A Persian Birthday, getting lost in Allamut and a final farewell to Iran

The 3 hour taxi ride to Allamut was a sweaty one which wasn’t helped by my chronic french complainers. There was a heated discussion going on for the duration of the ride about 1 euro. The taxi man ‘overcharged’ us. Jesus, if I ever turn into that person please slap me on the face. This couple are backpacking for one year  so they have lots of rip off taxis rides to look forward too. I wonder will they ever survive?

When we arrive we were greeted by a friendly muleh who ‘attempted’ to help us. I thought Allamut was going to be v touristy and straight forward to navigate.  Like everything else in Iran it was not…… We arrived into a gorgeous little village called Garmarud. This is where the lonely planet recommend staying but it was as if the place had never seen a tourist. There was a spectacle of attempts of communicating in a mix of french, farsi and english. We weren’t getting very far and all we could grasp was the people warning us about the dangers of bears in Allamut and that we could not go alone.

Muleh and Frenchie; each more confused than the other
Really easy to nagivate especially when Iran has its own alphabet!!!!

At least the frenchies were on the same buzz as me and didn’t want to take a tour so we decided to brave the valley and prayed the bears would keep their distance. I completely underestimated the Allamut and had no idea of how vast it was and that  buses/taxis and hitch hiking were absolutely necessary unless you had a couple of weeks to trek.

Views from the bus en route to Piche Bon
Trying to find the ‘track’ in Allamut

We luckily found the one and only local bus to bring us to a village on top of the mountains called Piche Bon. Frenchies were bulling they had to pay 50c for the scenic ride (we got charged extra because our bags were so big so that went down v well!!).  We arrived to snow capped mountains and the greenest fields. It was glorious and for a few minutes even frenchies appreciated the scenes.

Frenchie stocking up on fresh mint and chives for the dinner later that night

We trekked for a couple of hours in search of a waterfall and more importantly water!! We were painfully lost but after some more heated discussions we eventually found our way.

Cooling down at this hidden gem of  a waterfall
Stunning colours in the Allamut Valley

The following day was my birthday so I was v excited to camp in one of the most remote parts of valley. I left the frenchies to navigate and fight amongst themselves. I kept a peaceful distance from them. After reaching/bathing in the waterfall we tried to find a ‘track’ to reach some kind of a campable place. What we found was so much better;  a nomadic bee keeper who invited us into his tent for chai and freshly picked cherries.

Getting lost in the glorious Allamut Valley

This man lived in the mountains with his adorable dog Gorgy. He had bee hives, a well, chickens and was completely self sufficient, he even churned his own butter. Even though we could barely speak to one another I instantly liked him. Frenchies on the other hand were not so keen and with light closing in said they wanted to find camp elsewhere. The bee keeper was so kind and  you could tell he was delighted to see people in these remote parts of the mountain. I happily pitched my tent and the frenchies begrudgingly did the same. If anyone was in danger it was me…. the grumpy pair  had each other…..

Sunset massages with Gorgy the legendary dog
The gang at breakie

I slept like a baby and woke up and spent the early hours of my birthday eating honey fresh from the comb and talking jibberish to the kind man. Frenchies inevitably warmed to him and realised he wasn’t dangerous. They requested to buy some honey off the man. It was amazing we saw him pick the honey  straight from the bee hives with his bare hands!!! It was extremely awkward when the scabby French refused to pay afterwards as it was too expensive for their budget. A rule of thumb especially in Iran always ask for the price first especially before the man has to put his bare hands into a bee hive. He took it so well in fairness to him and we said our good byes. It was a memorable experience and I couldn’t have asked for a more special birthday.

Using his bare hands to collect the honey
Honey the way it should be eaten
Weighing the honey the traditional way

We started to make our way down the valley as we wanted to check out Allamut Castle and the surrounding canyons. We once again had issues with negotiating taxi prices, with the Frenchies not willing to budge it was not the easiest gig. In fairness to the locals there are hardly any tourists here and they live in the mountains so business is v hard to come by so if they rip us off a little I think it’s totally understandable.

Once we arrived at Allamut castle after a grueling up hill climb (with backpack) I was fit to collapse and decided I wasn’t able to make it to the top. I minded Frenchie’s backpacks while they climbed. I was secretly delira to have a break from the complaining pair. I found a bar of chocolate that had burst/melted in my bag from the heat. I chilled underneath a cherry tree and ate chocolate covered cherries and drank chai from a local old woman while waiting for the duo. I washed my feet in a small waterfall and had some shut eye. It was bliss.

Happy as a pig in shit

The Frenchies arrived back (more) pissed off because the castle was covered in scaffolding and they still had to pay the entrance fee!!! I was chuffed with my smart decision.

We hitchhiked to a nearby canyon where the drive was almost more spectacular as we witnessed it during golden hour. We were laiden down with kg’s of fresh cherries that we picked off the side of the street so that was dinner sorted (they are famous in this area). It really doesn’t get much better than that. The lake was stunning and surrounded by mountains I found the perfect spot to camp. While on the search for water I bumped into a giggling Iranian family who fed me with watermelon and chai.

Allamut’s Canyon
Lovely golden hour

The view from my tent was stunning all that was missing was a glass of bubbles to celebrate by 27th birthday. Last year I celebrated with Nils in Colombia so I definitely missed him but am excited to see what my 28th will hold.

Tent views on my birthday
Camping here was pretty spectacular. Lake Oven, Allamut Valley
The colours of the lake were so stunning

The next morning we did a trek to try to get back onto the main road.  The Frenchie’s arguing really escalated here as one wanted to walk via a river and the other via a mountain. I really didn’t give a rats which way I went as long as it meant I got back to the city.

Ovan Lake, Allamut
Stumbling across cute graveyards on the way

While the frenchies were in heated discussions I managed to flag down a van transporting chemicals? he said he would take us to  Qazvin for 2 dollars an absolute steal. The only hitch he would only take 2 people. He recruited a mate to take the Frenchies  who refused to split up so I was forced to go alone in the chemical van. The driver had no teeth not that that’s relevant but it certainly added to my discomfort. My lad turned out to be harmless and fed me with tea and seeds for the journey until we broke down…….

After a long and tedious ride I got back to the city of  Qazvin. I went back to Maryam’s luxury apartment looking significantly more violent than before. I was fed and watered with my fav saffron ice cream and watermelon while prep was fully underway for my birthday party. She informed me her husband Peyman took the afternoon off work so that he would be able to make me a birthday cake!! All of Peyman’s family came to the party and even brought me gifts!! I had only known this family for one day. Kindness beyond belief and I cannot thank them enough for the most memorable night.

A Man making a cake for you in Iran= Progress! Peyman thank you so much it was hosh masay!
Birthday dinner cooked by the amazing Maryam
My amazing couch surfing family in Qazvin with my new pink stripy trousers present

It was so unique also learning about life of Iran through the perspective of teenagers and how much they hate wearing the hijab. It must make it so much harder for them as they can see through through social media what their western counterparts are entitled to do. Maryam’s children even treated to me to live traditional music which was outstanding. I was given a much needed birthday present of brand new clothes. I am now the proud new owner of  a man’s shirt and a pink hijab. Feel like a new woman. The  children informed me my current outfits wouldn’t be appropriate for the glam capital of Tehran.

The next morning I set off early to make my way back to Tehran where I was spending my last two days in the suburbs with Sarah and Ali  my first couch surfing hosts of Iran. It was amazing meeting Sarah’s family and once again I continue to learn about the long list of rules in Iran. It is not allowed for conservative men to shake a women’s  hands, a rule I have been continuously breaking.  I had a hilarious encounter with her cute family especially her hilarious Uncle. They almost kidnapped me so that I would stay for dinner  it seems like they are all in competition to impress you.

Saffron Ice Cream= Reason enough to go to Iran
Meeting Sarah’s gorgeous family

After our  escape we made our way back to Sarah’s cousins house for Persian Party number 2. This was a special one as I was treated to a cooking lesson on how to make one of Iran’s most iconic dishes Dolme, this is labour intensive and only made for special occasions. It involves stuffing the vine leaves from grape with infused saffron rice and meat and dried fruit and wrapping them and steaming them in pomegranate juice. It is eaten with salad shiraz. A show stopper of a dish. Thank you Fatima for all of your time and effort.

Dolme the most amazing Iranian dish
The birthday crew
It wouldn’t be an Iranian party without a Shisha and child in hand (simultaneously)

The night was concluded with some perisan music, cake, red wine and even an irish dancing lesson. The next morning after a delicious breakfast spread this is where the fun commenced.  I  experienced an Iranian waxing treatment. It turned into a family affair with screaming children coming in/out during the horror scenes. A painful but necessary experience.

After a bowl of saffron ice cream to cool/calm me down we were en route back to Tehran for me to catch my flight back to Amsterdam. En route to the airport we made a pit stop to a house party. When I hear the words house and party in Iran I just imagine sipping on chai but this was actually a rave with electronic music. I certainly wasn’t dressed for the occasion. Incredible seeing an illegal Iranian party in full swing. Everyone who enters the door is greeted with a standing ovation. Sarah says its a sign of respect for everyone who has given up their time to come. The host also provides snacks of fresh fruit,vegetables, sweets and (non alcoholic beverages) even though I did see a little wine and whiskey floating. As I thought the party was coming to an ended I saw multiple chickens being bbq’ed for a full spread. Unbelievable hosting skills. We escaped as the Persian cake dancing with the knife was in full swing and Ali and Sarah brought me to the airport. We said our sad goodbyes. 0807-2019-112035219627500462843.jpeg

Couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. Thanks Ali and Sarah for making it so special for me

Iran has blown me away in every possible way.  It hasn’t always been the easiest country to travel in as a solo female but the kind people, the culture, the food and the insane scenery has completely compensated for that. This country 40 years ago before the revolution would have been completely different with alcohol, bars, clubs being illegal also it was not compulsory for women to wear a hijab. So Iran today for its people is completely different and more difficult for them to live in a country full of rules. That being said do not let it deter you the people will always greet you with a smile and a sense of intrigue as to why come to Iran?

On my brief encounter with this woman she managed to communicate to me that he invites the whole country of Ireland to Iran and she will cook for them! What are you all waiting for?

I hope I have inspired at least one person to book that scary flight. Get yourself a hijab, an extra stomach, a few rials, a bit of farsi (it might save your life) and get ready for the trip of a life time.

Next Stop??? PAKISTAN













Road Tripping across from the Azerbaijain Boarder

I started off the week travelling further North to a place called Jolfa.  I had read that the scenery in this part of Iran was not to be missed. This place is really interesting as it boarders Azerbaijan.  It rarely sees tourists and because of the boarder there is no public transport and I was warned about hitch hiking and taking photos as the area is known to be quite dangerous. I took a quick detour to visit a monastery up in the mountains. I spent longer than expected up here partly because it was seriously stunning but secondly because we found a wild mulberry tree so we stocked up on the most delicious fruit.

San Stefanos Church, Jolfa
The UNESCO World Heritage Site; San Stefano
Scenery en route to Jolfa


The drive from Jolfa to Kalybar passes through the Aras River and is a sight for sore eyes. Simply stunning. Myself and Hussain (my driver) immediately hit it off which was lucky as I spent 8 hours with him. We took regular pit stops during the day for ice cream, kebabs and some more mulberry picking.

On the other side of the river is Azerbaijan. We could see it for the entire 6 hour journey from Jolfa to Kalybar
My driver insisted on making chai during this windy cliff side drive. Really Safe
The drive is so diverse we even saw  rice fields
This couple invited use in to eat some Mulberries from their garden
The mulberry picking gang
She told me she was too self conscious to get her photo taken. I think she is gorgeous
Who needs teeth anyway
Hussain, my kind driver

The 6 hour drive featured insane scenery from start to finish.  We eventually made our end destination to Kalybar a small little village perched in the mountains. I got collected by Babak my couch surfing host who lived in the most idyllic house on the side of a mountain.  They too had walnut, mulberry, cherry and apricot trees. They made alcohol out of drying mulberries in the sun which is a v common custom over here. His family owned a bakery and ice cream shop so I questioned would I ever be able to leave this quaint little village. The main attraction in Kalybar is a trek to the top of the mountain to view the famous Babak Castle.

En route to Babak Castle
My couch surfing host Babak on the way to the castle
There is still one  man living at Babak Castle and he uses this Donkey as his means of transport to get food from the village
Climbing to the top of Babak Castle in Kalybar

On my first evening I was invited for dinner with Babak’s family. I was instantly greeted with kisses and hugs and pure joy from his mother. Again despite the language barrier we immediately hit it off and I was treated to the most stunning array of  Iranian food. That night I opted to sleep outside on the garden terrace in due to its perfect climate. Despite the frogs and ants it was idyllic.

Kofta Tabriz eaten with Lavish and all the Iranian trimmings in Kalybar
Up there with one of my favourite spots in Iran

After Kalybar, I wanted to check out the Caspian sea craving a swim. I ended up doing couch surfing with the intense Mohammad. As a rule I have only been couch surfing with girls or families but on this occasion his reviews were excellent so I gave him a chance. I arrived into steaming Ramsar in the middle of the night and Mohammad kindly collected me in a taxi

Saying goodbye to cool Kalybar and hello to hot Ramsar
Freshly baked barbary bread in Ramsar
This bread is made daily and it the best when eaten hot out of the oven

The next day we went swimming in the Caspian sea which is surrounded by the jungle a little bit similar to Tyrona in Colombia. It is such a shame it has such potential to be beautiful but in reality is was very dirty. It was a sad sight seeing all the men swimming in the sea and the women just watching from the shore. I inquired was I allowed to swim and was told yes but that I must go in all of my clothes. I didn’t even have to consider this and was in like a light bulb (this shocked Mohammad). After a while there was a guard screaming at me frantically I was worried as I had lost my hijab in the sea and was afraid there could be some problems. In fact he was warning us that swimming in this area is really dangerous due to water holes and that sadly three people died there only last week. We made a quick and lucky exit. It was only then I figured Mohammad was a funny fish (to be fair to Iran there haven’t been many compared to SA). He really wanted to brush my hair, massage my fingers and take my photo so I knew I wouldn’t be hanging out with his chap too long…..

I made an escape and decided to go camping in a cool village in the mountains called Javardeh. The weather up here was cool, cloudy and all in all pretty perfect. I instantly befriended a family who fed me with fresh chicken kebabs. It is a really authentic village experience with lots of families venturing up the mountain to escape the heat. But, there is absolutely nothing to do up here except eat and I was a little skeptical about camping as I would have been completely alone. I opted to hitch hike off the mountain with a kind couple and make my way to the big city of Qasvin.

It’s all about the people! This family invited me to have lunch with them
A family affair of making chicken kebabs (love how they use flatbread as heat protection)
The gang mid munch (look how cute the older woman is)
The shopping scene at Javaredeh

Back in Ramsar I bonded with a few men over some Islamic beer and sesame seeds. We eventually shared a taxi to Qazvin. This city is generally used as a good base to go explore the Allamut Valley. At this stage I was looking disheveled, rough and dirty and my couchsurfing hosts happened to be living in a luxury apartment in Qazvin so I definitely was not their typical clientele.

Proud as punch of her freshly baked barbary done on the side of the street (Javardeh)
The competitor in the Iranian bread market= Lavash. This is a lot thinner and used mainly for kebabs as it soaks up all of the meat juices perfectly

I was greeted by the gorgeous couple Maryam and Peyman who treated me like  a queen. The next day after an incredible breakie spread I went exploring and shopping with the glamorous Maryam.  A large majority of the day was spent browsing for diamonds and teapots (anyone looking for real diamonds come to Iran they are ridiculously cheap!!!). We tasted the local sweet delicacy of baklava flavoured with pistachio and saffron a divine combination. This is excellent with a coffee.

Baclava Qazvin style; this stuff is sooo good
Shopping here= Amazing

In the afternoon we cooled down with some saffron ice cream, this is the best I’ve tasted so far which had frozen chunks of cream mixed through it. I even got to crash a movie at an Iranian cinema. Interestingly, in Iran they are only allowed to display Iranian movies in the cinema, Western ones are strictly forbidden. I was also treated to the  famous  dish of Qazvin;  Gheymeh Nesar. It contains rice with meat, saffron, barberries, orange zest with almonds and pistachios. I forgot to take a picture it was that delish.

Next on the agenda was a 3 day trek to the Allamut Valley for my birthday with a French couple I met in Tabriz. Maryam equipped me with some home made saffron juice, and lots of delish snacks so I was good to go. As expected  the Frenchies were an hour late  but I’ve learned not to sweat the big stuff and I was just so delira to eventually find  some travel buddies for the up coming adventure (generally speaking tourists have been non-existent here)


My Favourite Place in Iran; Tabriz

Next on the agenda was the glorious city of Shiraz. Another night bus was unfortunately on the cards, desperate to save on time. I am overwhelmed with Iran and what it has to offer. 1 month is simply not enough. My couchsuring in Shiraz lived near the ancient city of Persepolis so I was told to get off in a random town (I didn’t read the fine print when they said they lived 60 km outside of the city centre). Getting off early on a bus always causes extreme confusion and generally results in the entire bus getting involved. They  love the drama.

The ancient city of Persepolis

Out of the blue I was thrown out on a motor way in the middle of the night so not great. There wasn’t a sinner in sight except one small Iranian man looking equally confused, but he had a car which was hopeful. I needed to travel a further 12 km to make it to the house and there wasn’t a sniff of a taxi. I managed to figure out that he was waiting on a bag of flour (?) and once it arrived he would happily bring me to my destination.  We exchanged some stale food with one another and he seemed more than content with the gesture. Eventually the human sized bags of flour arrived and we were en route. To my dismay after only 5 minutes I found myself once again dumped on the side of the street.  The pits….

Not  a taxi in sight so I starting hitch hiking. I am really conscious that hitchhiking isn’t exactly the done thing over here. It is also further complicated when you put out your finger. The standard hitchhiking finger in Iran actually means ‘fuck off’ so not ideal (I only found this out afterwards, hindsight is a wonderful thing). Every day I am learning new rules in this country.  Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long  until a lovely chap bundled me into his car and away we went.  I paid him with fresh dates. Google maps dropped me off at a random house and after a few wrong knock on the doors and several invitations for chai I eventually found Najme and her family home. I collapsed onto the floor and the pair of us slept for 3 blissful hours.

I was treated to a divine breakfast spread of  flat breads, cream, sesame seed puree (AMAZING),  honey and cheese. Najme’s mother and father hadn’t a word of English but I instantly liked them, sometimes you can just tell. They couldn’t have done enough for me.  Once again, I know I must sound like a broken record but the we could all learn a thing or two about Iranian hospitality. Difficult to describe the kindness of these people who are living in a county with extremely difficult circumstances. They happily welcome privileged foreign strangers into their homes.

Cream, honey and hot flatbread= heavenly

Naijme explained that her family were extremely traditional and that their biggest hobby was eating so I was warned. This is a common theme in Iran. I am a massive foodie and can put away a serious amount of grub but even I cannot keep up with the Iranians.  The minute breakie is finished lunch prep is in full swing and they are constantly worried you are hungry.

Rice for one

First on the itinerary was a trip to the historical place of Persepolis. The ruins are now a World Heritage Site. At one of the tombs we met a bunch of giddy Iranian men who were celebrating the first day of their holiday. They were extremely merry and I soon found out why. They were nursing a bottle of Arak. Arak is a horribly strong liquor made of aniseed and grape. It was almost at boiling point from the sun. Obviously intrigued by it and also the fact all alcohol is illegal in Iran I happily sampled the stuff. They informed me of how they sneak the drink in especially to historic sites they pretend it’s water easy! Lots of Iranians make their own alcohol it’s far cheaper than buying it on the black market.

Stunning tombs at Perspolis
Boozing in Perspolis; definitely wasn’t expecting this
Pretending we were freezing in Persepolis; in fact I think this is the hottest I have ever been in my life. It was almost 50 degrees!!!!!!!

After the trip we came back to Najme’s family home for more shut eye and one of my best Iranian feeds to date. Her mother is constantly cooking with some of the dishes taking up to 5 hours to make. We were treated to the sensational salad shiraz (typical to this area), Kalam Pollo (saffron infused chicken).

Preparations were in full swing for Mai hak’s 2nd birthday (Naijme’s adorable niece). The family invited myself and another Ukrainian couch surfer, Basil to the party  which was in their holiday home near the mountains . Because bars, discos and clubs are all illegal in Iran there is a massive emphasis on family gatherings and celebrations in their homes it is one of their cultural practices that I love. This was no exception and they pulled out all of the stops.

Cutest overload with this beautiful little girl

A hilarious Iranian tradition is where before cutting the cake the family dance Persian with the knife and the knife is passed on for ages until eventually it is cut. This hilarious ritual could go on for ages before anyone gets a sniff of cake.

Persian Party Style
Another legendary Iranian Family
The benefits of only drinking chai? Non existant hangovers!

That night myself and most of the family decided to sleep outside. Their garden was also full of apricot, peach, walnut, apple, cherry and pomegranate trees.The following morning the Granny was in the height of preparing a breakfast spread on par with the dinner productions. She was adement we stay for lunch but not able to budge I declined the tempting offer and myself, Basil and Najme made our way back to Shiraz city to check it out.

Hafed’s Tomb in Shiraz. Exploring by night to avoid the blistering heat.

The next day we camped out in Naijme’s mates house eating sugary confections and copious amounts  of tea.  During my time in Shiraz I visited the in famous Pink Mosque (Masjed-e-Nasir-al-Molk). It is one of Iran’s most iconic Mosques. It was constructed in a way that when the sun rises the entire room reflects pink through the stain glass. Unfortunately the light is at its strongest during Winter and Spring so I didn’t see it at its full potential.  It was stunning nonetheless (until the hoards of Chinese erupted with their selfie sticks).

Catching a peaceful moment before the tours arrive
The stunning Pink Mosque in one of the most famous in Iran
Morning light through the stain glass
There is a constant pink hue to the room caused by the stain glass

Next on the agenda was a much-needed cup of coffee. I be friended a Dutch tourist (generally speaking I haven’t seen any tourists). I was adopted by his couch surfer host who showed the pair of us around for the day. It’s a stunning city with an equally stunning bazaar.

Don’t even know the name of this place but loved it
The courtyard at the Pink Mosque
Court yards in Shiraz
Somewhere beautiful in Shiraz

I cooled off in the afternoon with some faloodeh shirazi. This is a much try dish while in Shiraz where it originates. I was v disappointed as it’s actually rotten but the Iranians are obsessed with it. Its noodles frozen in a sugar syrup served with lemon juice. I gave it to a homeless man.

Morning light at the Pink Mosque
Iranian Rooftop tiles

That evening for sunset myself and Naijme went to visit lake Maharloo. This is a Pink Salt Lake. Strangely depending on when you visit it isn’t always pink but we were in luck. We practically had it to ourselves. The intensity of pink is strongest at sunrise and sunset (it’s not too dissimilar to Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia except it’s pink and empty!!).

The amazing pink salt lake
The stunning Naijme rocking her hijab and hairy eyes!
This place didn’t feel real
Lake Maharloo is only half an hour from Shiraz and well worth the detour
Soaking up the last of the sun before heading to the airport

Naijme had enough time to get to know me and insisted on escorting me to the airport foreseeing some difficulties. She wasn’t wrong.  I ended up loosing my boarding pass in the toilet. Luckily I was the only tourist in the airport so it was quickly retraced back to me. As a tourist it’s impossible to to buy things online in Iran so my amazing CS hosts from a flight to Tehran bought for me.  I eventually negotiated my way onto the correct flight and I befriend a cute old woman on the plane. She held me hand for the entire journey it was v romantic.

I then took a night bus to Tabriz. I rocked up to Tabriz feeling relatively fresh considering the hellish journey. I instantly fell in love with the city and at last it wasn’t HOT (maybe that’s why I loved it so much).  It is also famous for having some of the countries friendliest people and I instantly knew why.

This woman looked terrifying at first and when I asked to take her picture she just started giggling

I started my day off in one of its famous cafes for dairy. All this café serves is raw milk, cream, cheese and fresh honey comb served with barbary (a freshly baked Iranian flatbread). It was crammed with locals and I  instantly loved it. Seriously good stuff (I went 3 days in a row). Tabriz is particularly renowned for its amazing food especially dairy products.

The only place to have breakfast in Tabriz
Hand churned butter, honey straight from the honey comb served with warm barbary
This gent used to sell me my walnuts

The Bazaar in Tabriz is one of the most famous in the world and is the oldest in the middle east and the largest covered bazaar in the world.  It was declared a UNESCO Heritage site. It stretches for more than 7 km. I spent the day talking to randomers (one of my favourite hobbies). Randomer one of the day was Ali who like pretty much every business man in Iran sells carpets. We sipped on chai and talked nonsense for an hour and then of course this followed with a tour of the bizarre finishing in his carpet shop for  more chai. They don’t get pissed off when you don’t buy it’s so refreshing. They are so pleasant, not pushy and generally just proud of what they do.

Ali; drinking tea like the locals from a saucer
This cutie almost had me convinced me to buy a Persian Rug
Standard chill time on the rugs in Tabriz
This lad insisted on me photographing the un known chap in the pic

Once I said  my good byes to Ali I met randomer number 2; Mohammad who invited for chai and chocolate. This was the gist of the day. I even lost my phone for a few hours I left it in a teapot shop! The kind Iranians ensured it was returned to me. V lucky.

Dying material to make carpets.
Typical scenes in Tabriz’s Bazaar

That evening I took the metro to go visit Park Elgoli, just on the out skirts of the city. Whilst chilling having some rose water ice cream I was almost attacked by an excited group of Iranians. Turns out they were all doing a phd in Maths and were at a conference. After our photo shoot they kidnapped me and insisted on treating me for dinner and chai.

Getting hijacked by the friendliest Iranians
This man insisted on having his own private photoshoot

The next day was spent negotiating the price of Iran’s tea scene. I think the bazaar in Tabriz is like nothing I have ever seen. I could have easily spent a week here and the pictures don’t even justify this place. Later in the day I got picked up by an 18 year old eager to improve his English  so we went for coffee together. He explained that his Grandfather is 80 years old and has been selling carpets all of his life and still hasn’t discovered all of the bazaar. There are over 5,500 stalls here with parts of the bizaar dedicated to certain products such as cigarettes, shisa, spices, tea the list goes on and on. It’s beautifully overwhelming.  One man in the market even presented me with a rose and a typed up letter welcoming me to Iran and his contact information in case I needed any help. Way too ott but a ridiculously nice gesture all the same. The rest of the day was spent getting free food and drink samples from every corner of the market.

Dreamy combinations of cheese, honey and rose
The only way to eat honey; fresh from the comb
Dates coming out of your ears. The Iranians regularly eat these with chai

I took a day trip to  Kandovan from Tabriz. It is the most enchanting place and often compared to Cappdoccia in Turkey.  It is a tiny village with man made cliff dwellings in the shape of cones which are made out of volcanic material. This place looks like a movie set.  The only difference is the inhabitants still live here and it is not touristy.  There are still around 600 people living here. It is surrounded by gorgeous mountains. We explored and spoke to the locals living there. The conditions here in Winter are vicious.

600 people still live in the small cliff side village
Every house is constructed into the cliff side
Exploring the surrounding mountains in Kandovan
The cutest little Iranian Family
I love the pride in his face. He specifically asked me to include his rings in the photograph
Local child selling his families crafts

I wish I had more time in Tabriz. An FYI there are direct flights from Hamburg to Tabriz and it only takes 5 hours. Don’t hesitate just book that flight to the dreamiest place in Iran.