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. Here, you won’t be bothered by touts; instead, you’ll encounter some of the friendliest people in Iran who are simply delighted that you’ve 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. Abozar told me that tonight will be a feast as his wife’s family will be coming over to his place. Abozar’s shy and pretty wife, Maryam, welcomed me at the house. She started serving me mint tea and zoolbia bamieh (Persian crispy and sugary donuts). 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. 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 dining with a Muslim family in Malaysia, everyone sits on the rug to feast as the dishes are spread out. A meal for Iftar consists of colourful saffron rice, naan, a variety of poultry – usually one will be fried or grilled and the other will cook with gravy, seasonal vegetables, Doogh (Persian yogurt drink) and Sholezard (rice pudding) and mint leaves for chewing after food.
After the meal, women handle the plate clearing and washing, while men engage in conversations about their day or discuss current politics. I kept the amused kids entertained by demonstrating how a Polaroid camera works. While waiting for the desserts, they served tea and Summer fruits. It was already past midnight when dinner is officially done. 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 time with Maryam grocery shopping, walking around the city, or doing housework and cooking at home. 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.
The ninth Iranian Garden registered on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List is Shazdeh Garden. The internal walls form a glorious garden reminiscent of Eden, with tall trees and fresh water flowing directly 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.
The sudden drop in temperature in this area surprised me. Abozar told me that this area tend to snow during Winter. Imagine desert and snow, how cool is that! This place, popular among locals seeking a summer escape, offers mountainous scenery and cool weather, making the drive totally worth it.
Simin and Hossein, with their 9-month-old daughter, drove an hour to pick me up in Kerman city and take me back to Rafsanjan. Honestly, I can’t find much information about this place and just accepted the invitation from Simin on Couchsurfing platform. Evidently, one of the best people I met during my travels is them.
Simin took me to her French lesson where we had so much fun. I was enjoying getting lost in the languages of Farsi and French, while Simin tried to provide English translations for me. We focused on facial features during the lesson and were tasked with describing each other’s features. Laughter filled the memories of the entire lesson with the rest.
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. I had the opportunity to sample a wider range of desserts, including Gaz (Persian nougat with pistachios) and Ranginak (cake with dates stuffed with toasted walnuts, topped with crushed pistachios).
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 learned that Simin is highly active on Couchsurfing due to travel challenges abroad.
Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!