In the blisteringly hot months from early June to the end of August, J and I tend to hibernate. We emerge early to get any jobs done in the relative cool before the sun melts over the mountains and then vanish back indoors like rats down a drainpipe!
Such behaviour is not conducive to having anything to blog about apart from the grim state of the world, a review of ‘The Untold History Of The United States’ or how difficult the last Sodutoo puzzle was! Thank goodness for our Iran trip – it means I have a seemingly bottomless pit of tales to bore you with for the next few weeks!
When we left Kerman we headed north west in the direction of Yazd, this is the main highway from the great port at Bandar Abbas to Tehran and it was here that we were gob-smacked to see a Tesco artic truck in full company colours! Anyway, a two day camel ride, or about 60 kms out of Yazd, set back from the road is a place right out of the tales of Scheherazade’s (or Shahrzãd in Persian) Thousand and One Nights.
Our destination for one night was the beautifully restored Zein-o-din Cararvanserai. Taken over by an extended family of Iranian Baluchis it is a testament to sensitivity and a commitment to ‘doing it right’. Such is the quality and authenticity of their ‘resurrection’ that the caravanserai was granted a UNESCO award in 2005. Restoration took more than three years and some 13,000 pumice stones were used to scour centuries of grime from the walls and arched roof. The building has been returned to near original condition.
There it sits, great walls of adobe blending in with the surrounding desert; its mighty doors capable of providing security for the countless merchants and their camel trains that once trekked the route now polluted by the convoys of trucks that thunder by a few hundred metres away.
Walk inside and you are greeted warmly by the staff . . and by the loudness of silence! A refuge then and a refuge now!
the sound of silence
The accommodation is interesting – arrive early enough and you could have a room leading directly off the circular, central courtyard. Otherwise, like J and me, you will be led into the great curved chamber that once housed the trains of animals and merchandise. Here there are raised and curtained platforms that offer total visual privacy and good comfort. What they don’t offer is freedom from the unbelievably bad mannered who roll back late at night bellowing and shouting at each other – if you stay here, and I really do recommend it, then you could use some earplugs just in case!
Toilet and shower facilities are communal but very modern and sparkling clean. The restaurant is a delight of exotic proportions and excellent regional food which also comes in exotic proportions! Each evening the young lads of the family doff their waitering and receptioning mode, step into their Baluchi warrior mode and put on a show of traditional martial dance. It is an inspiring exhibition of the battle training folk dances that speaks volumes about the fearsome reputation of the Baluch who are spread across southern Iran and Pakistan.
Baluch war dance
Back to a little more history of the place – it was built more than 400 years ago and was part of a network of 999 such hostels built on the orders of Shah Abbas I to promote trade. One of only two circular caravanserais (the other is near Esfahan and is largely destroyed) Zein-o-din now stands as a unique, living monument to the importance of the fabled Silk Road trade route.
At dawn and dusk, deserts are transformed into things of intense beauty as light and shadow, colours and hues swirl and blend – the effects are often truly magical. These are times to make your way to the roof of the caravanserai, face towards the mountains and drink in the intoxicating mix.
Iran’s tourism is beginning to boom, if you intend to visit the unique Zein-o-din Caravanserai, you would do well to book in good time.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü