Sunday, July 01, 2012

Khuzestan

I hadn't realized it ahead of time and certainly hadn't planned on it, but the overwhelming theme of my next stop was one of meeting people. The road south from Kermanshah to Dezful was very busy with semi-trucks. It reminded me of the road out of Djibouti except that this time I was going downhill and happy that I wasn't in a shared taxi dodging around them at high speed. Buses in Iran are very nice coach buses, very good value, and have governors on them so they can't speed.
8 hours later I met up with my new host, Adel, and his friend, Mohamad to be told that after an ice cream to refresh, I would be taken directly to a friend's English class to be shown off and talk to the students to inspire them. Adel is an English teacher and explained that since almost no tourists head to that part of the country, the students needed as much incentive as possible to keep learning. It's nothing very new for me at this point to head into a class to say hi, but I wasn't expecting it to be a women's class with very outgoing students speaking English at an already high level. Women in Iran are generally repressed, though not as much as in many other Islamic countries contrary to popular opinion, so I wasn't expecting to meet many on this trip but it's nice to know that they are just as nutty as girls everywhere else in the world. I actually had a lot of fun talking to them, a children's class briefly and then a 3rd class at a smaller institute nearby. So many of them want to emigrate and had a lot of questions about life in Canada (which I had to invent answers to as I have no idea anymore) and of course wanted to know all about my impressions of Iran and Persian culture. I definitely am getting the impression that people here hate their government, are fed up with the religious repression (especially the younger generation), have a lot of pride for their culture and long, rich history but are totally frustrated with the way things are going. The western sanctions also seem to be working too, in the way that sanctions usually do. The people we want to “help” are the ones getting screwed over by worsening conditions while the government continues to do what it wants.


Meeting with a small English class.


The kids were really excited.


Dezful itself was a nice enough town but as I'd come out of the mountains the weather had gotten progressively hotter and in the region the temperature was in the high 40's most of the day. Dezful claims to have the oldest still working bridge in the world. It's a bit of a stretch as only some of the foundations still remain in use, but they do date back to about 1700 years ago and were built by Roman slaves.


The Dezful bridge.


The following morning we were picked up by another friend of Adel's, Ahmad, who drove us to the small town that Adel and Ahmad are from, Safiabad. Adel said he had relatives invading his home and classes to teach so Ahmad was going to be my real host and take care of me and show me the neighbouring sites of Shush over the next 2 days. This is not exactly how Ahmad saw it and instead he decided to engage in what I refer to as “hospitality torture” whereby over the next 2 days I met absolutely every single person in town, drank copious amounts of tea, gained lots of weight and existed mainly as an object to be admired and shown off within the community, while all of the tourist activities and sites promised me were continually bumped back to “later”. I also made a few more guest appearances in Adel's other English classes in the neighbouring little town. I'm not against meeting people at all, and I don't mind visiting classes either, but Ahmad's English was at a low intermediate level and his English was the best I had in that time. 12 hours of meeting people and dealing with their slow and confusing conversations is exhausting and requires a lot of patience. Ahmad also had a way of asking if you wanted something by telling you what you wanted.


Another English class and more people to meet. Ahmad is 3rd from the left. Adel is sitting to my left.


I think Adel got a little annoyed at Ahmad too, who clearly didn't want to show me around to the tourist sites and had to get a bit yelled at to do it and then only did it reluctantly, but Adel had promised me that I'd see them and be well taken care of and promises mean a lot out here. So about 46 hrs after first meeting Adel I finally saw my first tourist site, when Ahmad and another guy Hani drove me 15km to Shush. It was once an ancient city, Susa, and is famous for Daniel's tomb, which is a pilgrimmage site. It's actually the 2nd “Daniel's tomb” I've been to, the other being in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, but this one is generally considered the most authentic or famous of the ~6 “Daniel's tombs” in existance. There was also a castle/fortress, a small museum of old artifacts, and the foundations of Darius' palace from 500 BC there as well. Hani was a nice guy with almost no English, but Ahmad tried to rush us through the whole thing as fast as possible. To me it didn't matter that it was 45C, I was finally seeing stuff and loved it. The saddest part is that after all my time there I never got to see Chogha Zanbil, a Unesco site that was the one thing I wanted to see the most and the reason I'd headed that direction in the first place when planning my route. Next time I guess....


Daniel's tomb.



The citadel of Shush.


I was guiltily secretly very happy to be done with Ahmad when he returned me to Adel at the end of our time together. I was exhausted from all the attention. I've been away from him for 2 weeks or so and to this day Ahmad still calls me 2-4 times a day to tell me that he and the others miss me and want me to come back and Hani texts me that he loves me. These are all guys roughly my age (+/- 5 years) and married.
Upon reuniting with Adel, he and Mohamad (from the first night) drove us south to Mohamad's agricultural university stopping along the way to briefly see Shushtar and its Unesco-listed ancient waterways. They are carved from the rock canyon as water diversions to be put to work with ancient waterwheels, etc before spilling back into the canyon river. It looks really cool and has been functional for 2000 years or so also. We spent the night in the university dorm, which meant that I met another large group of guys that were very interested in me. I never got to experience the university dorm life (not that I ever wanted to) and I doubt that Iran is a good example of what it's like at home, but everyone was very nice and curious and once again I was bombarded with questions. It was kind of funny because as guys from other rooms would stop by to talk to their friends about something they'd get trapped in the room talking to me until it got very crowded indeed. They had a hard time believing the farming technology we have and some of them are doing their thesis on various tractors used in the US. Eventually it all became too much for them and I was sent to bed so they could study without distraction for their exam the following day.


Shushtar waterworks.


Dorm life.


Leaving my new friends on campus.


The next morning they went off to class, while Adel and I continued on the bus to Ahvaz. In 2011 Ahvaz was named the most air polluted city in the world, mostly because of dust from Iraq and pollution from the many refineries outside the city. For me it was a big and modern looking city of over 1 million people and not nearly the worst air polluted I've seen. I'm told I was lucky because it was unusually clear in the whole area while I was there and so didn't get a proper representation of the usual conditions. My lungs are very thankful. But it was still excessively hot and at sunset that night it was 47C. We were staying in the home of another friend of Adel's (I was “hosted” by Adel but never stayed in his home but in 4 different ones in my time there), a wealthy businessman who got approval for his visa to immigrate to Canada while I was there. Nobody felt like doing anything or going out and as far as I know there isn't anything in Ahvaz that is famous for tourism so we hung out at the home with A/C, with more of their friends that came over to visit and practice English. After 1 ½ days I left Ahvaz on an overnight bus to Shiraz.


The mosque at the Ahvaz airport.


Another night out for dinner in Ahvaz with more new friends.


Ahvaz looks like any other modern city.


Ammon

1 Comments:

At 2:13 PM , Blogger amir mahmoudi said...

Hi
I'm Amir and originaly from dezful ,Iran . I've read the text it was interesting to see some foreigners come to our city Dezful.
I hope you come back to dezful in the automn and sring , dezful is beautiful this time.
Amir

 

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