Tabriz…continued

At the bazaar a carpet and antique-style metal product seller said hello as we walked passed. If I was in Turkey, Egypt or another touristy country I would have ignored him and carried on walking. As it was Iran we went along along with him to his shop, drank tea and conversed in English and Turkish. He contacted a money-changer as we wanted to change some USD into rials. We then went to the carpet-seller’s other shop in the bazaar. However, the rate the changer gave when he visited the shop, 8,500 rials, was less than the 8,650 he promised on the phone to the carpet-seller. Out of principle, we rejected the transaction.

In the afternoon we walked to the museum and Blue Mosque area. In front of the museum, waiting for it to re-open, were a group of 50 or so female students of various ages, all in chadors. When we walked nearby they swarmed around Karin first and later, myself. The students asked all the usual questions: Where are you from? How old are you, etcetera. I mainly chatted to their male teacher. When he asked if she (Karin) was my wife I said no, we were just friends. In hindsight, Karin and I agreed, for cultural sensitivity we should have said we were husband and wife. Unmarried and unrelated males and females virtually never travel together in Iran. It was fun outside the museum. Unfortunatly, we only thought about taking photos as the museum opened and the girls left us to go inside.

Karin and I bypassed the museum to walk across the park to the Blue Mosque. This mosque, built in 1492, was damaged many times by earthquakes over the centuries and is in an almost continual state of repair. The tiles on the walls and roof were interesting but I am sure it will be nothing compared to the splendour of mosques in Shiraz, Esfahan and Tehran.

The park was inviting and we relaxed for a while in the shade as ducks, a few chickens and a turkey nibbled at the nearby lawn.

The museum consisted of 3 levels. The ground and 1st level contained the usual coins, pottery and other antiquities. The lower level, with its modern sculptures, was personally more interesting. The 12 or 13 large sculptures displayed various human emotions and concepts from over-population to racism. Some of the sculptures were very graphic. The sculpture titled “Political Prisoners” was particularly vivid, showing prisoners in various forms of torture. The subject of this sculpture is fairly ironic for Iran I thought.

After a rest at the hotel at 7pm we met Nasser outside the tourist informaton. We caught a bus to a richer area of Tabriz. As the bus was ‘express’ it cost required 2 tickets at 600 rials each. The bus did indeed speed around the city. Karin entered and sat in the back with the other women while Nasser and I were in the front. There was no barrier between the the two sections as I had thought there may have been prior to the trip. When conversing with Karin one of the ladies told Karin she was too fat. All the foreign women she had witnessed on TV were skinnier. Karin thought this was very funny.

We bought our tickets for the Friday 5pm bus to Esfahan (55,000 each) at a travel agency. With the suggestion from Nasser, I asked the beautiful travel agency worker some questions in English. Everyone wants to learn English here. Nasser said native English speakers could earn USD 12 an hour giving English classes at one of the main English schools.

The area had a pedestrian street where everybody walked to see and be seen. Thursday night here (and in many muslim countries) is the equivalent to Saturday night in Turkey or Australia as Friday is the holy day holiday. There were less people walking as Iran was playing Jordan in a soccer game and many people would be watching the game on TV.

The local fashionable icecream cafe was ‘Padina’. There I ate ‘4 kernels’ and Karin, honey icecream. The ‘4 kernels’ contained chopped almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios on top of the icecream. Needless to say it was delicious! Nasser’s nephew, Yashar joined us at the cafe.

The “Coffee Net” was the next destination. Internet cafes are called “Coffee Nets” here.

A shared taxi (2000 rials each) back to bazaar area and then the short walk to the hotel rounded the day off.

27/8/2004

This morning we again met Nasser near the tourist information. He was carrying a type of pide for our breakfast in the El-gholi park on the outskirts of Tabriz. We met 3 Polish women at their hotel and the 6 of us then squeezed into a taxi for the ride to the park. The park is large. In the centre is a pond with a restaurant nearby. Prior to the Islamic revolution in 1979 the restaurant was a disco serving the obligatory alcoholic beverages.

The park is levelled and we climbed up several flights of the stairs to get to the top. On the way Nasser pretended he was a foreigner and told a group of 3 young Iranian women they were beautiful. The policeman nearby did not apreciate it and had a word to him. Apparently the local ladies enjoy it if people, particularly foreigners, tell them they have beautiful eyes. No, I haven’t been game enough yet to try it yet!

The park contained groups of young men smoking narghile and playing basketball, families socialising and having picnics and groups of young women walking around.

For breakfast Yashar joined us and we ate the bread with white cheese accompanied by tea. Afterwards I brought out some cezerye and Turkish delight I bought in Mersin.

A walk and a bus later we wrrived back in the centre of Tabriz to this “Coffee Net” where I am now.

A few notes:

-Every street seems to have a donation box for people to donate to. The causes are for poor people, people with kidney stones or requiring kidney transplants, and for the victims of the Bam earthquake.

-Some streets also have a 4 bins of different colours together in the street. I believe they are for different recyclables.

-An Iranian weightlifter has won Iran’s first ever Olympic gold in Athens. I’m sure the footage of him winning will probably be shown again and again over the month. I would like to be in the welcome-home crowd when he returns to Iran.

-People are so generous and friendly! This cannot be emphasised enough.

-From first impressions, Iranian society is more stable, formal and organised with a greater number of rules than Turkey. There are hardly any beggers and people generally seem more dignified.

-Karin finished at the Internet cafe before me but when she went out on the street by herself, cars stopped when she wanted to cross and the local men stared at her. Iranian society is not yet perfect.

The next update will be from Esfahan