Bridges and Bongos in Esfahan

En route to Esfahan we visited a Tabatabaei Historical House – a really grand, rural household which gave us a great insight into how people used to live in that part of the country. It was getting so hot by this point however, and the house was huge so we got a bit tired of looking around it in the end – didn’t have the energy!. It did have lots of cubby holes to explore but I don’t think we managed to see them all before we set off again on the bus to continue our journey.

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The bus journey the rest of the way to Esfahan really was a bit of a nightmare – it had been such a long day already and I personally wasn’t feeling good at all! We tried to amuse ourselves as much as we could by playing checkers, thinking of an animal and getting the other person to guess what it was, playing with empty plastic bottles and taking pictures of each other pretending to be asleep – but it really was tedious! Richard in particular is not good as sitting still and was in danger of putting his foot through the window and running up and down the motorway, just for something to do!

Eventually we pulled up in Esfahan at around 8.30, just as it got dark. The streets were packed with people and were all lit up with what looked like Christmas lights. After we got to our rooms etc, we walked down to the most famous bridge in Esfahan – the one with 33 arches.

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There was a coffee house right underneath the bridge so most people went to sit in there and got free tea from the locals! Richard and I walked along the bridge – through the little tunnels that ran either side of it. Halfway along we started to hear music and laughter coming from under the bridge and peered over to see what was going on. As we were having a look – some young lads who were paddling in the river shouted up to us to come down and join them. Oh well, what have we got to lose we thought? So we walked down to the end of the bridge and waded out to meet them – I couldn’t lift up my trousers to stop them getting wet of course (can’t show your ankles in Iran!) so I got absolutely soaked. When we got out to the group of lads we discovered what all the music was. They were having some sort of Bongo Party under the bridge and dancing around like madmen. They tried their best to get Richard to join in, but we were both happy stood where we were, trying not to lose our balance and fall into the water! The amount of fun these guys were having was very suspicious – in the UK we would have definitely had said that they were very drunk! But in Iran, I’m not sure that is possible????

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This was all Sunday night, and the next morning we all went for a long walk up to Naghsh-e-jahan square – the second largest square in the world – which is home to the Imam Mosque, Sheikh-Lotfollah Mosque, Ali-Qapu Palace and the Qeisarieh Bazaar – all stunning buildings showcasing the best of Esfahan’s architecture.

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To get into one of the mosques the girls had to wear traditional Muslim dress (Hijab) by putting on a Chador – of course none of us had this so we were all given what I can only describe as ‘sheets’ to put on. Was quite hilarious as none of us had a clue what we were supposed to do with them! We all looked like ghostly penguins waddling up to the entrance and noticed quite a few locals trying to curb their giggles.

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As our group walk was coming to an end, Richard and I left the others to it and we took a wander into the main bazaar. Was interesting to see how it compared to the one in Istanbul and I think that it was actually a lot tamer – we certainly weren’t harassed by stall owners like we were in Turkey! Although I think we started a fight in one of the main alleys – a couple of local lads on motorbikes shouted hello to us so we went to say hi and took a couple of photos. A couple of seconds after we turned our backs we heard scuffles and saw some guy punch one of the lads on the motorbike in the face! The whole lane erupted with angry shouts and people trying to split them up – it was carnage – the other people on motorbikes trying to drive past all crashed into each other!

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After that we walked back towards the hotel and decided to try our luck in a local fast food place (by the way ‘fast’ in Iran is NOT the same as ‘fast’ in the UK – it actually doesn’t exist!). Once again we relied on pointing at the pictures on the wall and managed to get two hot dogs which were lovely – but Huge! All the food we have had here so far has been of huge proportions – I can only think that the reason everybody here is not massively overweight is because they sweat it all off in the heat!

Suitably refreshed after lunch we wandered back down to the river we were at the night before as Leighton had told us about another bridge (3 bridges down the river) which was perhaps even nicer than the bridge of 33 arches. It was absolutely baking and I was starting to feel the effects of having to wear this headscarf! Was a lovely walk along the pathway though and once we got to the bridge we were glad that we had persevered in the heat, as it really was worth the trek. It’s a shame that because it’s not in the centre of town it doesn’t get as much recognition.

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Richard managed to get to the gym again (twice in Iran – the country he least expected to be able to go in!) which ended up being about a 45 minute walk away from the hotel (no Steve, NOT 20 mins!). He, Steve and Leighton were gone for what seemed like ages, while I sat in the hotel on the computer (as I couldn’t go out for a wander on my own – being a woman!) but on their way back they were accosted by God knows how many people out on the streets, greeting them and shaking their hands, treating them like celebrities! It was the night before a national holiday so the streets were heaving with people, all out celebrating – Rich and the others were given free drinks, sweets, muffins and wafers on their way back as they walked past people setting off fireworks in the road and others riding motorbikes on the pavement! I think they were quite relieved to get back to the hotel actually, as it was absolute carnage!

Had a good night’s sleep that night, as the Ali Qapu hotel had the most comfortable beds of the trip so far! Had to be up early for the trip back to Tehran the next day – we have one more night in Iran before we have to head to the airport to go to Pakistan. Was dreading the journey back to Tehran since the one down to Esfahan was soooooo long – but no stops this time, so should fly past!

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