2010
04.13

SYNOPSISAfter a short excursion around Nain to visit the other old mosques in the area, I moved on to Kashan where I met three French guys and an old friend from Yazd.  Where historical “texture” and contemporary life meet.

Signs to the old town in Yazd and in Nain point to “Historical Texture”.  I thought it was a funny way to describe the historical district but the term is used quite consistently throughout Iran.  From one historical texture in Yazd, I went to the next in Nain, only to end up at the end of the day in yet another one:  Kashan.  My hotel here is a renovated historical villa just like the Silk Road Hotel and the Inn at Nain, fully equipped with badgir, cellars, central court yard and pool.  Hotels are a very good match for new use of these old buildings.  No wonder that the few foreign tourists in town lodge here.  “Historical Textures” are a universal magnet for us Westerners.  There was a small German tour group and three French guys.  Leaving wife, job, and family behind for ten days, the French guys were traveling together through Iran.  They had just arrived.  I went for dinner with them.

Earlier in the day I had hired a taxi to explore the surrounds of Nain.  There were a few more old mosques I needed to check out.  Mohammed, the taxi driver could not believe that I passed all the mud-brick castles and ice houses without stopping, searching for the old mosques instead.  He was not quite sure what I found so interesting about them.

The first mosque was in a small suburb of Nain, called Mohammadin.  What usually brings tourists to this village are some underground weaving workshops.  In this village, traditional clothes are still hand-woven.  These workshops are ancient.  Because they are located underground, workers can count on bearable temperatures during the summer.  Many of the weaving stalls were empty when I came.   But those occupied were operated by men in their 70’s and 80’s – again, I have to ask where the young people are?  Is nobody taking up this ancient art?  Is it dying out?  What a shame that would be.

I am not going to bore you with more mosque details.  But it was fun to see that this mosque had a live qanat going through its sunken courtyard.  At one point it must have had a minaret as it was classified as a Jameh Masjid, or a Friday mosque.  But no minaret survived and no mention of any ever existing was made.

In the next village, Bafran, quite the opposite was true.  A nice mud-brick, original minaret survived, but the rest of the mosque had been altered almost beyond recognition with modern inserts.  This was unfortunate.  The mosque was closed, but word got around that a foreign visitor had stopped and an old guy came to open the building for me.  While I was waiting, I came across a corner shop with some guys attending to a big gas furnace.   I stepped into the shop and asked what this fire was for – I could see no apparent purpose for it.  For the hamam.  The bath?  That would be the first functioning bath house I have come across in all of Iran – and so it was!  A woman was called over to show me around and we went into the hamam were two women were sitting taking a bath.  I really wonder why this old tradition has practically died out in Iran. Is that a result of the revolution?  In Syria, bath houses still operate with somewhat unfavorable hours for women, but they are all over.  In Iran, I have seen none so far.   This one is tucked far away in a tiny little village and may not be typical.  Perhaps, it survived by accident?  Not even the hamam in the cave village of Meymand was in operation even though these remote villagers with only two shared toilet areas really could benefit from a functioning bath house.

I had to be on the road soon to make it to Kashan, my destination for today.  I had noticed that Nain was not exactly a public traffic hub.  Coming in, I was dropped off at a street corner by the bus going to Esfahan.  There was no terminal in sight.  How would I get out?  Police check points to the rescue!  All overland buses I have ever taken stop at the frequent police stations along the road and have their log signed off by the authorities.  I figured that I would ask the taxi driver to drop me off at the check point before Nain.  Every bus coming from the South going either North or West would have to come through here.   That was a good calculation.  The four old men sitting at the check point shooting the breeze in front of the small convenient store were a bit surprised to see a foreign “Madame” with big luggage being dropped off.  But within ½ hour I was gone.  The first bus was going the wrong way.  The second bus, full of very conservatively dressed men refused to take me; but the third bus, also full of guys, but dressed more like blue color workers took me on board.  2. 5 hours later, I reached my new destination.

I checked into a renovated villa in the “Historical Texture” area and as always headed out in search for the internet.  I was very surprised to hear a friendly “Hi Elisabeth” at the internet café!  Nicholas from Australia, one of the backpackers from Yazd was there.  After passing the cyclists Benjamin and Nora yesterday and running into Nicholas here, it feels like I now have travel compatriots all over Iran.

Good night.