Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Balochistan province in Iran. It lies at an altitude of 1,352 m from sea level. A relatively small desert town Zahedan has wide avenues with little vehicle traffic, small residential houses and solitary municipal buildings built of a light sandstone, universities, football clubs, a prominent central mosque and the ordinary, cargo-cult life of Iranians. Like most Iranian cities, Zahedan has a Friday mosque, where many members of the community gather to worship on Friday. Its called Makki Mosque and is a landmark of the city. It is the greatest mosque of Sunni Muslims in Iran. Image by Baloch Khan
ZAHEDAN, DASHT-E-LUT DESERT AND TO KERMAN
by Hafeez R. M.
There was no change in topography when the train crossed into Iran. The sun had set in. A pitch dark had pervaded outside. The smugglers had left leaving me all-alone. I became terrified. Anyone could barge in through inter-connected compartments. I am chicken at heart. Fear of mugging haunts me. I had TCs of $1,000, a credit card and five notes of $50 each. All these were individually wrapped and stashed at various places. One $50 note was capsuled and dropped in a vitamin pill bottle. Another was tucked away in the trouser-belt. I kept on roaming my hands back and forth checking my inventory. The body language would deter any predator.
It was past mid-night when the train pulled into Zahidan, 92 km from the border. I was amazed with flood lights and water fountains. Soon I spotted a seraie (inn). I was given a comfortable room for only one-dollar. The old man was with me. I deemed it my responsibility to get him to his folks in Tehran. Next morning we went to the Bus Station. First, I got his Tehran address translated into Persian. Second, I had him boarded a bus for Tehran, 1700 km away in 35 hours. Third, I range up his folks and alerted them of his arrival. Having suitably disposed him off, I felt relieved and returned to the city centre. I stayed there for two more days and spent seven dollars in all. The purchasing power parity of dollar was surprising. I figured out that prices were atleast ten times lower than those in USA.
Zahidan appeared a relaxed city with wide tree-lined avenues. It was a good place to have a taste of Iran. I started from breakfast. Hot tea, cheese and local bread were abundantly available. In addition, one can have asal (honey), mast (yogurt), khorma (dates) and khameh (soft cream) for breakfast. Halva shekari is used as a sweetener. It is a kind of paste made of sugar, butter and sesame seeds. Iranians eat hot and fresh. I opted for honey and yogurt. I sprinkled it with dry fruits to make it delicious, hearty and wholesome.
After filling my belly, I roamed in the market. Iran religiosity was its most striking feature. Males were modestly dressed, many wearing western clothing without tie. Some wore aba (cloak) of black colour. Females had covered their hairs with scarves and bodies with long coats. Only face, toes and hands were visible. Women Only was written at many places making it Out of Bound for all males. Despite hustle and bustle of the bazaar, there was calmness. Per chance, I went into a water pipe caf? and had a few puffs of cooled down smoke.
If you haven’t seen Shiraz, you seen nothing, muttered the innkeeper, Agha Hussaini. Shiraz is full of artists, scholars, nightingales, poetry and roses. Go and see tomb of Hafez (a celebrated poet) and delightful Eram garden, he continued. His chatters moved me but Shiraz was far away in the South, not on the road to Tehran.
I took an early bus for my next destination, Kerman, some 600 km from Zahidan. The bus passed through a vast desert, Dasht-e-Lut. It seemed impossible to cross it except through the single road over which the bus was running at full throttle. Dasht-e Lut was a sand and stone desert. It looked inhospitable and virtually uninhabited.
Aab, Aab, I heard someone saying over my head. When I looked up I found the conductor with a water tumbler. He said something clinching his throat and tilting his head to one side. He meant that if I did not sip water, my throat would become bone-dry from hot winds, choking me to death. I grabbed the container and took two big gulps. The conductor had to distribute water every 10 minutes.
Thirty five kilometers south of the city of Kerman, in the small town of Mahan, stands the beautiful pilgrimage shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Nur-ed-Din Nematollah Vali who was an Islamic scholar and a Sufi poet from the 14th and 15th centuries.
After an 11 hours journey, I reached Kerman. It was an ancient city with several stunning mosques and a ruined citadel. The town was clean, no garbage in the streets. I took a room in a nearby guesthouse. Soon, it was dinner time. I was feeling awfully hungry and looked for a good restaurant. Iranian cuisine was heavily based on rice, bread, fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. Meat was usually lamb or mutton, minced or cut into small chunks. It was used to add flavour and rarely dominant except in kebabs.
Next day, I went to a museum. It was previously a public bath, now a most interesting sight. The main doorway was covered with murals of animals. Also worth seeing was the Art Museum containing a large number of tile-work pictures. In another gallery, there was a display of photographs depicting scenes from the Iran-Iraq war and its effect on the civilian population.
Page 1 2
More Posts from Hafeez R. M. on Wonders of Pakistan
1. Footloose in East Africa – [in three parts] 2. Escape for a while 3. The Shrine of Hazrat Ayub Ansari in Istanbul 4. Sacred Crocodiles 5. Shalimar Gardens, Lahore 6. Gorakh Hills, A pleasant surprise 7. The tomb of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi 8. Thar coal – hope or despair [in three parts]
Note: This is an old yet interesting travellogue [as you might have also noticed], hence the prices and costs of staying at different places mentioned by the writer may be much higher than the ones prevailing at the time he undertook this journey.
Hafeezur Rahman Malik is an ex-Bank Executive. As says Hafeez, he now whiles away his time in teaching and traveling. Each year in summer and winter holidays, he goes on a footloose and fancy-free safari to a new country or to a new area of a large country like USA. His travel tales are published by various websites specially www.hubpages.com & www.cstn.org . He lives in Karachi, Pakistan, with wife and a cat.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
YOUR COMMENT IS IMPORTANT
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR COMMENT