Salam From Tabriz!

WOW! IRAN WOW!

Yesterday I met Karin at the Dogubeyazit bus station and we caught a dolmus to the border. The border crossing was smooth. I enjoyed finally getting another stamp in the passport!

At the border we moved our clocks forward 1+1/2 hours and changed USD 40 at the low rate of 7,500 Rials (750

Tomen). Iran, like Adelaide, is on the half-hour. Karin and I jumped into the back of a covered ute for the short journey to the first village. Mount Ararat and its shorter twin peak were clearly visible from the Iranian side. At the village we got into a shared taxi to Maku. Well, we were planning to stop in Maku and catch a bus to Tabriz. However, the driver and onther passenger were friendly and the rate for the remaining 250 km was only 75,000 rials each (about USD 9) so we stayed in the car.

The scenery was largely arid although there were areas of green mainly in the vicinity of mountains, oh which we passed several. Many Turkish trucks were also on the road to Tabriz. The Arabic alphabet Farsi writng was one of the obvious differences with Turkey.

As mentioned above, the driver and passenger were friendly. We shared some tea in the car and the passenger prepared slices of salted cucmber. We communicated in Turkish. The driver, passenger along with several million people in the north of Iran are ethnic Azeris who speak a Turkish dialect.

The day was hot with the sun shining through on my side and I was very tired by the end of the journey I had started in Mersin almost 30 hours previous. In Tabriz Karin and I changed to another taxi. This driver drove us around the busy central streets of Iran’s 2nd largest city. Of the 3 of us, nobody in the car had a firm idea exactly where to stop and we turned around once or twice before eventually stopping outside the Hotel Mashad, one of the hotels mentioned in the French-language Lonely Planet guide Karin had.

The room was average, the price at 45,000 rials, cheap, and we were tired so it was good enough. After dumping our bags we walked outside into the late afternoon receding light. The streets were alive with pants and shirt-wearing men and black chador and scarf-wearing women. As she had done so since just before crossing the border, Karin was wearing a scarf. All women are required to wear a scarf in Iran.

There were several varieties and shapes of fruit and vegetables we hadn’t seen before. These included an ugly heirloom peach that tasted delicious. We also drank fresh banana, mulberry, melon and carrot juices and purchased roasted sunflower seeds and fat Iranian pistachios. The pistachios here are larger and have a different (but stiil fantastic) taste when compared to the Turkish ones.

Other observations from the Tabriz streets last night included the lack of music played and the female clothes models with half their head cut off. This allowed the models to be displayed wearing scarves!

We headed back to the hotel and chatted and ate pistachios and sunflower seeds for a few hours before falling asleep. The conversations were interesting as they concerned such things that were forbidden in Iran. If they weren’t forbidden we wouldn’t have been talking about them as we would have been in a pub having a beer!

26/08/2004

This morning after eventually getting out of the hotel we drank some more fresh juices and walked to the tourist information. There, there were a few other foreigners along with a very helpful guide called Nasser Khan.

After gaining a greater useful information we walked the very short distance to the Bazaar. Tabriz’s bazaar is one of the best in Iran. For lunch we went upstairs near the beginning of the bazaar to a tiny restaurant with barely enough seats for 7 or 8 people. There we ate the local specialty: abusht (typical spelling may be different). This consisted of a metal tin filled with a stew of lamb meat, fat (2 big chunks), chickpeas, tomato and potato. Flat bread, similar to Turkish pide, raw onion and green chillies accompany the meal.

Abusht part 1: tear the bread into pieces and place it in the empty bowl. Then use a ‘stopper’ to hold the solid foods whilst draining the broth into the same bowl as with bread. The soaked bread is then eaten.

Abusht part 2: Use the ‘stopper’ to mash the solids in the tin. Eat the mash with bread.

It was only afterwards we dicovered the remaining solids were to be mashed. Both of us did not eat the fat. The meal with an orange soft-drink cost 10,000 rials each. I’m sure the locals pay less.

After the meal we continued into the bazaar and looked around the shops and marvelled at the arched ceilings. The gold jewellery in the bazaar was even tackier than Turkish jewellery!

To Be Continued….