It’s been a while since I revisited our Iranian trip. But today I remembered how, in Shiraz, we met an old man who shared a cigarette and welcomed us to his country. As he shuffled away, smiling broadly, he insisted we visit his home village. So we did…
On our way between Isfahan and the city of Kashan, we took a detour to the historic village of Abyaneh. Teetering up a steep hillside, the Unesco-recognised village is constructed from mud-brick and clay of a deep, rusty red. Narrow streets – hardly more than alleys, really – wind and twist beneath shuttered windows.
The villagers – there are only a few hundred Abyanaki – wear traditional clothes. Perhaps the presence of coachloads of tourists encourages this. But they also apparently speak a variant of a much older, Sassanian form of the Persian language. I didn’t photograph the people – it always feels intrusive. But as we climbed to the mosque at the tip of the village, they were anyway outnumbered by visitors.
In the mosque’s shady courtyard, light playing on the pool, there were the ubiquitous memorial portraits to the village’s youth martyred in the war with Iraq.
And the Supreme Leader looked down on the tiny square.
And here were the doors we’d heard of, more often than not with the heavy knocker for male visitors, and a lighter one for women, so that those indoors would know who might safely – modestly – go to meet the guest.