Following the (in)accurate Lonely Planet (ok, let’s be fair, there is a disclaimer), we took the bus to Shahr-e Kord, an ex-soviet-like radioactive little town, in the Zagros, with the idea we’d catch a minibus the day after to go through the mountains and enjoy the view on the way to Shiraz, instead of a monotonous grey highway. So we reached there. It was a memorable first touch. The place, I am telling you, dead radioactive, with some super friendly taxi drivers (miracle!) at the terminal. We did not know what we wanted: continue to Shiraz? It was late. Continue to next village? It was uncertain we’d find somewhere to stay. Continue to Chelgerd, which is supposed to be a marvellouis place to see the mountains and snow? The first quotations from the taxi drivers seemed insane. Then can Leyla, who decided for us; we would stay there, in Shahr-e Kord, and we’d sleep at what Lonely Planet quotes as the best available hotle in town (read 3 hotels/guesthouse). So that was it, she took us with the taxi, we were left like babies, in the wisdom of the beautiful Leyla (me study medicine) to go to Azadi hotel.
Azadi hotel, had definitely seen better days, only that must have happende in the prehistoric era. This is one of the hotels that my father used to describe for the ex-eastern block; great from a distance and incredible fucked-up details from close. Azadi was no exception, but yeah, given the circumstances. We played poor and tired girls, the receptionist gave the nomial discount, we asked without breakfast for extra discount (we are lame, yes), and then he said “it is ok, you can have breakfast”. How nice…
So we decided to hit the “center”, and the recepitonist freaked out when we said we’d walk. “It is cold, no walk. Taxi. No walk”, yeas well, whateva, we will walk. It had already become tiring having to negotiate with taxis. On the way a lady that we asked for directions, offered dar baste which mean to share a taxi, so we went for it, mainly for her, she was with a flimsy chador, freezing, while we were with fleece and GORE-TEX (R), albeit not muslim-compliant long, but urban-muslim acceptable. We would go to what LP quoted as “one of the most atmospheric teahouses in Iran”. We asked another girl, a rounded-face sweet radiant girl, who pointed us to the right direction. We started walkng, supposedly we were 20m from the target, until we heard “khanoum! miss-miss!” and the chubby-cheek young girl was calling us, there is the teahouse but mafi khanoum in there. Ah yes, the authors of LP were men; probably they forgot to check this detail. Ok, no chay. Chay? Come to my house! We have been frequently getting invites for tea, but never to a house. Did I mention they spoke no english whatsoever? And of course we went. She called called “blahblhablha, yunnani khanoum blahblah espanya” and there we were in the car of her boyfrend, with her 16-year-old sister. We reached home, where a big mamma was expecting us, they draw the curtain from the official sitting room, chay? chay!, there appeared brother Ali (30) and soon after the father, some 60 years old, all of them sat around to… talk to us. Ali could speak some english, that is mainly 10 words, we strated drawing things on paper, there came a dictionary, and we discussed about everything. Everything. And one of the first questions: where is your husband. Ah no husband. NO HUSBAND???? Travel alone???
Ok, you can remove the headscarf, no problem. Chay? Chay!
After the first shock, I mentioned the Bachtyari nomads, and Ali said “we are Bachtyari”, so the mom and the older daughter (Oliya) decided to dress me up, you see the resutl in the photo, I know you like it, I also have a special hairstyle, and three skirts. And Ali is next to me with the Bachtyari men’s clothing. Then, musik? Bale! Musik! Chay? Chay!
We talked about everything, don’t ask how. They are Shia. You 9mom Zahra made the sign of the cross). Yes, christian. My experience with Middle East has taught me that it is simpler for these encounters to admit faith to the Book. Easier. Zahra said “brothers”. Yes. Chay? Chay!
The young daughter wants to be architect. Ah, Laia is architect! She brought free drawing to show. Then the magic word was mentioned: Internet! Internet? Bale. Chay? Internet! Bale, bale Internet. Chay? Chay!!!
We went to the monitor and kicked dad out who was playing solitaire. We found an online translator, from english to farsi, sort of altavista. INTERNEEEEET! Then we really talked about everything! Family, children, houses, work, politics, visa, distances, travels, dreams everything. It was a super night. They asked us to go back, we said inshallah. The youngest has MSN, she gave it to me. Ali said, next year, spring or summer to visit the tribes and the nomads. Then Zagros is beautiful. Now “germ” (cold).
We got up, in order to leave. It was already 23:00. They hugged us and it was really touching. It was so nice, I can’t really type it in. They were our family in a little god-forsaken ex-soviet like radioactive village. They took us to the hotel, laughing and music in the car, the car would not start, Olyia admitted the driver was her boyfriend and blushed when I asked her. We took the last photos all together in front of the Azadi hotel (4 stars) and as they were ready to leave the manager came out.
He showed his watch, tapped on it two-three times, looked down on us in a dismissive yet paternal way as in “what time is this you are coming back? This is a hotel, it’s not your house!”
I instantly thought of my father who used to say the exact opposite.