Update 12 - Tehran to Esfahan,
8th December 2001.
And so we finally got out of Tehran. What can I (Matt)
say about Tehran? A big city. A big, busy city. A big,
busy, polluted city. A big, busy, VERY polluted city.
Tehran was a great experience, but it felt good to be
cycled on to Qom. A town that the guidebook says is
'probably best to ignore'. 'There is nothing of great
interest to see here' - the guidebook said. My ars*!
Qom is the second holiest city in Iran, with the Hazrat-e
Masumeh shrine - a beautiful blue and gold domed shrine.
If I'm perfectly honest, it is rare for a historical
building or monument to leave a lasting impression on
me. The shrine at Qom was totally different. To say
that this shrine was beautiful would be an understatement.
I left the shrine with a lump in my throat and an appreciation
of how lucky we had been to see inside.
cycling between Qom and Esfahan was beautiful. Mountain
scenery and a rugged dessert landscape made this area
unforgettable. Also my short-wave radio came to the
rescue once again one night whilst camping out in the
middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. Luckily,
the BBC Worldservice gave commentary to the live rugby
game between England and South Africa and for nearly
2 hours I was in second heaven!
Our final day into Esfahan was an ordeal. A big headwind,
a 2150m hill to climb over and a general 'can't be arsed
with this' attitude made the day 'interesting...'. However,
the scenery was beautiful and another highlight of the
day was stopping at the roadside to meet a French tourist,
Bertrice and her Iranian guide, Maxi. They were very
friendly and interested in our trip. They even gave
us lots of fruit and a big box of (very expensive) cakes
to help us along. The cakes lasted for about 5 minutes...
eventually wheeled into Esfahan. This time the guide
book got it right; 'If you visit only one place in Iran,
make it Esfahan'. It's easy to see why. It's a beautiful,
but polluted city. There are many things to see here
and the architecture is magnificent. The highlight is
the Meidun-e Emam Khomeini square at the city's centre.
At 510m by 164m it is one of the world's largest and
has beautiful monuments around it's perimeter. Listen
to me within a dome of the beautiful Masjed-e Emam mosque,
it creates strong echoes, by clicking on
night I took a night walk and met an Iranian man called
Ali. Our conversation covered religion, ethics, religion,
religion and football. Iranians love to talk about religion.
We walked past the city's famous bridges - some of which
were built in the 12th century.
Esfahani friends Sam and Mazdak took us to a popular
and traditional teahouse. An Iranian teahouse is an
institution in Iran, much like the pub is in Britain.
For four nights in a row we ate, drunk tea and chatted
the night away in an atmospheric setting. It was so
good to get away from the usual tourists haunts and
see a 'real' Iranian hangout.
And finally I have two good pieces of news. Firstly,
Tom and Jerry are shown regularly on Iranian TV. I was
in a shop buying food a few days ago and on came the
cartoon. For minutes I could hardly breathe because
I was laughing to hard. (Maybe the cycling is sending
me mad???) Secondly, an organised overland tour bus
has given me 2 jars of Marmite - thank you!. Hmmmmmm.....marmite.
I love marmite......hmmmmm.......2 jars.......hmmmmmmm
- thank you!