Valentine’s Day this year was amazing! Not particularly romantic or anything but we had a day off workawaying and our host Annelie was kind enough to take us and two other volunteers (Milan & Eugene) on a fabulous tour of the major sights on Qeshm island. I’ll let the pictures do the talking in this post and provide a few bits of information on each place (thanks to the Lonely Planet Iran (2012) Persian Gulf section).
Our first stop was a small shop near the village of Berkeh Khalaf which sold clothing and accessories featuring golabtoun douzi (sewing of colourful designs). The shop was one of three on the island that opened as a result of a UN small grants programme assisting women to be more financially independent and less isolated. The profits from the shops get split between the women involved and conservation projects on Qeshm. After 13 years of the project many previously isolated women have enjoyed social contact with others, many beautiful things have been created and sold, some women have become the breadwinners in their families and a great deal of conservation projects have been supported by them – very cool idea. I bought a few small things there for my niece.
The shop was at the entry to one of the Qeshm Geopark sites – Stars Valley. Local legend is that a large star or stars (meteors) fell onto the earth and created the oddly shaped landscape, hence the name of the valley. The more likely explanation is that wind and rain caused the erosion around 2 million years ago. In places the canyon is 15m below the surface of the plateau it has erodded from. We walked around this site, both above and below, marvelling at the columns and arches formed by the elements.
Next we drove to the Harra Sea Forest which is the Persian Gulf’s largest mangrove forest and in spring is home to more than 150 species of migrating birds as well as dolphins and turtles. I loved the colour of the water, the stillness and the dominoes game by the water’s edge.
Nearby we visited some of the island’s Lenge-building yards, the traditional cargo boats that are still used to carry goods back and forth across the Gulf.
Chahkouh Valley was next and it was awesome. We had a short walk to where the two narrow vertical canyons meet then explored there a bit. It was great to see a friendly older man who had taken it upon himself to be there most days, preventing Iranians from scratching graffiti on it and helping people to access the water in the spring (Chah) below.
I’m not sure of the exact name of the next place we visted but we referred to it as Statues Valley. There was not a soul in sight so I could let my scarf down and we could enjoy the fact we had this amazing place all to ourselves. Milan loves climbing so at every opportunity he was off scrambling up slopes and cliffs… he was away quite a long time here and we started to worry a little but he eventually did return, in one piece, with a few scratches, but still smiling. While waiting for Milan we took a few photos and here began the first of Antony’s ‘headshots’. Antony had taken a photo of me but cut off quite a bit of the main thing in the background. I pointed this out to him and the next shot had all of the background but just my head. I was a little disappointed at this but with her typically positive view on things Annelie suggested that head shots like this could be quite cool… and so we started our head shots series… one of Antony below.
Famous for its badgirs (wind towers) the fishing village of Laft was very picturesque. We arrived in the late afternoon where the setting sun was casting a beautiful light on everything. We saw the Portugese-built Naderi Fort, wells and a water cistern. It was great having Annelie show us all these places as she knew the best places to go including an abandoned badgir so we could see what they looked like and how they worked from the inside.
Kids were having running races in the street and as I approached I was invited to have tea with some Bandari ladies sitting in a courtyard. I didn’t accept because I needed to find the others but it was nice to have a little chat with them. Bandari are Iranian Arabs who mostly live near or on the Persian Gulf Coast. They make up about 3 % of Iran’s population, have darker skin and dress in more colourful clothes than other Iranians. They speak a dialect of Arabic and have their own music and way of dancing. Some Bandari women wear the traditional burqa- a kind of mask made of metal or material over their face. The designs and styles vary from village to village.
Down at the port we saw the sun setting over the sea as the prayers echoed out from many of the mosques and cows wandered home along the road. A beautiful end to an incredible day.