Thursday, May 14, 2009

Iran & Syria - Part 1

This is Part 1 of my chronicle about our “What/Why?” trip.

“Where are you going next?” I’d be asked.

“Iran and Syria,” I’d reply.

“What?” was the first (incredulous) reaction.

“Iran and Syria,” I’d repeat.

Then, after a moment of stunned silence and an “Are you crazy?” look, would come the “Why?”

I’d explain that thousands of years of Persian history had left countless ruins – temples, ancient cities, ziggurats, piles of old stones all over the place, and Sandra has an ongoing love affair with old stones. She’s never met an old stone she didn’t want to see and learn about.

And more recently Islam, in partnership with Persian art, architecture and poetry, inspired the creation of some of the world’s most beautiful mosques, gardens and other public spaces.

Now would come the “Yeah, buts. . .” Yeah, but don’t you know that for the past 30 years America has been the Great Satan? Yeah, but those guys are developing nuclear weapons. Yeah, but have you forgotten they fund and support terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah? Yeah, but their crazy President, Ahmadinejad, denies the holocaust and wants to destroy Israel. Yeah, but you’re not only an American, you’re a Jew. Doesn’t that worry you?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all that. And “No,” I’m not worried. I’d heard and read that without exception tourists in Iran and Syria, including Americans, said they’d been greeted warmly, felt safe and recommended that their family and friends take the same trip.

Besides, for many years we’ve made a habit of traveling to unlikely and/or exotic places. These include Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Borneo, Egypt, Turkey, and more. Going to Iran and Syria seemed to us to be a continuation of our natural pattern.

I’m not a great fan of old stones, but I am a fan of people, and I wanted to see for myself what life is like for an Iranian or a Syrian. I was under no illusion that spending a few weeks on the ground would make me an expert. I did think I’d get a sense of what is going on and perhaps even gain a few insights. So on the evening of March 31, 2009 we boarded United flight 926 bound for Frankfurt, where we’d connect to a Lufthansa non-stop headed to Tehran.

In the lead-up to our departure I posted a few Iran-related items on my blog site: This is what I said on Jan. 9:

Our on-again off-again trip to Iran is on again. We had tickets to go a year ago and then realized that we'd be there during their two-week New Year celebration. Not the best time for visiting. At the same time our macho Texan in charge of going to war was saber rattling. Better not to be there if the Americans were going to bomb the place. So we decided to reschedule for this spring, figuring a new president was a safer bet, at least in the near term.

Israel is always a wild card in the Iran equation. We had no doubt they'd take military action when they felt the threat pushed them past their boiling point, which is low to begin with. As it turns out they're now diverted by Gaza and that should slake their need for blood for a while.

As we discussed this trip over the holidays both Sandra and I realized that our reluctance to push the 'go' button had less to do with any possible war than with not being eager to go on another long trip so soon after our 3 1/2 weeks in Italy this past fall. But also we saw the likelihood that if we didn't go at this point we might never do it. So we concluded - Let's do it.

Our original plan was to include Syria, Jordan and Greece. Then we began thinking about Uzbekistan. Samarkand, the old Silk Road, sounded kind of exotic. That would mean not going to the Middle East. But in the end we went back to Syria and Jordan, but not Greece, which would have jammed us into a timetable that was too compressed. (In a final reevaluation Jordan was also dropped in favor of more time in Syria.)

So the decision was made. And I went to work researching and contacting travel agents in Iran. Americans can get a visa for Iran, but are required to be in the country on a guided tour. The tour doesn't have to be large - 2 people are fine, but the arrangements must be made by a local agent.

From the beginning one travel agent, Let's Go Iran, most favorably impressed me. They responded quickly, paid attention to our preferences and interest in a slightly off-beat customized itinerary, were competitive in price, and seemed to have the right approach to customer service.

So yesterday I agreed to use them and we're moving forward. Our contact is someone named Parisa Evazi. From the tone of the emails I received I assume Parisa is a woman. Our last messages were particularly enjoyable. She asked if we wanted to include a camel ride. Cutting it would reduce the cost slightly. I suggested we bag the camels and commented, "I find camels pretty uncomfortable, don't you?"

She said: "Well, regarding camel riding idea. To be honest I am afraid of touching animals, so never never, even in my dreams try to test riding them."

We leave March 31.

I had more to say on March 19:

I wrote in January that we were organizing a trip to Iran and Syria. We're down to the final part of the process - visas.

Syria isn't particularly difficult, unless your passport shows you've been to Israel, in which case it's VERY difficult. I have a relatively new passport. No Israeli stamps.

For Americans to visit Iran we must have a local Iranian tour operator put together the trip and apply for a Visa Authorization Number. We made the application in early January, and for more than two months there was no sign we'd be approved.

Then just the other day we were authorized. That meant we could now send our passports and applications to Washington, which we did FedEx overnight, and actually get the visas. The only problem is that time is short. Norouz, the Persian New Year, begins tomorrow, so the Iranians (who are located in the Pakistani Embassy) won't be working. Nor will they work Monday. Our departure date is a week from Tuesday, the 31st.

I'm told by TDS, a visa facilitating company we're using, that we have enough time. We'll see. I don't trust foreign bureaucrats to move quickly. Check that. I don't trust any bureaucrat, foreign or domestic, to move quickly.

In the meantime there is nothing to do but make our final preparations and wait for the process to unfold. TDS knows they have to expedite things. They sound like they know what they're doing. And like I say, we'll see.

Telling people about this latest jaunt of ours elicits two reactions. First, "What?" Followed by, "Why?" Let's just say we like to visit places that are off the beaten track. For Americans at least, Iran and Syria qualify.

To be continued . . .

Finally, on March 30 I posted this blog:

The visas came through. Late, but not too late.

We leave tomorrow. Back on April 26.

I doubt I'll be adding to this blog while we're on our trip, but you never know.

Stay tuned.

As it turned out I didn’t post any blogs during our travels. However, I did take notes and we did take a lot of pictures, so now I’ll put it all together.

We landed at Tehran’s new Imam Khomeini International Airport a little before 2 in the morning. It had been 22 hours since we left home. I’m usually not sleepy after a long flight, but more just weary and a bit spaced out. It didn’t take long to clear immigration and customs. In fact, the Iranian officials on duty didn’t seem remotely interested in giving us a hard time. The visa that had taken so long to get was all that interested them.

The visa, by the way, is a thing of beauty. Look at your passport. You’ll find that most visas and entry authorizations are old-fashioned stamps that fit in one of the four little squares on each page of your passport. Not the visa for the Islamic Republic of Iran. It fills an entire page and is seriously high tech. It includes my picture, a hologram, and digital information. Very impressive.

Our arrival in Tehran gave Sandra her first chance to done the required "uniform" for women. Or, as it is euphemistically called, "modest dress." This means a headscarf and outer garments that are shapeless and fully cover the body. She wore them with good grace but definitely didn’t love them. It was interesting (and amusing) to watch women on the plane as we were preparing to land. In business class, where we were, we’d noticed that most of the Iranian women were well-dressed, fashionable and chic. They too put on their uniforms before the plane touched down. They retained their elegance, but now they were now appropriately dressed.

The airport is about 40 kilometers from the center of the city, so even in the middle of the night the ride into town takes a while. We were met by Kambiz Madanipour (Kami), who would be our guide in Tehran, and a driver. Kami is a cool guy. Tall, shaved head, 38 years old, bright (a little arrogant) and a good communicator. His personal story is a sad one. He is married and has a 2-year-old daughter. His wife has terminal cancer and is being cared for by her family, so Kami lives alone in Tehran. He sounds philosophical about his wife’s illness, but I think it is a cover to mask some feelings he doesn’t want to express publicly.

It’s always a little eerie to arrive in a new city when it’s dark and mostly closed down. You get brief glimpses of what it must be like in the daylight, but except for a few bright lights it’s mostly a mystery. Two things stood out on our ride to the hotel. First, along the main roads incongruous red, blue and green neon lights illuminated overpasses and other structures. Then, once we got into the city the driver used a series of empty narrow streets (I had the impression that maybe he was lost) to get to our hotel, the Ferdowsi. The route he followed wasn’t a problem; it just seemed to me that with light traffic the main roads would have made more sense. But then, what do I know about driving in Tehran? Ferdowsi, by the way, was a highly revered 10th Century Persian poet whose memory is honored on buildings, squares, and streets all over Iran.

We were very happy to be in a hotel, and the promise of a bed was very appealing. The receptionist said we’d have the Emperor Room, whatever that meant. It turns out the room was furnished in a faux-opulent style, with over-the-top bedspreads and drapes. I would have happily traded them for some counter space or cabinets in the bathroom, of which there were none. I think every room in the Ferdowsi is an Emperor’s Room. When we returned for an overnight stay at the end of our trip we had a different room with the same furnishings.

We slept reasonably well (it was close to 4 a.m. by the time we finally got into bed) and awoke on April 2 for our first full day in Iran. As it turns out, my itinerary planning was a bit flawed, since this was also the 13th and final day of Norouz, Persian New Year, a major national holiday called Seezdah Bedar. It is a day when traditionally families hang out together, usually out of doors, and everything is closed down. We didn’t want a heavy day of sightseeing anyway, but more a day to recover from our journey, which was fortuitous since we didn’t have much choice in the matter.

We had arranged with Kami to meet us at the hotel late morning, which he did. Even though they were closed, we could walk through the Golestan Palace/National Museum area to get a sense of what it is like. The Golestan is a monument that highlights the excesses of the Qajar Dynasty (1779-1925) in Iran. The Lonely Planet has this to say: “The Qajar Dynasty was a disaster for Iran, transforming 2,500 years of empire and influence into an international laughing stock in just a few decades.” Not spending time in the Palace was no great loss, although the Museum is said to be worth a visit. And then, because we’d expressed an interest in seeing the Tehran Bazaar, he took us to the also-closed Bazaar. It was deserted, so we could only imagine what it must be like on a normal business day.

The highlight of the day, and one of the highlights of the trip, would come in the afternoon. Kami had arranged for us to have lunch at the home of his friends, the Saei brothers. The older brother is a lawyer; the younger one is completing his studies in tourism management. They and their two sisters (who we did not meet) live with their mother in a nice apartment in West Tehran. Their father died not long ago.

We had read and been told that Iranians are very hospitable; that if one is invited to someone’s home for a meal it is an opportunity not to be missed. It’s all true. Their mother had prepared a feast, which we ate Persian style on a floor covered with gorgeous carpets. We must have had 12 dishes – rice, pickles, chicken, kebabs, yoghurt, vegetables, and more. Before and after lunch was served we were encouraged to eat fruit, nuts, cookies and other miscellaneous goodies and drink tea. It was impossible not to overeat. But given that this was our first real meal in Iran and everything was delicious we didn’t hold back.

Mrs. Saei is a lovely woman. While she is on the shy side and speaks no English she is a powerful presence in her home. We asked about the spices she’d used for our meal. In addition to describing them she put together a selection of spices for us to take as a gift. We traded gifts in both directions. We had brought chocolates and postcards from San Francisco, which they seemed to like.

Kami wanted to say his prayers after lunch. In fact, he wanted to say his prayers twice, since he’d missed one of the calls to prayers in the morning. We watched as he performed his ritual ablutions, washing different parts of his body in a prescribed sequence and manner. He did it in the kitchen. Given that the family has 3 refrigerators, a stove and other appliances, once all of us were in the room space was limited. When he had completed his ablutions we adjourned to the room in which we’d eaten and he said his prayers there. Sandra and I observed the process; the others went about their business.

We were scheduled to fly to Shiraz in the evening, so after our wonderful lunch we headed for the airport. We had time to spare and used it to stop at new shopping mall not far from the Saei apartment. It would be a chance to get a look at a modern Tehran bazaar. I was underwhelmed. It was large and unpretty. Granted, it had the requisite high-end shops, places to eat, and a play area for the kids, none of which interested me. It may be that my aversion to shopping and shoppers put a damper on any enthusiasm I might have generated for the mall itself, but my prejudices aside – I didn’t think it was very well done. However, Kami seemed to think it was impressive, so what do I know?

The old international terminal, Mehrabad, is now used for domestic flights. It is functional and without charm. Given the way our day had gone, we could have taken an earlier flight to Shiraz. At this point we were very tired and looked forward to getting settled into another hotel and another bed as soon as possible. Time passed slowly, but it did pass. Our plane was on time, the one-hour flight was uneventful, and we landed in Shiraz at about 10.

We were met by Mehdi Fatemi, who would be our guide for the next two weeks, and Mohsen, a driver. They took us to the Aryo Barzan Hotel, we agreed on a time to meet in the morning (not too early) and finally, thankfully, we could go to sleep.

Shiraz is a city with a big reputation. It is celebrated as the home of Persian culture. While Shiraz was settled as early as the Achaemenid Period beginning in 550 BC, it was at its peak from the 13th to early in the 16th Centuries. Shiraz is synonymous with art, education, poetry and enlightened rulers.

Shiraz was home to two of Persia’s most famous poets, Sa’di in the 13th Century and Hafez in the 14th Century. As a matter of fact, the first two places we visited on our first day in Shiraz were the tombs of Sa’di and Hafez. In retrospect, given the orientation of our guide, Mehdi, this is not surprising. Mehdi is enormously proud of his country’s heritage and is an avid advocate and promoter of things Persian. His mastery of Iran’s history is phenomenal. He has an encyclopedic knowledge at his fingertips and brings it to bear whenever it is called for (and sometimes when it isn’t called for.)

If there is a downside to having Mehdi as a guide it is that he cares so much about everything and wants so much to share all of it with those he is guiding, it can be overwhelming. This is less true for Sandra than me. I like to ‘be’ in places. I’m happy to be in the space and take it all in viscerally. Not Sandra. She needs to know everything about everything. The only person I know who is even close to being as curious and questioning as Sandra is her mother. A good example of the fruit not falling far from the tree. So with Mehdi, Sandra was like a pig in shit (no offense intended.) Her endless questioning generated endless answering.

For us Mehdi presented an academic personality and mostly a serious demeanor. He was friendly and attentive to our wants and needs, but he didn’t often remove his professional mask. He wanted everything to run smoothly; when something went wrong he was distraught. Once in a while he asked a question of us – say about the U.S. – but we were surprised that he didn’t have more curiosity in that regard. At 32, Mehdi had been a guide for four years. He seems happy with the job, likes traveling, and is certainly good at it.

He showed a different personality when interacting with our driver, who was Mohsen for the first two days and then a man named Mahyar Geramizadegan. We spent dozens of hours on the road. For almost all of those hours Mehdi would be in a non-stop conversation with the driver. An animated conversation, with a lot of back and forth and many laughs. So I’m sure that in his interactions with us we saw only a part of who Mehdi Fatemi is.

As far as what we saw and did during our 16 days in Iran, at one level it lives for me as a swirl of mosques and shrines and temples and old stones and gardens and hotels and restaurants. When I go back over each day’s events and use my notes and pictures as reminders to jog my memory, or ask Sandra for clarification, I can usually distinguish one place from another and remember details. And certainly there are some aspects of our trip that stand out as memorable, with or without notes and pictures. But it is easy to get lost in the mass of it all.

Having said that, we had a very busy April 3 in Shiraz. It was Friday, the Muslim world’s Sunday, so the stores were closed, but Mehdi wasn’t going to let that get in his/our way. We went to Sa’di’s tomb first. It dates from the 1860’s. Except for an underground fishpond and teahouse, which was crowded, the grounds were tranquil and attractive. Inscriptions of verses written by Sa’di are everywhere.

Just after we entered the main part of the tomb a man came up to Sandra and wanted something. At first we couldn’t figure out what was on his mind. Then it became clear. His wife, a traditionally dressed woman about 50, was standing a few feet away, and Sandra was being asked to go over and stand next to her so the husband could take a picture of the two of them. There was no verbal communication that we could understand, but Sandra was happy to comply. Once the picture was taken the two women shook hands and went their separate ways.

Shortly thereafter, a young man down in the fishpond area approached me and started a conversation. I began to respond, but didn’t get far before Mehdi interrupted and not-too-gently suggested that the young man move on. I didn’t object, even though I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I learned later that Mehdi was concerned that the man might have been an undercover policeman trying to lure me into a conversation. I think he was being overly cautious, but maybe I’m naïve. I had already decided to avoid commenting on Iranian political subjects. I was willing to offer my opinions about my own government, but not theirs. So in my view, no harm, no foul.

Throughout our time in Iran, and Syria too, we found that many people wanted to at least say “hello,” and ask where we were from. The interactions were fun and not substantive. Americans are not often seen in this part of the world, and when we told them we were Americans they seemed genuinely happy to see and meet us. After that first day at the fishpond Mehdi didn’t attempt to shoo the people away.

The Tomb of Hafez, placed here in 1773, is in a garden with pools. Hafez is a folk-hero in Iran, loved and revered and more famous than a rock star. For many people visiting Hafez’ tomb is a pilgrimage. I don’t think at the time we had a full appreciation of how important a person Hafez is in the day-to-day life of Persians.

Before and after lunch we visited two Shiraz gardens, the Afif Abad Garden and the Eram Garden. They were – fine. At the time I can’t say my interest level was very high, especially because the day was cold and rainy. We were to find that the weather in Iran in April was much colder than we had expected. On many occasions we wished we’d have packed some warmer clothes. Looking back at my pictures of the gardens I think I should have enjoyed them more. They are lovely.

I was also coping with an eye problem those first couple of days in Iran. On our flight to Frankfurt I’d left my contacts lenses in, even though I knew I’d be sleeping on the plane. By the time we reached Frankfurt my eyes were bothering me a lot, so I removed my lenses and changed to regular glasses. Good idea, bad result. With glasses I had terrible vision. Couldn’t read the signs in the airport. So I went back to contact lenses. I was able to see, but in the process I further traumatized my eyes.

For as long as I can remember I’ve flown with my lenses in. Somehow, this time it didn’t work, didn’t work at all. So in Tehran and then in Shiraz, to give my eyes a chance to recover I went back to glasses. I could see well enough to function, but as we made our way around Shiraz my eyes were a distraction.

When we set up our itinerary we chose to eat breakfast in our hotels and have our other meals in restaurants, where the food is generally better and less expensive. It was a wise decision. Mehdi would decide where we’d eat lunch and dinner. Not all the restaurants were wonderful, but I’d attribute that more to what’s available in Iran rather than to Mehdi’s culinary prowess. While we tried many new dishes and enjoyed some of them, if gourmet food is really important to you I wouldn’t recommend Iranian restaurants as the place to satisfy your gastronomic needs. There are many delicious Persian dishes, but most are available only in private homes.

I’m usually not hungry in the morning, but after a few days of sampling various breakfast buffets in our hotels, I settled on a breakfast that satisfied me. Eggs if they were available, a roll or bread of some sort, cucumbers, a slice or two of soft white cheese, yogurt, olives (sometimes), and fruit if it looked fresh and appealing. We had been led to believe that we’d have trouble finding coffee. In fact, I can only remember one breakfast where coffee was not available. Often it was Nescafe, not wonderful but acceptable. Sometimes it was freshly made and very good.

Our best lunches and dinners were often stews, khoresht, accompanied by white rice. The khoresht might be primarily eggplant or fish or meat. We were shocked at the volume of rice that was consumed at each meal. Both Mehdi and Mahyar seemed to have no problem finishing their huge mound of rice; we couldn’t begin to eat that much. The rice is steamed in a way that leaves it fluffy with separate grains, not sticky as in some parts of Asia.

We loved Tah-deeg, a golden rice crust created at the bottom of the pot. Tah-deeg can be plain or made by spreading lavash (Persian bread) or potatoes on the bottom of the pot. However it was made, I never met a Tah-deeg that I didn’t like.

We were also fond of Fesenjan, a casserole type dish with a sweet and tart sauce made from pomegranate and ground walnuts. Fesenjan is cooked with either chicken, duck, lamb or beef and, like other stews, is served with rice.

Mehdi suggested we try Tahchin, a special stew made with chicken or one of the other meats, but we found that it was hard to find a restaurant that served it. When we finally located Tahchin I wasn’t as fond of it as he was.

Another hard-to-find dish was Dizi. Eating Dizi is a two-part process. Part 1 is to strain the cooked solids (chickpeas, white beans, lamb, onions, tomatoes, limes and assorted spices) and then drink the broth that remains. Part 2 is to mash the solids into a paste and eat them separately. Dizi is traditionally cooked in stone pots. I thought Dizi was more interesting than delicious.

We had a dish (I don’t know the name) with eggplant and chunks of yogurt or cheese that was delicious. As we traveled from city to city I kept trying to find it again, alas without success.

What was always available was kebabs – chicken (usually too dry), lamb or beef (usually too tough) or minced (usually too bland but often the best of the evil assortment.) In more than one restaurant the only thing on the menu was kebabs. My previous experience with kebabs in India and the Middle East was invariably positive, so I was surprised that the Iranian version was invariably uninteresting.

Also, bread was always available. We had a variety of local breads – some very thin, some thicker, some oval, some round, some plain, some with different seeds or flavors. I’d say we enjoyed the bread in Iran but didn’t fall in love with it.

I liked Doogh, a yogurt drink that we called Lassi in India. I had it for the first time at our Tehran lunch at the Saei apartment, made freshly by Mrs. Saei. Later, I saw that bottled Doogh is easily available. Not surprisingly, it is bland and not nearly as tasty. Since alcoholic drinks are not allowed in Iran, water was our drink of choice with meals. We wondered how we’d do on a wine-free diet for 16 days. It was less onerous than I might have imagined. We most missed having a glass of wine in those free hours before dinner, when sitting around with a glass is a pleasant bridge between the day’s activities and dinner.

Mahyar loved to drink non-alcoholic beer. I’ve had non-alcoholic beer that is drinkable. This liquid (it has nothing to do with beer) is noxious. Almost all of it is flavored – a mango flavor, an apple flavor, a spice flavor – each more disgusting than the last. There is one that is made plain, no flavor, but it doesn’t help. Still disgusting. I had a couple of small sips during our travels. My opinion didn’t change.

Sandra has a sweet tooth. She can’t pass a pastry shop without stopping, at least to look. From time to time she’d graduate from looking to buying. Always, she’d buy more than she or we could eat. So over time we collected a stack of boxes, each holding one of the delicacies she couldn’t resist. They were usually too sweet for my taste. An exception was Gaz, Persian Nougat made from the sap of an exotic Persian plant and mixed with various ingredients including rose water, pistachio and almond bits, and saffron.

One day we had Faludeh, a sort of frozen sorbet made from thin starch noodles and rose water. It came in a little cup with a spoon. I ate mine quickly. We were walking around and Sandra wanted to eat hers slowly to lengthen the savoring process. She didn’t realize that it would melt, so she was left with half a cup of milky fluid that didn’t resemble Faludeh.

Ah, but I digress. Back to our first day in Shiraz. We ate lunch at Soofie, a large and very well done restaurant. Like many restaurants we were to see, Soofie was artistically pleasing, with mosaics, stained glass, pictures and metal and glass artifacts of all kinds. In addition, a small fountain added to the atmosphere. The food was pretty good – rice and small meatballs + rice and fish.

Our main event in the afternoon was a visit to the Ali Ebn-e-Hamze Tomb and Shrine. We learned that these shrines, some of which are quite extravagant, are places where believers come to be blessed by being in at least the psychic presence of a holy person. They may want help in having a wish or prayer answered. They may want to give thanks. They may want to express their grief. Shrines are places where people can express their emotions.

I don’t know why this man Hamze is celebrated. As the nephew of the 7th Shiite Imam he seems an obscure figure to us. But whatever the reason, this shrine is quite extraordinary. Inside is a large green-tinted space with walls covered by dazzling mirror work and stained glass windows. I didn’t know whether to be impressed or put off by the garishness of it all.

From the shrine we went to the Old Gate of Shiraz, called the Qur-an Gate, because when it was built in the 10th Century it housed two old copies of the Koran. Travelers passing through the gate were thought to have received blessings from the Holy Book. We climbed up a hill overlooking the Gate to a nearly abandoned outdoor tea pavilion. Remember, it was rainy and cold. We sat inside one of the tent-like structures, partially open and partially covered and, appropriately, had a cup of tea. Then it was back to the hotel for a well-earned rest.

We ate dinner at the Palm Garden, another large restaurant. From the street we walked along a pathway through a garden filled with private cabanas for small groups, most of which were empty. In the back was the main dining area for larger groups and people like us, also mostly empty. The kebabs were lousy. The live traditional music was very enjoyable.

And with the end of Day 1 I'll conclude Part 1. More to come soon . . .


Blogger JIM said...

Thanks Dan, your travelogues are always interesting and a lot more 'in depth' than what one might expect over dinner. I should learn from you in this regard, I forget most of my travels over time. Yours live forever.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Maryam said...

thank you Dan, I stumbled across your blog just today googling bavanat's tourist village. and i enjoyed your travel log quite a lot. I hope more people get a chance to visit my beautiful homeland "Iran" and enjoy their visit. Thank you for taking the time and writing such detailed description.


8:10 AM  

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