To the Beat of a Different Drum

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There were three villages which we visited which were ‘different’ and had become tourist attractions among Iranians. One of the joys of touring Iran was the lack of foreign tourists although we did run into a few groups. There was the Taiwanese group who did not conform to the dress code for women except for headscarves. An angry man at one shrine we visited castigated our organisers for allowing them to dress so unsuitably, but, of course, they had nothing to do with us. There was also a French group which occasionally crossed our path. But for the most part the tourists were Iranians who visited the shrines in large numbers … and all power to them for doing so.

We did not encounter any tourists at our three different villages, though, which meant that we saw them as they probably were on an everyday basis.

MASOULEH
The first one which we saw - it was getting dark and the weather was damp and foggy so ‘saw’ may not be the right word, perhaps experienced better describes our visit. The mountain village of Masouleh was to the North West of the country within a short distance of the Caspian Sea. To quote our tour itinerary , “This small community occupies a particularly extraordinary site. It clings to a mountain side 1,050 metres above sea level. So steep are the slopes upon which the tiers of village houses are built that there is little room for alleyways and therefore the paths winding through the village along each rank of dwellings constitute the roofs of those beneath.”

Bazaar at Masouleh

There was a small bazaar and a couple of tea houses, this village being the one which catered the most for tourists. We gravitated to one of the teahouses as the mist and rapidly approaching darkness limited our view of the site, and the bazaar stocked mostly tourist goods, but the specialty of the region was a most delicious cake/biscuit containing of some very spicy filling . Eaten fresh and warm they were delicious.

KANDOVAN

The troglodyte village of Kandovan

The next village was Kandovan, a troglodyte village carved out of soft volcanic rock. It did not appear to be in the least touristy although a pair of geese, some donkeys and a flock of sheep appeared soon after we did but that could easily have been a coincidence as the village appeared to be carrying on its appointed tasks as usual. This village was situated in a most picturesque setting with autumn colours on the many trees along the river banks.

Inside of a dwelling in the troglodyte village of Kandovan

We were invited into one of the houses, consisting of one room with curtained cubicles which housed cooking equipment in one and bedding in another. I suspect a communal toilet as there was no cubicle for that facility. There was, however, a TV set and an oil stove kept the place cosy. We sat on carpets on the floor and were served tea by the lady who lived there. Her grandson was our interpreter, a local dialect being spoken by the villagers.

ABYANEH

The village of Abyaneh, the most isolated village in Iran

The third villages was said to be the most remote in the country. It was the village of Abyaneh. It seemed to be practically empty (most of the young people have left for the cities but when school finished for the morning I saw some children with golf balls - the phantom golfer had struck again) and its main feature was the houses which were dark red in colour due to the presence of iron in the soil.

Street scene, Abyaneh

The mosque had a particularly spectacular view from a courtyard in which grew an ancient grape vine. To reach this village we had a long drive through steep mountains along a narrow road. The village was not as isolated as it must have been in the past, due to a sealed road the a number of cars but it was said to be the last place in Iran to convert to Islam and considering the terrain this came as no surprise.

From the courtyard of the mosque at Abyaneh; a view over the mountains

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