Kerman province in Iran’s South East had so far treated us well- with great stays in Shahr-e-babak and Rafsanjan, also Meymand Cave village. Now it was time to check out the big smoke, the city of Kerman itself. After a slow trip there followed by lovely hospitality from the driver who picked us up, we eventually got dropped off in the city at a mobile phone shop our couchsurf host, Amir, owned.
His shop was in a street with lots of other mobile phone shops, all next door to each other. This is how shopping seems to be arranged in Iran, if you want shoes you find the shoes street or the shoes section of the bazaar, if you want copper pots you will find all the copper pots shops next to each other and so on. We had to wait an hour or two for Amir to finish work before we headed to his home. A few doors down from the mobile phone shops were handicraft and carpet shops. We visited the one our host recommended, selling beautiful handiwork, carpet ‘paintings’ and so on.
We weren’t going to buy souvenirs on our journey because we’d have to cart them round with us for a year but I saw something I really liked and the fact it was a clock meant it was a practical purchase. We thought it would be a lovely thing to have hanging in our home in New Zealand, a nice reminder of our time in Iran, so we bought it! Was a bit of a mission getting it un-done off the frame as we only wanted the fabric, not the glass or frame. We spent ages in the shop and met the owners family too… more photos ensued.
The next day while our host was at work, Antony and I wandered around the city by ourselves (where we got lost and walked a lot further than we thought we would but all good!). We found ourselves in a parklike garden which probably belonged to the mosque / mausoleum for sufi mystic Moshtari Ali Shah. At least that is what we were looking for, not quite sure we found it! As we sat down and tried to work out where we were, a very friendly man smiled at us, pointed to an entrance (for prayer) and gestured we were welcome. He also came over, smiled and put some kind of perfume on each of our wrists. Not sure why but it was a nice gesture. The call to prayer echoed out from the loud speaker, it was just beautiful, the words were sung and just floated, calling one away from the noise of the day to a transcendent place. I wish I knew what they meant- it didn’t sound like the usual arabic call, in fact it probably was the mausoleum for the sufi mystic and some kind of sufi poetry being sung. Truly beautiful.
We later met up with Amir and the two other couchsurfers, from Germany, who had arrived while we were out wandering. We found each other at Gonbad-e Jabaliye a second century octagonal building. We took a couple of photos, taking care not to point the camera next door to the military area. Soon I was more or less bombarded by a bunch of girls in black chadors wanting selfies with me!
Amir drove us to a good view point over the city and then to a shop where we could buy some groceries as Leonie and I were going to make dinner back at the house. That went well and we managed a good night’s sleep despite being 5 adults in what was a small single bedroom! The next day was to be an amazing day trip together to Mahan, Rayen & the Kaluts desert but that’s in another post…. coming soon.
I forgot to mention that we started our first day in Kerman at the Bazaar-e Sartasari, one of Iran’s oldest trading centres. There are 4 main bazaars and 20 smaller ones that make up ‘the bazaar’, which from end to end is 1200m long. You can find everything here, food, clothing, jewellery, home appliances etc. It was great to wander through the lovely arched corridors, through the courtyards and down numerous passageways.
Part of the bazaar was the Hamam-e Ganjali Khan – a bathhouse that was built in 1631. It had been restored and was now a museum with wax models demonstrating how traditional bathhouses worked- from the entrance to the dome covered halls each with a different purpose (massage, hot or cold baths etc). It was fascinating and also beautiful with frescoes, a detailed entrance ceiling, plaster work, stone floors & glazed tiles. As the entrance plaque explained, it was ‘a masterpiece of art, architectural and decorative art’. It was clever the way they captured light and created curved passageways to stop outside cold weather from blasting in. There was even a ‘time-stone’, a 10cm thick translucent alabaster stone that bathers could look at to gauge what time it was outside, according to how light it was.
Near the bazaar is the Friday Mosque from 1329. Beautiful!
Our main mission in Kerman was to extend our visa for another month. While the office was processing the visas, we filled in the morning (a little nervously) looking at a few places in downtown Kerman. We popped into the local library which was a lovely building from 1929, set in nice grounds with cool statues etc. There were lots of people studying quietly- women on the left side of the building, men on the right. How they didn’t fall asleep in the really hot, quiet building, I don’t know.
We walked past a cone-shaped building called a Yahkchal, which is about 18 metres high and used for storing ice. According to wikipedia ‘It has massive insulation and the continuous cooling waters that spiral down its side keep the ice stored there in winter frozen throughout the summer.’ More here.
We hung out on some grass under a tree somewhere in town waiting until it was time to get the visa. Suddenly I got a text from our amazing Rafsanjan hosts – they were in Kerman for a wedding party and asked if we were free to meet up. It was perfect timing and so lovely to see them again. We wandered a bit in the bazaar together and discovered new parts we hadn’t seen on our first visit, like a building that had once been the Royal Bank of Iran and England, then the Department of Culture & Fine Arts, then an elementary school until 1978 and now as of the week before a working museum displaying handcrafts, woollen shawl making, carpets etc. We saw some beautiful things and craftspeople explained the process, natural things they used for colouring etc.
We returned to the visa place and, after a nervous wait, were given our passports with permission to stay an extra month in this most wonderful country. Relieved and delighted, we said goodbye to our friends in Kerman and headed for Yazd.