Aptly known as half of the world, Isfahan was the most beautiful city in Iran for me. Most of the main sights were located near Imam square, the second largest square in the world, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. I couchsurfed with A, and while he was hosting me, a bunch of other guys were also staying at his place, so it was mad fun. There was supposedly a party going on that night which we were all invited to, and I had no idea what to expect of at Iranian parties.
The house was huge, very modern but still with Iranian carpets, and all of his friends were very fluent in English. A bottle of smuggled vodka was circulating in the crowd, and weed was being passed around freely. After a quick round of introductions, I settled next to one of the two shisha, of qalyan as they call it in farsi, and took in the super potent Iranian tobacco. K, a Dutch guy, quickly joined me and we talked about our lives back home while getting high. He was almost one year into his travels around the world, and had just spent 3 months at Kobani, a refugee camp near the Turkish Syrian border. We soon got into a world of our own, and the sexual tension between us were palpable.
That night, back at A’s place, A’s friends and him continued with the weed habit while K and I made ourselves comfortable on the persian carpet in the guest room. We shared a pair of his earphones where he introduced me to Leonard Cohen’s A Thousand Kisses Deep. And well, things got a little steamy. Typing this just gave me goosebumps again as I remembered one of the best nights of my life.
The next day, we explored the city with a bunch of other couchsurfers. Back in the Imam Square, we went to the Ali Qapu Palace, which overlooked the square. I particularly loved the designs on the ceilings.
On the end of the square was the Imam mosque, which was massive and you could hear echos when you spoke in it. Somehow, I find myself drawn to middle eastern architecture and mosques. The colourful designs of the walls are almost hypnotic.
Another thing Isfahan was famous for was its bridges. The bridge of 33 arches seemed like a good place to play hide and seek.
The Khajoo bridge, located next to a river, was really beautiful in the evening. Families gathered under the bridge to just chill and you could hear the prayer calls from the nearby mosque while people watching.
As we took a detour to the Armenian quarter, the crowds started to get younger and there were many more backpackers in that area. The bunch of us sat there for a while I got acquainted with V, a Ukrainian guy who was traveling the world on a budget of 3EUR a day. Hearing his stories of hitchhiking, couchsurfing and just somehow getting by while still managing to have fun was quite inspiring for me. There was really nothing to stop you from traveling, if you want it badly enough.
Later, as we took a long walk back to A’s place, we passed a fire station and they invited us for a game of volleyball there. So very random but well, it’s experiences like these that make a place memorable.
We chipped in to cook a dinner of pasta that night, and I was getting really comfortable with K and V, who were and still are among the best travel companions I’ve met. The next morning, I went to Mount Sofeh, a nearby mountain, with R, a friend of A. We caught sunrise and ate dolmas which his mum prepared. It was quite a hike up, as R was going by all the shortcuts. He seemed to know the mountain very well, probably had climbed it a thousand times.
Before I left Isfahan, we all gathered at R’s carpet shop, which was quite a legend in Isfahan for backpackers. Many would gather there to meet fellow travelers and the staff there, mostly young and english speaking, loved interacting with them while offering them tea and free wifi. It was quite amusing watching customers choose carpets to buy. R told me that as a general rule of thumb, Europeans truly were interested in finding out about the history of the carpets, where they were made and what they were made of. On the other hand, Asians (mostly Chinese) would value a carpet solely on its price. So stereotypically true of the different cultures lol.