Kimia. She is friend of him and works on the tiny little island Hormoz as the only dentist there. She took me to this island and showed me around all the beautiful and hidden places..

wweddingceremonyGot invited to a traditional wedding

wbloodybeachBloody Beachwhormoz volcanoRainbow-ValleywhormozLonesome beach…

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… and some hidden treasures wrainbowvalley

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w20160413_115434The various colours come from the numberous minerals on the island

whormoskidschildren on the island

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Transport system of the island

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Yet the highlight was still waiting… For the weekend Behnam planned to camp on the beach of Hengam island with some friends. It was such a good time!
We were six people: Behnams friend Sorush, Kimia and the two sisters Sadaf and Maryam. Behnams brother-in-law Ismael lived on this tiny island. He tookus with his boat around the island to camp on a remote beach. We went diving, water skiing and played volleyball.

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In the evening we were eating, drinking and dancing in the sands until late in the night. Then we went swimming in the ocean and got fascinated by the glimmering water in the light of the moon.

wboat ismaelIn the next morning Ismael picked us up with is boat. We went on the ocean to fishing and diving. We were singing songs on the boat and in the end we had the caught fish over a fire at the beach.

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I thought, so many Iranian are dreaming of living in Germany while so many Germans are dreaming of a place like this.

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Back in Teheran I had some days to pass in revue the last weeks and prepare my following trip. Also I was very happy to see many of my new friends again in Teheran.

wDSC02642Dorna with who I camped for some days in the desert (story of that in another post)

She is explaining what some Iranians do in difficult life situations: They open the book of Hafez at a random page and there will find advice and answers.

 

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After almost 2 months I left Iran again – with a heavy heart. Yet with the intent to come back one day!

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I went on my way again to Azerbaijan to find a cargo boat going to Kazakhstan…

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