TUESDAY 25 JUNE – We woke up late and walked to the square where we’d planned to do a walking tour of the bazaar and then head for a mosque. We definitely wanted to spend today by ourselves, so we could do a bit of sightseeing. Just as we were heading for lunch a guy approached us. We were a little reluctant and we explained we were going for lunch but he insisted that he should take us somewhere he knew of.
So we followed his lead while engaging in the usual small talk until we got to a traditional restaurant packed with locals. He recommended some dishes which turned out to be the best food we had eaten in Iran. Though as time passed his mood got increasingly weird, he started whispering very quietly, scowling around the room at other diners and repeatedly telling stories of foreigners being arrested. At one point he started to talk about how it was a sad day for him and even started to cry before he broke out into some rant about “seeing the revolution”. We were becoming increasingly uncomfortable, and so when he mentioned wanting to take us to a famous landmark afterwards we were not so keen, we nodded anyway just to try and keep him calm. Though when he left to order some tea, we agreed we should not get in any taxi with him and we would make an excuse and leave.
We insisted we walk to the mosque, I was worried we wouldn’t be rid of him and the only thing I could think of was to fake an illness. An instant migraine and some bad acting on my part came and we were able to ditch him to head back to the “hotel”.
Once out of sight we carried on with our day of looking around the city while talking about the scary guy, as we walk a little kid is hanging out of a car window and just said with the cutest dimpled smile ‘Salem’ and gave a little wave and immediately we fall in love with Iran all over again. Just moments later two old chaps pull us into their fast food joint, very cheerily chat to us and we bought some water from them. Paul has his picture taken and we continue on, laughing at what just happened which immediately lifted our mood after the unfortunate encounter earlier.
The heat of the day meant that we were actually resting more than walking but Esfahan is the perfect place to do this as there are many beautiful parks lining the river. The Iranian picnickers are always out in force too which makes for some entertainment.
We again went to meet Ahmed. This time he took us to a fancy cafe in Jolfa, where they’d ripped of the brand ‘Hermes’ but ripped it off stylishly rather than a bad imitation. He made sure we were sat suitable i.e. in-between two tables of beautiful girls. Then tells us of the Iranian girl who came round his house the day before. The menu was western, we’ve come to learn Iranians have penchant for Fast Food and bad European food. The food wasn’t great but it was the first coffee we’d had in a while, not sure why they prefer this food over flavoursome local dishes. Whilst we were eating Ahmed spotted two girls walking past the window who were his friends. They joined us but didn’t speak English so Ahmed acted as translator, we were the main talking point and I’m pretty sure he only translated what he wanted. He kept telling us how much he liked one of them except she had a boyfriend. During the conversation the girls ‘accidentally’ dropped their all ready barley-there- scarves and I was again asked about the headscarf I was wearing and why it was black – the wrapped up ET look not popular Iran apparently. The girls here are incredibly glamorous, well groomed and personify Persian beauty. Ahmed rates girls from different countries and the amount they shower and states Iranian girls ‘Shower too much’. The girls were really nice [even though we couldn’t understand them] and he tried to organize a gathering at his house for the following evening.
We learn he is stuck in Iran as he brought property with his savings then the Rial lost all its value so he can’t sell until the situation improves.
We then headed to a fancy hotel for ice-cream in a huge courtyard for more girl spotting/gathering for the party he was trying to organize. He was very entertaining, blatantly trying to catch the attention of girls sat with their boyfriends/husbands, he even tried it on with a 50 something German lady but to no avail with all of them, still amusing to watch. His failures definitely didn’t deter him either. We say goodnight and arrange to meet him again tomorrow.
WEDNSDAY 26 JUNE – We eventually got to see the Jameh mosque after our failed attempt yesterday. It was beautiful with all the blue tiles and brick archways, on-route to meeting Ahmed we unexpectedly came across a palace in the middle of another huge park.
We once again headed to Jolfa, this time to see the Armenian church. The church was fascinating, and painted floor to ceiling with scenes from the bible. Rather disturbing when you see how much torture and suffering is depicted in the images. As fascinating as that was, the more intriguing aspect of the church for me was the museum that was attached. We learnt about the Turkish genocide of the Armenians which we’d never heard of before in our lives, maybe because it has been hushed by the Turkish for many years and something which we certainly didn’t study in history lessons. The images on display are way more gruesome and disturbing than those images almost everyone is familiar with from the Nazi concentration camps. They showed service men proudly stood next to human heads that had been decapitated and stacked in a pile or speared on sticks and mounted in the ground – this is definitely something I’d like to read more up on.
We again met Ahmed for lunch and then went on a girl hunt this time through the park which was again unsuccessful so a decision was made that we wouldn’t have a party. We went back to the hotel and then once again we met with him in the evening for soup.
Another fancy cafe later and this time he was successful at gaining some company of girls, one of which had a boyfriend. Another insight into the modern Iranian culture ensued. The girls greeted the boyfriend very formally by standing and shaking his hand, yet they were very liberal in other aspects of their life. They quickly become friends which is common when meeting strangers, they challenged us to question them about anything but we were keen to avoid any awkward ones so just stuck with the usual – how many brothers/sisters do you have? What do you study? Etc.
We stayed until around midnight with the girls and then said goodbye to Ahmed for the last time and headed back to the hotel.