Well, no. It wasn’t. There was so, so much more. I have friends and relatives (you know who you are) that are fed up of hearing about Iran and what a great time we had. But equally, there are a few that remain interested to the point of considering a trip themselves…
And so I carry on….
Mohsen and Hugo got on really well from the off. I suspect partly because Mohsen had bought Hugo a little blue truck. This type of truck you see everywhere in Iran, along with the Paykan (meaning ‘arrow’) – the national car. Every now and again would flag down a random blue Paykan so Hugo could sit in it, climb in the back, or have a ride in it. It was not uncommon that we’d all be invited to pile in and get a lift through the alleyways – me in the passenger seat, Hugo and Mohsen standing up in the flatbed, holding on and looking over the cab. He also flagged down already-overloaded (in my view…) motorcycles for a quick ride up the street or back to the hotel ‘see you back there’ echoing down the street as he and Hugo sped off on a Chinese Hanway 125 down the alleyways… And Hugo was in 7th heaven!
There were so many experiences, so much of interest, so much to learn, and so many laughs. It was a trip that both surprised and inspired me. Surprised because I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d fall in love with it, and inspired me to start learning more about its history – both ancient and modern.
Hugo also loves a good spin round and throw in the air. Mohsen suggested that we should make a video of them spinning in all the famous sights of Iran… OK… So we set about spinning all over the place… Hugo loved it, and even I overcame my hesitance at some of the places they started to spin (tombs of national poets? Really? We won’t get arrested??). In Kashan, Mohsen kicked off a session in a Mosque and madrasa (religious school) by doing a few cartwheels and borderline parkour-esque moves around the courtyard. He picked Hugo up for the video spin and, with the encouragement of some men who’d come to pray laughing at the – I assume unlikely – spectacle, I couldn’t help but join in and abandon my worries. I mean seriously. Cartwheeling in a mosque. I would never have thought of it let alone dared do it…. Imagine doing parkour in Westminster Abbey!!
“Can you drive?” Mohsen asked me one day;
“Ok, let’s swap”
“Errr…” And two minutes later I was in the driving seat. Cruising down the highway towards Isfahan, Pink Floyd blaring from the stereo. Passing the huge blocks of gypsum being transported on flatbeds, beeping at blue trucks so Hugo could wave his toy truck at them. Enjoying the great quality roads that encourage you to break the speed limit, despite the frequent speed cameras. Then we came to a police checkpoint by a toll point. “Uhh,,, we should swap back” I said, nervously. “It’ll be fine” Mohsen told me. “Just pay the toll and say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ like I taught you”. Of course it was fine. Nobody batted an eyelid – at least to our faces – at this western woman with her 3 words of Farsi driving her child and an Iranian man (both in the back seat) through the checkpoint. But my body couldn’t help but feel I’d narrowly avoided having a heart attack.
Before we get carried away though, let’s not forget that Hugo also had a go at driving while we were in Iran… He had a little warm up on the highway after a lunch stop, but He really got going when we went off-road in the desert…. Mohsen told him which way to steer and he was off! Getting enough speed up to slide the back out on the sand…. That was kid heaven!
We were both swapped out and back in our seats before we hit the city though. Isfahan felt even more chaotic than Tehran had been. And distinctly less polite. The beeping – which had been plentiful, but reasonable, in Tehran – soon became incessant and annoying. It was a pleasure when we arrived in Shiraz a week later and we learned of their special rule. The “no beeping at out-of-towners” rule (you can tell the car’s origin from the number plate) – a campaign started by Shirazians on social media to make their city more friendly and welcoming to visitors. And it really works. Although we hadn’t experienced road-rage on anything like a European scale, traffic seemed much less hectic than anywhere else we’d been.
Shiraz was the physical end of the road for us. As I said in one of my previous posts (https://peregrinology.com/51-iran-whats-it-like/), we are indebted to our guide, Mohsen. I am fully aware of how much of our experience we owe to him. For that; for showing us something different, for sharing his beautiful country with us, we will be forever grateful to him.
When we talked about countries, with Iran in mind, he said ‘I’ll never leave. For holidays, sure, I love to travel, but why would l want to leave? I mean, look at it. It’s beautiful” and I was really blown away by his absolute love for his country, and rightly so… he is spot on: it is beautiful. I can’t think of a better tour guide than one who feels so much love for the country they’re guiding in.