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Bridges, blankets and brave young belles

Esfahan is probably the main tourist town in Iran in the sense that it has grand squares and beautiful buildings and the river to meander along with it's many bridges that are lit up by night and crowded with people meeting, sitting and strolling by day.

We arrived late, and tired but decided to grab something to eat in a recommended nearby hotel. The fanciest hotel garden/courtyard that I think i've ever seen with fountains and bridges and trees and piped music and gold trim and waiters in traditional dress. We sat eating our noodle soup (no kebab for a change!) trying not to stare at the group sitting at the next table: a young girl trying to look demure, her mother and what was clearly her young suiter trying to win over the mother (what started slightly frostily ended in some laughter from the mother...a good sign I hope). The atmosphere perked us up no end so we decided to check out the main square, detained briefly by a young self-depricating schoolgirl, with her father chaperone, who appeared to make a habit of stopping tourists every night to practice her conversation. I mention her because although we are often stopped by people wanting to practice their english she stood out as so determined and resourceful even though at the end of our conversation she was wringing her hands in shame at what she thought was her poor grasp of the language. I wish her well in life.

We walked to the square via an enormous beautiful park - the parks in Iran really come to life at night. During the day you spot many men dozing in some shade but at night they're full of families picnicking and boy do the Iranian's like to picnic. the waterfall where we stayed in the Zagros mountains was also full of picnickers until past midnight. Apparently it is always like this - picnicking in the cool of the night - but the atmosphere is especially convivial this month because it is Ramadan. As we walked through the park people would dash up to give us sweets to break our "fast" and everywhere there was a feeling of celebration. Immediately we left the park we also saw what is now a normal sight - people picnicking on the central reservation. There must be a car fanatic in the family is the only explanation we could think of, what with the park being 20meters away :)

The square was similarly full of families with picnics, men swooshing water-pipe coals around their heads in little wire baskets like fire-poi, young men riding around on motor bikes, couples courting, children playing in the fountain (of course we had to join them), kids kicking balls around. This perked us up even more so we went for some tea and a shisha (sorry...qaylan) in a curious tea shop crammed full of tea related paraphenalia and kitch curios and were sorry to have to go home to bed.

The next day was Friday - the Islamic weekend (they only get friday off here, and sometimes thursday afternoon) and it's like the Sunday of the good old days - everything is shut and the streets are empty. We tried to see the sights in the book but they were all shut so we decided to abandon and walk along the river instead where we hung out on the bridges for a couple of hours. Underneath the bridge different groups of men have impromptu singing competions - haunting minor-key melodies and the occasional hand-clap singalong which echo the length of the cool arches. Between bouts we would be surrounded by curious locals and invited back to dozens of homes.

We were just heading to wander round the supposedly chilled out armenian (christian) quarter of town when again we were stopped by a young girl and her male friend and asked if they could hang out with us for a bit and show us the sights. We shrugged and said why-not and it turned out to be the start of a wonderful weekend.

Posted by rachndave 04:41 Archived in Iran Tagged tourist_sites

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