Set on the Southeastern of Iran, Kerman is an old city easily being overlooked by travellers compared to other beautiful Iranian cities like Shiraz and Isfahan. Surrounded by mountains on the North and East, the city has a cool climate and frequent sandstorms in the autumn and spring. Not only it is the largest carpet producing and exporting center in Iran, but also a large producer of pistachios on the world’s market.
Here you can interact with curious locals and discover historic sights without other foreign tourists on site – most of which are a day trip from Kerman. You won’t get hassled by touts here, but instead, find some of the friendliest people in Iran who are just glad you have come to explore the wonders of their regions.
In this post, I would be sharing my experience staying with two lovely Iranian families whom truly touched my heart.
I took a 7-hours bus ride from Shiraz to Kerman. My CS host, Abozar, picked me up at the bus terminal in the evening just right before Iftar (the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset). Abozar told me that tonight will be a feast as his wife’s family will be coming over to his place. It got me excited as I was famished after a long ride.
I was greeted by Abozar’s shy and pretty wife, Maryam, at the house. She started serving me mint tea and zoolbia bamieh (Persian sweet donuts and soon became one of my favorites!) I tried to help with dinner but she made me sit and switched on Korean drama speaking in Farsi. As the family members started making their way into the house, they looked at me curiously yet shy to talk to me. Until an 11-year old boy came to converse with me in English, that’s when the fun started.
The sumptuousness of an Iranian meal is as close as eating with the royals. Similar to eating with a Malay family in Malaysia, the dishes are spread out on the carpet and everyone will sit around to feast. A meal for Iftar consists of colourful saffron rice (a kind of spice from flower), bread (which taste like naan), a variety of poultry – usually one will be fried or grilled and the other will cook with gravy, seasonal vegetables, mint leaves to chew with the food, Doogh (Persian yogurt drink) and Sholezard (rice pudding).
After the meal, the women will clear the plates and do the washing whereas the men will be talking about their day or discuss on current politics. I was busy with showing the kids how polaroid camera work as they were pretty amused by it. Tea and fruits were served while waiting for the desserts. By the time dinner was officially done, it was already past midnight. I was glad to be here during the Ramadan period to truly experience a local way of living.
I spent another three days staying with Abozar and Maryam. Most days I spent my day with Maryam going to grocery shopping, walking around the city or just stay at home doing housework and cooking.
On my last day of stay, Abozar took leave from work and we did day trip out of the city.
Located in Mahan, 35km Southeast of Kerman (approximately 45-minutes drive), Shazdeh Garden is a green oasis rise out of the arid-desert like a beautiful mirage. Literally translated as Prince’s Garden in Persian, the garden was once the Summer residence of a prince, Mohammad Hasan Khan Sardari Iravani.
Shazdeh Garden is the ninth Iranian Garden registered on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The inside of its internal walls is a glorious garden on Eden complete with tall trees and fresh water running straight from the mountain.
Admission fee: 200,000Rls (~USD4.70) as of May’16
After 2-hours exploring Shazdeh Garden, we drove another 45-minutes to Rayen. Rayen is more popular to sight-seeing Arg-e Rayen (Rayen Castle), but we decided to skip it due to the heat. I ended up being brought to a less well-known yet gorgeous attraction: Rayen Waterfall.
I was surprised by the sudden drop of temperature in this area. Abozar told me that this area tend to snow during Winter. Imagine desert and snow, how cool is that! This place is popular among the locals from other cities to escape the heat of Summer, and I believe the mountainous scenery and cool weather made the drive totally worth it.
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Simin and Hossein drove about 1-hour with their 9-months old daughter to Kerman city to pick me up back to Rafsanjan. Honestly, I can’t find much information about this place and just accepted the invitation from Simin on Couchsurfing platform. Evidently, they are one of the best people I met during my travels.
Simin took me to her French lesson where we had so much fun. I was enjoying myself being lost in the languages of Farsi and French, while Simin trying to do translation in English for me. The lesson was on facial features and we were asked to describe each other’s features. My memory was just filled with laughter with the rest throughout the whole lesson.
As there isn’t supermarket or bazaar in the area, grocery shopping was so much fun hopping from different places to get everything you need. One of the days we decided to try making pizza at home starting from scratch.
I also got to meet the extended family members of the couple. One night, we went to Simin’s uncle place for Iftar which was a 45-minutes drive from her house. It was an even smaller town with no mobile signal at all.
My best time was with the couple’s university friends. They are very funny and open-minded Iranians whom I enjoyed talking with for hours. Through them I got to learn about the younger generation’s thinking of living in Iran. I also get to understand that Simin becomes very active in Couchsurfing because it is not easy for them to travel out of the country.