2010
03.17

SYNOPSIS:  We traveled once again across the Zagros Mountains to get to Central Iran, where a major portion of our time will be spent.  We observed some Nomad migration.  Not yet are all the old ways lost. 

That we are traveling at all today is a miracle.  Ganesh, St. Peter and whichever deity Nicola would like to add to the mix must have been hard at work!  It is travel time for Noruz.  All flights anywhere in the country were booked fully until the 22nd of March.  We had no reservation for the one overland bus going directly from Shushtar to Esfahan…  Why that?  That is another story.  It involves Mr. Rashidi.  And since we like him and since I would have a lot of complaining to do I will leave it at that.  We had braced ourselves for a difficult day involving at least two transfers, a lot of waiting, and perhaps another overnight before arriving in Esfahan, but luck was on our side.

We got on to the 6 AM bus which will get us to Esfahan in a mere 14 hours, in Shahallah!  We have already had a few delays so far.  I am typing this entry on the bus.  This notebook has been worth its weight in gold!  Forgive me if I said that before.  I need to sing its praises.  To prepare each blog takes about two hours of writing.  Another two hours per day are spent sorting, labeling, and organizing photographs on Lightroom.  I could never do any of this consistently if I had to rely on Internet Cafes and could not use some of my time in transit.  For one, in Lebanon and Syria I would have died of lung cancer by now.  In Iran, I would go mad because not even word programs are a standard feature in some of their Coffee Nets.  No coffee is served either…

Our delays were caused because across the mountains the breaks stressed out, and we had the most awful smells coming from our tires.  After cooling everything down, we continued.  For a moment I thought there was the need to change one of the tires…

So far, the highlight of this mountain crossing ride was to see at least a dozen herds of sheep with migrating nomads.  I had read that much of this nomadic life style was dying out.  The Iranian government is putting lots of resources and campaigning into settling the various nomadic groups which still can be found throughout the country.  Now there is a mix of nomads who continue the old lifestyle and nomads whom you can find in the cities.  You always can recognize them by their distinct clothing.  The men I saw with the sheep today, wore white and black striped vests (almost looking like a piano keyboard), a high black cap, and baggy pants.  The women wore dresses, not the hijab or the black chadors, or the pants-mantle combination, but full-length brightly colored dresses and an equally bright scarf.  The baggy pants are the surest thing to distinguish nomadic men from other men.  Many of them can be seen in cities as well.

I had already seen some migrating nomads at the outskirts of Shushtar.  These people had come in little mini-trucks moving sheep and tents and belongings along and were passing through town near the river, near our hotel.  The teenage shepherd boys were riding around on their motor bikes.  But today we saw the real thing.   Horses, but more often donkeys, were loaded up at the front, leading the whole pack.  An extended family followed, including several women, men, and children.  Big herds of sheep and goats were kept off the road as much as possible following the donkeys.  I read that twice a year this migration from winter pastures to summer pastures takes place. For some groups this can be 45 days of travel each way.  This is prime season for this event.  Sheep, donkeys, trucks, and cars had to share the winding mountain road.  Of course, at times the sheep got a bit more than their share.  Why not?  These people and their way of life were here long before any motored vehicles.  That should be honored.

According to the Lonely Planet, there are about one million nomads left of different ethnic backgrounds which still follow the nomadic life style:  Turkic, Qashqa’I, Bakhtiyari, Kurds, Lors, and Baluchis.  I am not sure which group we saw today.   More and more homework is piling up for me…

I apologize for the awful photos which demonstrate the migration of the nomads.  In a shaky bus with a teddy bear dangling from the windshield given the tempo the bus has in comparison with the sheep, my small camera could not keep up very well.  It was not the time to bring out my huge Nikon.  I hope you will get the main idea anyhow.

The real reward for our 14 hour ordeal today is that we will drop a good 10, perhaps even 15 degrees Celsius average in temperature.  And some of the most famous sights in Iran anywhere are ahead of us:   Esfahan and Shiraz.

Good night.