Together with our couchsurf host Amir and the two German couchsurfers also staying with him, George & Leonie, we went on a fantastic day trip to three famous places in Kerman province: Mahan, Rayen & The Kaluts (desert).
The first was Mahan, to see the Bagh-e Shahzde Gardens, built in 1873. Descriptions in the Lonely Planet say arriving here ‘is like being beamed onto a different planet… all flowing qanat water and tall green trees.’ We were, however, completely underwhelmed. The fountains which lead up to the small palace were all drained and being cleaned and they are what really make the place so special. It was also the end of winter so many trees weren’t exactly in their prime. We tried our best to imagine how beautiful it would be here with the fountains all full of water and the trees all green, flowers in bloom etc. It was ok to have a walk around but after paying the full entrance fee, we were a little disappointed that the gardens were not really much of an attraction.
Rayen was next, a small town just over 100km from Kerman city. The town’s ancient adobe citadel, Arg-e Rayen is the main attraction and it certainly didn’t disappoint! It is over 1000 years old and is a mix of different architectural styles. Inhabited until 150 years ago, then abandoned, restoration work began in 1996 and was still going on. It is remarkably in tact despite numerous natural disasters (including the 2003 earthquake which devastated Bam- the world’s largest adobe structure on earth, 136km further south). It was awesome climbing up onto the ramparts and looking down on what was once a centre on the trade route- seeing the governor’s complex, where the bazaar would have been, houses and all the towers. And the best bit- the snowy mountain back-drop!
Next we headed back to Mahan to have something to eat and visit the mausoleum for Shah Ne’matollah Vali, a sufi dervish, mystic & poet who died in 1431 aged over 100. The mausoleum was built five years after he died by one of his followers, an Indian king, with various rulers adding to it since. The place was impressive- with a mosque, reflecting pool, courtyards, beautiful cupolas & minarets. From what I understand the original mausoleum was built beside or included in its design the room where Nematollah Vali prayed and meditated for long periods. After speaking with an official we were able to see this small prayer room – wow- very special. The spiralling caligraphy on the walls was amazing and to imagine a mystic spending time communing with God in there, rather cool. The ancient intricately carved Indian doors were also special to see.
Next we were off through the mountains to the Kaluts, a 145km long, 80km wide stretch of desert with very cool yardangs! That’s what Iranians call the huge sand formations that look like giant sand castles or apartment blocks, about 5 to 10 stories high, formed by a unidirectional wind. They were spectacular. We stopped right at the beginning of them, as further on were more people and we wanted to be by ourselves. We walked around taking in the views, feeling alone in the huge expanse, then headed away from the car to an elevated spot to watch the sun set. We enjoyed the incredible starry sky before taking the long drive back to Kerman. Another great day in Iran!