6th March 2017
Tailor-made specialist Dan Waters spent two weeks exploring Iran in 2016. Below he talks about visiting a hidden village off the main tourist trail...
The cultural treasures of Iran are truly world class. It’s easy to wax lyrical about the wonders of strolling into Imam Square in Isfahan for the first time, feel humbled by the history of Persepolis or mesmerised by the Shāh Chérāgh Shrine in Shiraz, but Iran’s treasures extend way beyond the classic cities and can often be found in places you’d little expect...
For a lower key but far more revealing experience of Iran look no further than staying at Faragheh village, ideally located between Yazd and Shiraz, providing a good breaking point on this otherwise lengthy journey. The village itself is scenically located in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, surrounded by rich farmland. The village is everything you’d expect of an Iranian rural community; children following you with bikes through the crumbling adobe streets as they try to practise their English with you, ladies chatting away in the shade as they prepare apricots for drying and old men welcoming you to Iran with firm handshakes and beaming smiles.
After a typically humbling welcome by Hamide, the owner of the village guesthouse we use in Faragheh (consisting of mountains of food, meeting his extended family and anyone else who passes by, endless cups of tea and more food), I had a good explore of this amazing village. There were such an amazing amount of things to do and I barely scratched the surface.
You can visit Hamide’s family's plum, apricot and pomegranate plantations and help them with bringing the crops in if you're there at the right time of year. I was there at the end of the apricot season (end of July) and had a great time eating my way through Hamide’s crop (upon invitation of course!) After following one of the irrigation channels between the fields we came across a couple of chaps smoking a water pipe out of one of the fast flowing channels. They invited us to join them and we spent a very peaceful half an hour chatting away.
There are two forts within walking distance of the village. I only had time to visit one, but it occupies a wonderful position just out into the grassland beneath the nearby mountains. It sports some pretty spectacular battle scars; evidently it was owned by some wealthy Baktehri Nomads right up until the early 20th century when it was attacked by a rival group. I don’t think they fared particularly well – adobe doesn’t seem to react favourably against 20th century artillery…
Just before the sun set we had time to explore some of the ancient Qanat tunnels (underground water systems) beneath the village. You can supposedly follow them for 2km, but we only walked down them for 100 metres or so. It’s incredible to think that even small desert towns such as this had such labour intensive access to fresh water.
To finish the day off Hamide drove us 20 minutes to a local nomadic family he’s friendly with. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains as the sun was setting and a further 1km straight off the road into the desert where about 3 families of semi-nomadic Baktehri nomads lived. They didn’t know we were coming, yet we were still met with handshakes and beaming smiles, a fire was lit to heat the kettle and small treats were shared. The nomads live a very hard life subsisting largely off livestock so the offer of sugar with tea and small sweets was incredibly generous and humbling.
I finally got to see the guesthouse after a very long day! The accommodation is simple but comfortable; it would suit people who don’t normally like homestays, but still want an experience of normal Iranian life. There are eight simple rooms set around a walled compound with proper beds and the rooms are traditionally decorated with local nomadic handicrafts. There’s a naan oven in the courtyard with which Hamide teaches you how to make bread for breakfast. Food is a big highlight of a visit to Faragheh – nearly everything you eat is from local produce, from the herbs and fruit to the meat. ‘Organic’ is one of Hamide’s favourite words and an apt way to describe my experience in Faragheh – nothing is forced, you're free to explore at will and it’s a far more natural way to experience Iranian life and culture. I strongly recommend everyone who passes this way and has time to spare spends at least one night here.