https://www.mountain-forecast.com. Makki Mosque, Baluchestan Province
Iran, one of the mystery lands in the view of Eastern people. It is a country that evolve from the glorious civilization of the Persian Empire before the Buddhist Era to the land hidden behind the Islamic Revolution event in the late 1970s which caused a great conflict with the United States, leading to the break of diplomatic relations until now.
(The former US Embassy that became to be the focal point of street art against the America after the 1979 conflict)
During the past Century, there are a lot of Thais that have traveled to Iran which most of them have chose to travel to popular cities like Isfahan, an ancient city that has been called the center of the world. And Shiraz, a Persian metropolis in the Golden Age, where many archaeological sites are located such as Persepolis, an ancient capital city of Cyrus the Great during 2600 years ago.
Yet, this time we will skip these top two cities to other places that some people may have seen, some may have visited, but many people might never even heard of before.
(An over 200 years old Agha Bozorg Mosque, located at the heart of Kashan city)
It is a small town located midway between Tehran, the capital city and Isfahan, the city of rose water and the world famous Persian rug.
We take a bus ride from Tehran around 3-4 hours with only 250 kilometers distance, passing through big and small local communities alternating with the arid deserted wilderness.
Kashan is the city that situates one of the World Heritage sites which is Fin Garden, moreover, there is a small village that has over 5000 years history called Abyaneh which is located a few ten kilometers away.
(Abyaneh people have different outfits, especially the traditional Chardor scarf, which has a unique pattern different from other parts in Iran - picture credited https://suitcasemag.com)
In August, which is a middle of summer period, there would be a few amount of tourists here. As I could see, there are only us and a few tourists who come in couples or with their friends, there are a few group tour to be seen in this season. Mass transportation within the city are bus services (you need to buy a bus card, yet we don't know how to buy) and taxi (we suggest using this kind of transportation only necessary as the price is not cheap at all). Well, as the city is only a small area city, thus if you have time, walking should be enough to take you traveling around the city.
(Taxi driver is riding us through a narrow alley which has a size that is slightly wider than a car)
(A picture of Yazd city from the high angle, revealing the mountains that surround the city which were built by baked clay)
We spend some hours connecting the bus from Kashan to Yazd due to the need to travel to Isfahan city first as the direct bus from Kashan to Yazd was cancelled in 2006.
Yazd is a desert city that still maintains its conservation perfectly which last month, it could be registered as a world heritage site. (wrote in August, 2017)
(Every morning Yazd people will gather up at Amir Chakhmaq square which is located at the heart of the city to perform a Muslim prayer)
The charm of Yazd is that the whole city was built by clay and the alleys are all connected to each other which while we walk in the alleys of Yazd city, we feel like we are small ants walking in a large maze. It is pretty amazing!
(And this is how the alleys of Yazd city look like, it amazed us that we need to look up GPS to find the way out)
Important attractions in Yazd city would be Jameh Mosque of Yazd, Fire Temple and Silent Tower where the latter two places are the important religious places of Zoroastrianism. It is a Persian's old traditional religion that is still extant in Iran after being defeated by the Muslim Caliphate.
(Inside the wall of Jameh Mosque of Yazd , an ancient mosque that was built in 14th century and has the largest entrance gate in Iran)
(The Silent Tower, a religious place performing funeral ceremony of Zoroastrians)
(Tradition Persian Tea house in Kerman)
Kerman is another desert city away from Yazd to the east approximately 400 kilometers distance, which take us around 5 hours riding on the bus.
And as it is a large city that located near the Eastern border, thus there would be various looks of people more than capital city like Tehran and its neighboring cities. They have local people, Afghanistan refugees, local people from Sistan and Baluchestan Province or even those who escape from a civil disorder in western Pakistan.
(Qanat, the underground waterway which is an old irrigation system from the wisdom of Persian people and it was named as the World Heritage)
Kerman is a place of art, culture and wisdom of Eastern Iranians. Here we could see art gallery and museum in every corner; more importantly, there is the Grand Bazaar where most of people regard as the best Bazaar in Iran.
(Popular local dried fruit shops found in every corner of the Bazaar)
(Kalut, the canyon that canyon eroded by salt and sand for millions of years. Being registered as a World Heritage Site in 2016)
The Lut Desert actually is our main destination in this trip. We travel from Kerman city to the north approximately 200 kilometers, pass through a long road along rocky mountains that stand eminent, as if it is an implication warning that here is the boundary point in which any human or living creatures can live.
(The steep mountains are natural defenses that prevent the danger of the desert from getting into the city)
The Lut Desert is recorded in the database by NASA satellite image showing that it is the hottest land surface on earth during summer (which is the season that we travel). The peak temperature can rise to 77 Celsius which no creatures even microorganisms could live here in summer.
(The endless sand dunes which could clearly describe the name of this desert, Lut in Farsi means "Empty")
Hence, trekking in summer might not be possible to do so like our tour guide teases us that we are out of our mind if we are really do the trekking during this time, we need to face the heat, lack of water and strong sunlight, and even also desert storm that hard to forecast. Yet there are also some groups of people who try to conquer it every year.
(Our camp was attacked by desert storm during the night time, thus we need to wander and escape to stay in the defile)
(Admiring the sunset view from the hottest place on earth is the valuable experience that money might could not buy)
(The colors of the costume shop in the Baluch's local market make this city always be lively)
The capital city of Sistan and Baluchestan Province is located in the South Eastern part of the country. It is the city of gun smoke, opium and money that has a frontier border attach to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The sensitive situation of Shahidan is happened from many factors such as drugs, refugees, robbers, and terrorism as recently there have been rumors that the Tehran government has declined publicly in the event of a referral to the Taliban insurgency and their training camp, including centrality and link with high-level leaders of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group that took place in Makki mosque which is located in the heart of the town, leading to the warning notice from government of United Kingdom and Australia to their people not to travel to this province as it has been defined as the highest risk area or red area on the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs about travel guide in Iran.
(Picture taken secretly from the checkpoint where we were investigated. Actually taking photo is decisively prohibited in this area)
We reach Shahidan around 05.00am in the morning and we were called to get off of the bus for investigation at the checkpoint for the detailed purpose of entering into the city and we were released after it was done. Later, we came to know that the day before yesterday, there is a terrorist explosion took place in the city of Greta, a territory of rebel group in Pakistan which is not far away from the boundary. Hence, it is leading to the higher strict investigation at the checkpoint for the safety of the tourists like us (which is considerably little in this city). Since Shahidan is not really a tourist city, most of tourists that we have seen, are more using this city as the point to get across the border (Overland) between Iran and Pakistan.
Perhaps because of this reason, there are not many interesting places in Shahidan including Makki Mosque that is still in a major renovation, Baluch's local market, Pakistan boundary market, and challenging natural attraction like Taftan Volcano.
Makki Mosque during the night time - picture credited to https://www.baluchistanfoundation.org)
(Taftan Volcano that is an active volcano, it is one of the natural attractions in Sistan and Baluchestan Province - picture credited to https://www.mountain-forecast.com)
Iran is a relatively safe country and people are also friendly to tourists. Moreover, the cost of living is similar to our hometown and there is a beautiful nature and a long culture, unlike what we see in Western media or Hollywood movies like Argo and political satire animation like Persepolis. (I don't mean to decide what is true or better, just only that I have experienced the different aspect by my own eyes)
It is like every journey that leads us to discover what we have seen on TV or what we have read in the book are different when we experience it with our own eyes. Sometimes it might looks so captivating that we could not even blink our eyes, yet sometimes it might destroy the good image that we have for a long time. Nonetheless, one thing that we could surely discover is that
"The truth, in the way that it should be"