Overnight in an Ancient Cave Village, Iran

Meymand is an interesting place with a very long history of troglodytes (cave dwellers). It is a small village with half of its residents living a semi-nomadic existence, sometimes residing in the cave-village, at other times they live in the wider area with their animals or tend their gardens in nearby valleys, depending on the season. We expected many to be home when we were there (end of winter/ beginning of spring) but hardly saw a soul. In fact here are all the residents we saw, all three of them.

Residents of Meymand

Residents of Meymand

Meymand Resident- Salma.

Meymand Resident- Salma.

According to the Lonely Planet Guide for Iran there are 2560 rooms in 406 mostly uninhabited caves dug into the walls of a valley. They compare it to Cappadocia only smaller and without the tourists. It was a really unique experience to stay a night here. It was crazy to lie on the floor at night and imagine who had stayed here in the years, centuries even, before us. Some of the caves are said to have been continuously occupied for 3000 years! And they’ve found stone engravings from around 10,000 years ago and pottery dating back 6000 years, suggesting there has been human settlement here for a LONG time. Iran’s history is quite mindblowing and here we were in amongst it.

Looking into our cave & out from it. Meymand, Iran.

Looking into our cave & out from it. Meymand, Iran.

One of the locals, Salma, was quite enterprising… renting out one of the caves to tourists and in her own home creating woven souvenirs, selling postcards and making meals. She can even prescribe natural herbal remedies for various ailments. Made things easy for us – her cave was a one-stop shop for everything!

Salma's cave: kitchen, restaurant, weaving studio, bedroom, souvenir shop... all in one!

Salma’s cave: kitchen, restaurant, weaving studio, bedroom, souvenir shop… all in one!

We paid to get meals from Salma- it was not particularly cheap (by Iran standards) nor delicious but part of the experience and we had no alternative in Meymand. The fermented milk soup (kashk) was barely palatable – I could only eat a few spoonfuls it was so strange for me! The rice and lentils for dinner was much better 🙂

Local food, Meymand

Local food, Meymand

There is not a lot to do in Meymand- other than wander around contemplating the history of the place. On one of my wanderings alone I came upon an older man,  90 years old in fact (top photo above). We started chatting in my limited Persian and he invited me in to his cave. He and his wife had not seen much beyond their village, even though a few amazing cities were relatively closeby…  they seemed quite puzzled that we were travelling all over Iran. After tea was drunk and conversation was exhausted (my Persian is very limited) I made to leave. The old man accompanied me down the path to the road and as we walked he put his arm firmly around my shoulder, pulled me close and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Awkward! I was so surprised I pulled away quickly and said my goodbyes, stepping up the pace. Not sure whether he was doing a dirty old man trick (he was certainly dirty and old) or the friendly grandpa side cuddle… let’s hope it was just the latter, but any kind of physical contact is highly unusual between the sexes in Iran so it was a bit weird!!

180 year old mosque - newest building in the village!

180 year old mosque – newest building in the village!

Less eventful were our visits to the village’s newest building – the 180 year old mosque and also the anthropology museum which is housed in what once was a Fire Temple. There were lots of interesting things displayed in the museum, many to do with weaving and wool but my favourite were the different locks they used for the caves.

Old-school Locks & Keys, Meymand.

Old-school Locks & Keys, Meymand.

We saw the excavated hammam (bath-house) a cemetery with ancient headstones (pre-Islamic) and a couple of people preparing wool for felting I think:

Old bath-house, ancient grave-stone, wool-worker.

Old bath-house, ancient grave-stone, wool-worker.

The village, while interesting, wasn’t particularly beautiful. Aside from a blossom tree near the entrance to the village it was rather colourless. No-one adorned their entrances or did anything special, so it was hard to see which entrances had homes behind the doors and which were empty. A satellite dish outside or chickens were good clues they were inhabited. 😉

Meymand cave village, Iran.

Meymand cave village, Iran.

Although very simple dwellings, they did have power which was nice. We could charge the phone (our camera) and play two handed 500 at night, with the bright light dangling from the cave roof. It was pretty cold at night but we slept ok. We can highly recommend visitors to Iran call in to Meymand, but unless you really want the experience of sleeping in a cave, a daytrip (3 hours) would probably suffice.

Kiwi-out-there... in Meymand, Cave Village in Iran.

Kiwi-out-there… in Meymand, Cave Village in Iran… pretty out there!

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