My first Iraqi friends in Kashan

On my bus ride from Tehran to Kashan, I learnt how friendly and welcoming Irainians were. The bus conductor kept an eye out for me throughout the trip, as I clearly was the only foreigner on the bus. When we stopped at Kashan, he invited me to stay at his place for the night, but I sadly had to decline as I had agreed to stay with my couchsurfing host M. She sent her husband to pick me up from the bus station, to take me to her house which was literally in the middle of a desert. It’s amazing how far the couchsurfing community has reached.
Nonetheless, once I entered the house, I was transported to a whole different world. It was beautifully furnished, with the usual Iranian carpets and most strikingly, a huge sparkly chandelier in the living room. M was super excited to learn that I was from Singapore, and throughout my time at her place, she was constantly offering fruits, tea and Iranian sweets to me. When I was there, two of her friends, who were from Iraq, were also visiting. They were professional photographers, having won several awards at global competitions, and we had a great time seeing the city together. That night, we chilled at home, playing taktanade, or Iranian backgammon, and smoked qalyan on a carpet laid out on the desert ground just outside her house. Pretty much heaven for me.

The next morning, M prepared a huge breakfast spread, not unlike the Turkish breakfasts which I had when I was there. It was a family affair – M’s husband would go to the local bakery to buy huge flat breads, while she cooked. I helped a little in preparing the tea, and we all sat cross legged on her carpet to get ready for a full day of sightseeing.

Kashan is famous for their historical houses, so we spent a whole day going around them. Iranian architecture is truly stunning, and the photographers and I got trigger happy. One of my favourite places was the rooftop of an Iranian bathhouse, which had cute little domes all over.

It was a crazy hot day, and we decided to take shelter in a restaurant in the Fin garden. As M’s husband knew the owner of the restaurant, we not only got in to the garden for free while skipping the queue, we also scored free ice cream! The Iranian version of Neapolitan – rose, pistachio and cardamom, served on a bed of frozen kulfi noodles and drenched in orange syrup. Perfect in 40 degree weather

We took a quick break at M’s home, eating watermelon and smoking qalyan, before heading out to the old market which was located in a caravanserai, an ancient courtyard. The stalls there sold everything and anything.

That night, as it was a public holiday the following day, M invited a couple of her friends and neighbours over. She cooked up a feast, including the famous Persian noodle soup – asheh reshteh. It was green and chockful of parsley, and while it looked a little strange, it tasted really good.

The next day, M’s family brought me and the Iraqis on a day trip to the nearby village of Abyaneh and the countryside. Her friends also joined in a separate MPV of their own. People were giving out rose water and biscuits on the road in celebration of Khomeini’s birthday. Abyaneh was a village with red-bricked houses, and it supposedly had no youngsters living there as they all left for the city to find work. Very quaint, and I felt like I went back a few centuries in time.
M’s friends and family decided to have a BBQ lunch, so we stopped somewhere in the countryside where they got out their gear. It really reminded me of Turkey once again, where we did the same thing with chicken wings, meatballs and flatbread. This is one part of middle eastern culture which I really like. As devout Muslims, my Iraqi friends had a makeshift prayer session there. I learnt quite a bit about the religion from them, that how you always have to make contact with an element of nature when bowing down to pray. Since they didn’t have the usual piece of wood, they made do with a leaf.

We then drove on to another of M’s friend’s fruit orchard further down the road to the middle of nowhere. Out came the sunflower seeds, and my practice deshelling them with my teeth in Turkey came to good use. It was my first time plucking apples, pomegranates and berries straight from trees and popping them into my mouths, and it had to be such a beautiful setting – in front of a lake just next to the mountains.
After this perfect day out, we drove back to the city, for a final feast of kebabs. I really love this photo of hands ferociously tearing away at the bread.

Kashan renewed my love for couchsurfing and middle eastern culture. Through this experience, I got to live with a super friendly Iranian family for a few days, made friends with very cool Iraqi photographers and visited places I would not have otherwise seen.


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