A gorgeous region of Iran, the Bavanat Valley is situated between the northern deserts and the Zagros mountains in the south. It's an area famous for nomad life, culture, and nature. Wild Frontiers offers a number of tours to Iran and Bavanat Valley. Here's an experience from one of our travelers to this fascinating part of Iran.
After our adventures on the fringes of the deserts, we drive south towards the Bavanat valley. This part of the trip will be forever remembered for the warmth, friendliness and hospitality of the Iranian people...
The wonderfully restored Zein-O-Din caravanserai, sits alone in the desert outside Yazd providing an oasis of cool tranquillity from desert winds and scorching sun. Caravanserai’s were merchant guesthouses cum storage centres which offered safety and comfort for traders along ancient camel routes. Our wonderful driver, Ali, agrees on a little detour to visit this unusual circular complex which is beautifully decorated with nomad carpets and tasteful trinkets. What is intended as a picnic stop soon degenerates into an afternoon siesta, around books and traditional music. I have to ask if anyone has deliberately left anything behind in an attempt to return for the night!
We continue our route south, and eventually the desert - which has been our companion since we left Tehran - succumbs to lush green vegetation. We have entered the Bavanat Valley, where natural springs provide a life to the valley; we are soon driving through a forest of walnut trees. The addition of a cool breeze has changed our environment completely from the desert where we were this morning – we could be in rural England! We have the opportunity to stay with a host family in the valley, which provides a rare insight into the daily lives of Iranian families.
A breakfast of local honey, fresh herbs, creamy feta and freshly baked bread, sets us up for a gentle walk near the foot of the mountains among the walnut and mulberry trees. We wave and stop to exchange the few Farsi greetings with the local farmers, who turn the land at a pace conducive to the surroundings. We meet Abbas tending his sheep and goats - already a dab hand at 9 years. We can’t decide on a flock or a herd so come up with ‘flerd’ as the collective noun for a combined group of sheep and goats!
Being Friday it’s the Iranian weekend when families pack up children, picnics and economic strife to head out to public places – historical sights, parks, and the coast all swell with people as the cities depopulate for the day.
We stop beside a village Emamzadeh, a shrine, and in the adjacent leafy park a dozen or so extended families are sitting on mats, nestled under trees enjoying the holiday atmosphere. Within minutes we have a group of 20 or so adults and children welcoming us with the now familiar phrases of ‘which country?’ ‘Where you from?’ and ‘what is your opinion of Iran’. Traditionally dressed women full of smiles gently tap their hearts - a gesture of respect and welcome. Husbands clasp both hands on ours and shake warmly. Their children gather round excitedly shouting the few words of English they have learnt at school. The Persian picnic is more than a slice of cheese and some fruit – it’s a full culinary experience with sauces bubbling away in pots and saffron rice being perfectly steamed atop burners. Food is forcefully offered and after a couple of polite attempts at refusal we succumb to some tender chicken in and herby sauce. Fortunately we have a box of confectionary from Yazd handy to return the gesture. The simple pleasures of the Iranian Friday – family, food and fun are being enjoyed by millions in public places around the country. The mosque isn’t the only place doing good business today!
Later that day we ascent to an open plain above 2500 metres to witness the annual migration of the Khamseh nomads as they make their way from the south to the interior of Iran. As the ladies busy themselves preparing wheat for the bread, we are invited into a cosy goat hair tent, where six of the family sleep. The tradition of serving tea as a welcome transcends nomadic cultures, and our friends are no exception! As they start to relax Reena, a mother of ten, begins as spokesperson shyly explaining about her life and family. Her eldest son continues and we learn that the government provide a school tent – and even a mobile voting booth visits them at election time. They said all voted for Ahmadinejad last time – but won’t be again since he took away their wheat quota. The hour or so we have spent with these lovely people has given us a rare insight into vanishing traditions – some say in two generations the Khamseh will have all settled. We show our appreciation of this by buying small home-made blessing charms as a thank you for their gentle hospitality.
As the sun lowers over the central Iranian mountain range, we stop at a small spring, where families are gathering for tea and food. Once again the hospitality overwhelms us as we are again surrounded with offers of tea and food. We enjoy ‘ash’ a thick herby bean soup made topped with whey and toasted onions.
There’s time for some late afternoon humour as we witness a disagreement between cousins, which has resulted in some illegal grazing by a couple of large cows! It’s a serious enough matter for the local police who comically head over to the cows with a clipboard! Soon we have two feuding relatives, three police officers and two witnesses standing in a field with two cows – all happy to pose for photos..
As we finally plot an escape from this overwhelming hospitality, the ladies kiss and part with teary gestures – after just a short encounter. They warn Ali, our driver, to ‘look after our special friends’. Today has been a wonderful experience, which should make us all think a bit more about how we behave towards strangers. Despite what our media would like us to think, in this region warmth & hospitality towards strangers has been an important part of the culture for centuries – long may it continue.
Are you interested in visiting Iran? Our Iran Unveiled Signature Trip is a great place to start. We're one of the most experienced and longstanding tour operators to Iran. Please get in touch with one of our Iran Travel Specialists today for more information on this incredible country.