Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Life Is A Picnic (Sometimes)

Of the countries I've visited so far Iran probably ranks bottom in the night-life stakes. No clubs, no discos, no pubs, no bars and no decent films in the cinemas. Little is left to young Iranians but to cruise around the streets in their cars or hang out in juice shops and ice-cream parlours (the unlikely, yet surprisingly good, combo of carrot juice and ice-cream seems to be the flavour of the month). Due to the lack of recreational opportunities spend their time scooting from one family gathering to another (leading to traffic jams in Tehran at midnight), attending private parties at night or picnicking during the day. The latter being something of a craze in the country. On Thursdays and Fridays (the weekend over here) Iranian families pack up some victuals and head for a patch of green to set up camp for the day. Parks are most popular, but mosque courtyards, riverbanks, forests and even roundabouts and motorway verges are used for these family outings And it's not just a couple of sarnies in a lunch box; these people come prepared. Portable barbecues, kebabs, at least a couple thermoses of tea (or better yet, a samovar), china tea sets, boxes of sugar cubes, several kilos of fruit and anything else that isn't really essential.

One place I saw many such picnickers was at the Ali Sadr caves close to Hamedan. A hugely popular local attraction they make a welcome change from the usual Iranian fare of mosques, museums, mausoleums and (m)ruins. The extensive cave system is filled with water in many places so you get ferried around in boats strung behind a guide on a pedalo who points out various rock formations that have been given names (written on little boards in both Farsi and English) of things they do not in the least resemble. There is, however, one majestic, large, phallic, stalactite that, for some reason, has not been given a name despite bearing more than a passing resemblance to a part of one's body (if one happens to be male, that is). But, just so that visitors do not forget that they are in the Islamic Republic there are several helpful signs with passages from the Koran or suitably appropriate messages such as "freedom and adornment are both the secrets of hejab". I wasn't quite sure whether that was meant ironically or not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i mam really enjoying these blogs. They are funny,interesting and well written. Keep it up Erik.

(i met you briefly in Ankhor many moons ago)