2010
03.12

SYNOPSIS:  I took the bus to Dezful – a small town nearby.  Nothing I wanted to see was open but I saw a lot of beautiful brick homes and met Nasser and Mahnos.  I “Iranized” one of my outfits.  900 Bombs and what is left after that in Dezful.

I must have looked pathetic sitting at the door steps of the closed tourist information in Dezful.  Everything was closed even though Lonely Planet stated that everything should be open, despite this being a Friday.  When a man drove by on his motorcycle asking if he could take my picture I could not have cared less.  Whatever.  I did not smile either.  It was just too hot.    Did I ever mention I hate heat?  It was 37 degrees Celsius in the shade, way into the 90’s Fahrenheit.  I look red when I just think red.  But when it is 37 degrees, I have walked around for 2 hours mid-day, and I find myself in long sleeves and under a black woolen scarf, I look fire-hydrant red and ill and I feel like I am going to die.

Five minutes later that man came back with his wife in tow.  Did I want to come to their house for tea and some food?  I really must have looked pitiful.  I did not even do the Iranian polite decline.  I accepted.  Their living room was shady, a fan was going and I got tea, an orange, an apple, and some chocolate and by the time I was ready to leave two scarves were piled up in front of me and three Iranian coins.  I did more than the three polite declines, but was forced to accept it all.  Once again – it is hard to describe the hospitality and generosity of all the people I meet – not in harassing hoards on the street, but one on one.  That was Nasser and Mahnos and their son Mohammed.  None of them spoke English.  Mohammed found a phrase book and read phrase after phrase to me.  So, we had some good laughs.  Do I wear makeup?  Did I have a pleasant flight?  The usual sign language was just as effective.

Mahnos was relaxed, short-sleeved and without any head cover until I asked to take a photo with her.  She got all upset and said she could not have her photo taken like this, ran out and covered up with her chador, nearly frantically.  Behind his back, she pointed at her husband and shook her head:  He would not approve of that.  On the contrary, her husband, when we parted, stretched out his hand, which I instinctively reciprocated.  But when he kept shaking it, I realized that he was doing something very un-Islamic.  Men here do not shake hands with any woman not related to them and vica versa.  He got such a kick out of shaking my hand that I finally had to stop this enthusiasm and withdraw.  Here was his wife, afraid of breaking the rules and there was her husband initiating a breaking of the rules.  How interesting.

I should have been disappointed today.  Lonely Planet let me down.  I could not find the museum, all else was closed, the supposedly oldest bridge in the world really was a questionable patchwork of every sort of material and did not look one bit convincing.  But I have learned to take what comes my way as exactly what is supposed to happen.  When I approached Dezful, I had noticed how uniformly beige the town looked with houses neatly stacked climbing up the hill.  So I started to walk through the narrow alleys, and I realized that this town has a lot of traditional homes constructed out of bricks with most interesting brick patterns used to accentuate the door frames, balconies, railings, and some walls.  I also noticed much decay and destruction which made me think of Beirut.  No wonder – Lonely Planet pointed out that 900 bombs had hit this little town during the Iran-Iraq war about 30 years ago.  Why that town was a target, or if it was a particularly hard-hit target, I don’t know.   Much was destroyed but much has also been rebuilt the old brick way.  Visibly new bricks can be found next to old ones.  Only a few houses are out of place and out of style.  It was delightful to walk around had it not been for this heat and that scarf, but I mentioned that already.

Some color accents in town were the carpets which were flung over the roof tops all over the place.  I bet this is preparation for Noruz, the New Year celebration coming up in a week.  It’s a big deal in Iran.  People clean their homes, shop for new clothes and sweets, they get ready to visit relatives and all shuts down for a week and more.  Travel and getting a hotel during those days should be a real challenge for us…  But back to Dezful:

Since the two historical houses listed in the guide book were closed, I dared to knock on the doors of two old and complete looking houses, one of them fully restored.  My foreign identity and my huge camera spoke volumes and in both cases I was allowed in to see the interior courts and the houses as such.  From the outside, there is nothing more to see than the representative entrance door and huge walls without a single opening.  Once again, life happens outdoors, but inside, in courtyards, around which rooms are arranged on one to two levels.

With this heat stubbornly in place, I had to do something about my clothes.  My tailored shawal kamiz is too red, at least as long as I travel alone and have to endure the ridicule this will provoke.   My special “Iranian outfit” – a gray, baggy suit which I brought for the purpose is open in the front.  I realized here, that this was clashing with the dress code and it would force me to wear something underneath.  It needed to be closed.  Just downstairs from my hotel are several stores that tailor uniforms for the soldiers in a base nearby.  I went to them yesterday and dropped off my top piece asking them to put buttons on, which they did.  I picked up my piece this morning, paid them handsomely and this afternoon wanted to put it on.  No button holes…!  A row of buttons, but nothing to button with!  Are they stupid?  I went right down and they told me:  No, no – they cannot cut into the fabric.  It’s too thin; they don’t do this kind of work.  Then why in hell did they put the buttons on in the first place?!  This was not for show but for function.

I finally was directed to a button store where a man and a woman clerk tediously and patiently first took out all the buttons I had just sewn on, then cut little pieces of support fabric and equipped my top with six Druckknoepfe (what the heck is that in English?) – when you clip two round pieces of metal together –  I think you know what I mean.  This should allow me to wear near to nothing underneath and have something that looks almost like an Iranian coat.  But then… with those baggy pants, I look like a Kurd.  I am sure the locals will think this is utterly unfashionable and hilarious.  Let’s see how this will go over in public tomorrow.

The scarf is still a problem.  Today, I got two scarves as presents, neither of them usable.  The one is silk or polyester more likely, and too small.  I would look like a Russian Babushka tying that under my chin and it would slip off too easily.  The other is a longer rectangle, but too stiff.  I can tell that it all is a matter of the perfect combination of fabric, texture, and size.  I have the perfect woolen scarf because I thought I was going to be traveling in the winter…!  I will have to keep my eyes open for something that will get me through this heat a bit better.

For one last time, I went to the same old restaurant where I ate goulash for the last three days.  After that, I frequented the ice cream store across the street where I have had the local specialty of vanilla soft ice and freshly squeezed carrot juice for the last three days.  It is really good.  Then, I stopped by the Internet café where I was greeted like an old friend and posted yesterday’s blog.   By the way:  You may have noticed a lapse in the posting in the last two days.  Corey is ill and ended up in the emergency room two days ago!  I have not had any specific news, but she seems to be OK for now.

Good night.