The desert city Kerman
After Shiraz we decided to visit the desert city, Kerman, located in East-Iran. It took us another 6 – 7 hours in a bus to get there. We were in a bit of a shock when we first entered the city, most buildings seemed either completely ruined or under construction. The reason is, the city is still recovering after a big earthquake 2003.
In Kerman we were lucky to be invited to stay with a local named Mohsen. His house was situated in a creepy ally in one of the old streets close to the bazaar. At first we thought we were entering a slum, so we were surprised to find out that his house was on three floors and decorated with expensive carpets and furniture. We even got a private apartment just for ourselves!
We enjoyed walking through the city, visiting different teahouses and old historical baths. During the evening it seemed like the whole city had arrived to do some shopping at the bazar. Salesmen were screaming out their products, claiming the best price and quality, selling everything from fresh vegetables and saffron to Persian carpets. Here you mainly see locals shopping, unlike the “tourist” bazar we went to in Istanbul.
Here you can find everything from vegetables to persian carpets
In Kerman we had a memorable time with Mohsen and his Iranian friends. It didn’t take us a long time to find out Kerman’s biggest secret! Apparently almost every citizen enjoys smoking opium (a derivative of heroin), which flows kind of freely from the east, through the border of Afghanistan. Some even say that a traditional invitation to a home in Kerman has to include an opium pipe or “Vafoor”. Iran has the highest opium addiction rates in the world (2.8%) and despite the government’s efforts; cheap opium (1$ for 3 grams) still flows from Afghanistan to Iran en route to Europe.
Our highlight was visiting the Kaluts (1,5 hour drive from Kerman), rare formation of towering sand rocks, scattered around in the Dasht-e Lut desert. We also found out that this is one of the hottest spots on earth, with ground temperatures reaching as high as 70°C during summer. Here you won’t find any living creatures, except maybe the toughest bacteria.
Getting there can be a bit of a trouble since there are no scheduled bus rides to the desert. Today was a national holiday (36 years since the Islamic Revolution), so many families had decided to head out to the desert for a picnic, escaping the winter cold in Kerman (1700 m above sea level). Luckily, we managed to tag along with Mohsen’s relatives to the desert.
We quickly noticed how the landscape changed when we drove over the cold mountains down to the mild and temperate desert. As we drove deeper into the desert, the towering sand formations started to appear. These “sand castles” have been sculpted over millennia from the change in wind, which causes the desert sand to pile up and form different shaped formations.
We jumped out of the car, super-excited and ready to explore this magnificent landscape. To our surprise our fellow companions didn’t seem to be dressed for the desert. The women were wearing high heals, loads of makeup and fashionable dresses. We didn’t think about it for too long and went further in to the desert to enjoy the view. The temperature was perfect and we really enjoyed climbing up to the highest rocks. However the fun didn’t last for long since our companions all of a sudden rushed us back into their car. At first we were confused, but they told us we were having lunch (we assumed the lunch would be in the desert!).
We almost didn’t believe that we came all this way just to spend 15 minutes by the Kaluts in the desert. It turned out that the main reason of the trip was not spending time in the desert, but to take us visiting a friend in a nearby village! And this was no ordinary “cup of tea visit”, but an Iranian “Party” filled with home made alcohol and Afghani opium. That explains the “ready to party” dresses, as mentioned earlier. We got a bit frustrated since our main reason was to visit the desert, so we were not really in the mood for partying. It was also difficult to communicate since non of them spoke english.
The old and traditional Yazd
From Kerman we decided to stop over in Yazd on our way to Esfahan. Yazd is a desert city, which has really preserved Persian tradition and the Zoroastrian religion (a monotheistic fire religion dating back to 600 BC). The main reason for this preservation is Yazd’s location in the desert; when the Arabs invaded the country (6th century AD) and forced its religion upon it, many denied to convert to Islam and fled to the isolate desert cities. Iranians are sensitive to being called Arabs, cause they aren’t! Its a common misunderstanding. Iranians have their own distinct Persian language and ethnic Persians make up 60% of the modern population.
In Yazd we had noticed the uniquely structured rooftops of the mud built “Aladdin” houses, especially the bazar. Luckily, it was Friday, so the bazaar was closed, leaving us undisturbed on our quest to find a way up on the rooftops. A few scratches later along with dusty clothes, we finally found our way to the top. The view was unbelievable, beautiful mosques and towering windcatchers (“badgirs”) in-between clay houses as far as the eye could see. These ancient windcatchers have been used in Persia for thousands of years to cool wells and buildings…a kind of a natural ventilation system.
Up on the rooftop it was quiet and calm, we didn’t stumble upon other people.
Really love the “Aladdin” look of this city
After enjoying the sunset we headed down from the rooftops. Feeling hungry, we bought some delicious “halva”, a paste made from sesame seeds, famous in Yazd. On top of the endless types of Iranian bread, it reminded us of peanut butter.
Young girl living in a mud house in Yazd
Next our journey continued North up to Esfahan. Find more about our travels in Esfahan here!
Are you thinking about travelling to Iran? Read our Ultimate travel guide to Iran here!
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