Traveling solo, friends of friends often come in handy. I’ve had the best of times through such recommendations in Addis Ababa, Moscow, Istanbul, to name a few. Most recently I had friends of a friend to thank for an excellent time in Yazd, Iran.
This particular friend-to-be, Mansurah, proved the famous Iranian hospitality true even before I met her. My friend Karl-Heinz had put me in touch with her before my trip. After letting her know my Iranian number, she called me when I was making my way towards Yazd from Tehran and organized a place for me to stay in Isfahan for an excellent price. This was a beautifully renovated old merchant house – one of my favorites in Iran.
Once I reached Yazd by bus, Mansurah organized her husband, Hameed, to meet me at the bus station. He took me to their friends’ newly renovated, peaceful guesthouse in the atmospheric old town of Yazd, where there was a beautiful room ready for me. Hameed transferred credit for my phone and Leili, who runs the guesthouse, recommended a place for a dinner close by. After I returned from a little walk and a delicious meal, there was a gathering at the guesthouse for me.
This is when I finally met Mansurah, as well as Leili’s husband Ali and their two little boys. We had tea and mulberries and chatted. Lovely people! It turned out Ali is an academic, who is interested in travel in equal measure, just like me. So naturally we hit it off.
The next days in Yazd were a whirlwind: Ali and Hameed took me on a tour of Yazd’s nearby towns where I saw deserted towns with mindboggling history, my first ever non-electric freezer and pigeon tower, and my favorite, Chak Chak, which is a Zoroastrian site dating from the 7th century. The name means “drip drip” and refers to the water that continuously drips from the rocks and continues to do so today. Some Zoroastrian women visiting from Yazd asked me to join in prayer and lighting a candle: one of the highlights of the day.
The next day Ali helped me find a bathhouse for women: my obsession is to visit a public bathhouse or hot spring everywhere I travel. This particular bathhouse had seen its better days, which in many places is a sign of the diminishing need people have for public bathhouses as they have bathroom facilities at home. But the place being run down just added to the experience: There was a feeling of time having stopped on a quiet, hot afternoon and the quintessential older woman with her died red hair and big, sagging breasts, who shampooed my hair and rubbed me in not exactly a gentle way. A woman like her and the rough treatment is a staple in public bathhouses around the world it seems.
Late afternoon Ali and I visited the Zoroastrian towers of silence out side of Yazd. Towers of silence are where Zoroastrians used to leave the dead bodies to be consumed by vultures in order to save the earth from body pollution. The towers of silence were one of my favorite things to visit around Yazd –peaceful, beautiful and eerie all at once. They haven’t been in use for decades (there is a burial ground close by now) but the man, who used to take the bodies up to the tower still looks after the site. Ali knew him so I got the chance to meet him, too. Apparently affected by what he used to witness, Ali translated, he prefers to be buried, too.
Then we picked up Ali’s friend, Behzad – another academic with interest in travel—and hit the desert for the sunset. We got some watermelons, drove to the dunes and found an Afghan guy, who takes care of the desert site making tea and firing up the shishas for people visiting from the city. After some tea and the sunset, we stargazed for a while, lying on the dunes, wondering at the silence and the expansive sky.
The next evening the whole crew – suddenly I had a crew in Yazd! – went for a picnic to a close by mountain village. After a peaceful stroll, listening to the birds and a visit with some of the remaining villagers refusing to move to the city, we picked some mulberries and plums from the orchard and had a lovely picnic dinner with roasted corn and excellent cheese. It doesn’t get much better than that! I felt extremely lucky having been accepted so easily to join a group of friends, but this is what the Iranian hospitality is all about. A travel magic moment for sure.