Daily stories about toiran. Read stories about our road trips adventures in different cities and office life.

Month: June 2015

Meymand, not your ordinary stone village


Homes in the 3,000-year-old Meymand Village, Kerman Province, have been built partially underground. ( photo/ Shahin Kamali)

During our road trip to Kerman Province Shahin and I (Amir Sina) visited the historic Meymand Village. This village which is north of Sirjan has a known history of 3,000 years. I had read articles where Meymand had been compared to Cappadocia in Turkey and Kandovan Village near Tabriz in East Azarbaijan. Having previously visited both Cappadocia and Kandovan I was eager to see Meymand for myself.


Meymand homes are built to protect inhabitants from extreme winter cold and summer heat. ( photo/ Shahin Kamali)

After a 90-kilometer drive we arrived at our destination. The village did in some ways resemble Cappadocia in that houses are made of stone but unlike the fairytale Turkish town which has been abandoned by its inhabitants, Meymand is still full of life.


Meymand Village is only 90 kilometers from Sirjan in Kerman Province. ( Photo/ Homeyra Tayebipour)

I realized that Meymand is also similar but still very different from Kandovan. While Kandovan houses were carved in stone to protect inhabitants from the Mongol army, I was told by one of the locals that in Meymand houses were created partially underground to protect inhabitants from extreme winter cold and summer heat. He told me that temperatures inside these homes seldom vary and are almost always consistent.


the inside of a residence in Meymand. Temperatures seldom vary inside these residences and remain mostly the same. ( photo/ Shahin Kamali)

I was surprised to see that despite its small size the village had signs at every corner showing directions to the apothecary store, souvenir shops and other landmarks. To make extra cash Meymand locals sell dried and fresh walnuts, almonds and other nuts, and are always inviting passersby to try their product.


Local woman sits by her assortment of dried nuts as she waits for customers. ( photo/ Homeyra Tayebipour)

We met up with the resident Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization authority who invited us for a chat over tea. He was extremely friendly and told us about the 10,000-year-old stone carvings found near the village. He told us he was taking two German tourists to see the Meymand sheep pen and that he would be happy to show us the way as well.


Shelters made with twigs, branches and leaves near the Meymand sheep pen where shepherds rest. ( photo/ Shahin Kamali)

There were several makeshift shelters near the pen where shepherds rest. We met Sakineh Khatoon outside one of these shelters. She invited us into her home and offered us some clove tea and gave us fresh walnuts and dates. Even though she didn’t have much she didn’t think twice about offering us what little she had. We were moved by the hospitality shown to us in Meymand and left the village with fond memories.


Sakineh Khatoon invited us into her home and offered us endless cups of clove tea with fresh walnuts and dates. ( photo/ Shahin Kamali)

My advice, visit Meymand during the fall or early spring. Don’t say no to tea invitations by locals. Buy some dried nuts from locals and take pictures!


If you are interested in visiting Meymand, you can join our 12 Days of Desert Life tour or contact us for a tailored tour of Kerman. Remember you are only a few clicks away from an unforgettable trip!

Taking on Armand River rapids in Iran

I (Iman) have always been known as a thrill seeker and an adrenaline junky so when the long weekend came up I jumped at the opportunity to go on a rafting trip on Armand River in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province in southwestern Iran.

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The group took on the challenge of a 22-kilometer rafting trail on Armand River. ( Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

I met my fellow travelers at the rendezvous point in Tehran at 7:30 am. We were a group of 40, around 30 of us were traveling on the tour bus and the rest had decided to follow the bus in their cars. Our destination was Darreh Yas Village, just before the city of Borujen, which was our base camp. The bus had to stop a few kilometers from the village as the road was too narrow for it to pass and we boarded minibuses that were to transport us the rest of the way.


The base camp can be reached after passing tall cliffs. ( Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

We stopped at a local restaurant for lunch and were surprised to see the unbelievably low prices on the menu. The restaurant did not have tables and instead served food on Takhts. A takht means bed or throne in the Persian language and is actually a wooden platform covered with a rug that simultaneously serves as a table and a chair. I opted for Qormeh Sabzi, a lamb stew with parsley and other herbs cooked to perfection with beans and dried lime, served with rice. The running joke in Iran is that knowing how to cook this all time favorite Persian dish tops every eligible Iranian bachelor’s list of marriage criteria!!


The group stops for lunch at a local restaurant along the way. The restaurant serves well-priced Persian dishes including the all time Iranian favorite Qormeh Sabzi. ( Photo/ Amir Arbabian)

The remainder of the way to base camp we experienced changing weather at every turn of the road from sunny to an overcast sky and even rain and wind. After passing a few cliffs and a thin line of trees we reached our base camp. A zip line cable extended from a hill above camp to all the way across Armand River. No one dared to try the zip line as it looked very scary.


The group unwinds after a long road trip at the dorm at base camp. A zip line cable extends from the hill above camp to all the way across Armand River. ( Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

Out of nowhere spring rain began to fall on the camp and quickly created a beautiful mess. When the rain stopped we had a delicious meal of rice and fish and a pickled side dish. We turned in early to prepare for the adventures of the next day.

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As part of the tour, participants rappel down a draw bridge suspended 58 meters above the river. ( Photo/ Iman Jahangani)


Early in the morning we put on our rafting clothes, helmets and life jacket and headed for a draw bridge suspended 58 meters above the river. We rappelled down two ropes hanging from the bridge to reach the river where 6 rafts and fast moving Grade 4 rapids awaited us.


The group listens to the rafting coach before beginning their river experience. ( Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

We paddled for 2 hours and stopped at one of the small islands along the river to rest and treat ourselves to some tea/ juice and cake. We resumed paddling until reaching the second camp at Darreh Eshq (Love Valley). There is no better welcome after a day of strenuous physical activity than a delicious campfire kebab.

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The group prepares to begin their second day on Armand River. ( Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

On day 2 we set out to tackle the fierce rapids of Armand. The rafting guide proposed a challenge to swim across the river and back. Rafts would wait ahead to catch anyone who was swept by the currents. The currents looked fierce and only 10 people volunteered. Only 2 of the volunteers, a water polo coach and a rafting guide, managed to reach the shore.

On the swim back the rafting guide was caught in the rip current and was picked up by the safety rafts. It was the water polo coach who gave us the biggest scare as he suddenly disappeared under water. We feared the worst and thought the currents had pulled him under but suddenly he broke surface near the rafts!


A group photo to mark an adventurous day of rafting on Armand River. ( Photo/ Uncredited)

Once everyone was on the rafts, the guide gave us safety instructions on how to swim to the shore or the next raft and not drown if our boat capsizes. Our adventure continued with more paddling and a short stop to rest.

Iman (R) with a fellow traveler on Armand River, which is the origin of Karoun River - the longest and only navigable waterway in Iran- in Khuzestan Province. ( Photo/ Siavash)

Iman (R) with a fellow traveler on Armand River, which is the origin of Karoun River – the longest and only navigable waterway in Iran- in Khuzestan Province. ( Photo/ Uncredited)

We reached our final camp a bit after noon. This time chicken kebab grilled over campfire awaited us. After lunch, minibuses transferred us back to our bus for the journey back home. We arrived back in Tehran at 5 am. Despite being tired I was full of energy and ready to start work at 9 am.

The 22-kilometer rafting trail on Armand River was an unforgettable experience that I am eager to repeat.


For more information about the rafting tour featured in this blog, check out the Iran River Rafting tour on our website.

Stone Garden, one man’s silent protest to injustice

I (Amir Sina) always try to refer to different sources from Google to books and even friends to find information about a city prior to traveling there with Shahin.  When we decided to go to Sirjan in Kerman Province I found out about the extraordinary Bagh-e Sangi or Stone Garden.


The eerie Stone Garden in Kerman Province was created by Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour over 50 years in protest to the Pahlavi era Land Reforms that cost him his lands. ( Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

After an approximately 40-kilometer drive on the Sirjan-Baft road we reached Balvard Village. This village does not have breathtaking nature or ancient ruins to offer. Its attraction is a garden, a massive art installation created over half a century.

This art installation is a garden but one with no living plants, flowers or fruit trees. The trees of the garden are all dead and bear fruits of stone that hang from their lifeless branches and perform an eerie death dance in the wind.


Darvish Khan transported single-handedly transferred massive pieces of stone to his garden to create this art installation. ( Photo/ Shahin Kamali)

What is known about the history of this garden is that it was created by a man named Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour who lost most of his lands during the Land Reforms of 1963 in the Pahlavi era (1925-1979). He lost his remaining garden to drought. As he was deaf and mute and could not protest using words, he dedicated the remainder of his life to creating this morbid conceptual work of art.


The car parked in front of the Stone Garden as the team prepares to take photos. ( Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

For over 50 years, Darvish Khan single-handedly transported mammoth pieces of stone that would pose a challenge to even people with physical strength from nearby mountains and valleys to the garden and used everything from telegraph cables to bicycle chains to hang them from the branches of his dead trees. Locals say Darvish Khan transported most of the dead trees in this garden from elsewhere and planted them in the ground to create his artwork.


Darvish Khan used everything from cables to bicycle chains to hang stones from the dead trees in his garden. ( Photo/ Shahin Kamali)

When you see the size of these stones you can feel the depth of Darvish Khan’s rage at the injustice he suffered. Darvish Khan passed away in 2007 at the age of 90. Nearly eight years on and one can still sense his rage reverberating through the garden.


The poem on Darvish Khan’s gravestone reads: Saw a man no stranger to pain who lost his all, After a lifetime of pain and sorrow he created a garden of stone, Fruits of the garden are stones of all sizes, Hung with much labor from branches, No oppressor will take this stone garden from him, This was his hope when creating his garden.” ( Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

We reached the garden around 2 pm. The sun was perfect for taking photos. We took pictures for four hours but Shahin was not satisfied with the result as the magnitude of the garden could not be captured in any frame. Tired and frustrated we laid down on the ground.


Amir Sina (pictured) takes selfie after a few hours of photography.

That’s when we found the best angle to photograph the garden and its massive scale. Shahin and I both got down on our backs in one corner of the garden and began taking pictures.


No one knows how Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour managed to lift and hang these heavy stones from the trees in Bagh-e Sangi. ( Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

If you ever decide to visit Kerman Province, its endless deserts and Shahdad Kalouts (yardangs) do not hesitate to take the road to Bagh-e Sangi. Eerie as it may be, this garden is an attraction you should not miss.


Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour in a scene from the 1976 ‘The Garden of Stones’ by Parviz Kimiavi, which won a Silver Bear prize at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) the same year.

Chabahar: Journey to the ends of the world

Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1-1797x1198 As a photojournalist I (Shahin) love my job with as it takes me to exciting new destinations across Iran where I can take photos of places, beautiful sunsets and sunrises and people. While I have traveled with different team members, Amir Sina is the person I have traveled most with and the person who accompanied me on the trip to Chabahar.

Chabahar is a humid city considered the warmest place in Iran during the winter and the coolest port in southern Iran during the summer. It is because of this mild spring-like climate that Chabahar is known as Chahar Bahar meaning four springs.

We arrived in Chabahar in the morning just as the city was coming to life. After driving around for a bit to get a feel of the city we headed for the bazaar. Colorful wearings of women in Chabahar As Chabahar borders Pakistan, the people of the city share their taste for spicy food and traditional dress consisting of shalwar kameez with their Pakistani neighbors. Women cover their heads with a colorful piece of cloth that is a cross between a dupatta and a chador. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1-5760x3840 There was a great shot I just had to take at every turn! We finally stopped to buy grilled spicy chicken wrap with chopped cabbage and special hot sauce from one of the many vendors selling street food in the colorful bazaar. We couldn’t get enough of these delicious spicy bites. I don’t know how, but Amir Sina ate 10 of them! Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 Our next stop was the waterfront. Because Chabahar is a fishing port, you can always see locals weaving fishing nets or painting their boats in vivacious colors by the waterfront. I spoke to one of the local fishermen who told me they sometimes go on tuna fishing trips all the way to Somalia and sell their catch to local tuna canneries when they return. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1200 We knew before coming to Chabahar that it was a place mostly famous for its unusual natural attractions. Most of these attractions lie between the city and Gwadar Bay on the maritime border of Pakistan and Iran. Even though I could not wait to start taking photos, it was impossible to fit everything into one day. We agreed to visit the Mud Volcano first and leave the rest of the attractions for our second day.

The Mud Volcano in Bandar Tang is a 100-kilometer drive from Chabahar. This 100-meter volcano erupts and extrudes cold mud every minute. Locals told us that the mud has therapeutic properties. We didn’t need much encouragement and both decided to take a proper mud bath! Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali We returned to the city for dinner at Khalij (Gulf) restaurant which we had photographed earlier in the day.  We were greeted by the cool sea breeze and a wonderful view of the sea. I opted for a delicious local dish called Karahi (a spicy stew made with chicken/lamb and tomato considered a Pakistani dish popular in Chabahar) and Amir Sina decided to try one of the many seafood options on the menu. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1200 Our second day started with a tasty cup of local Chai Sheer, which is essentially black tea brewed in milk instead of water, and dates before starting our drive to Gwadar Bay. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 Our first stop was Lipar Wetland or the Pink Lagoon that is famous for its red tide phenomenon. Every year in late winter and early spring as well as end of summer and early fall the water of this lagoon turns pink because of the algal bloom.

The striking view of the Martian Mountains took my breath away! Looking at the grayish-white grooves created by thousands of years of wind and rain I could not help but think that these mountains had been painted on canvas by a skilled painter. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 We continued to Gwadar Bay where Iran ends and Pakistan begins. There was gray dust in the air and not a single soul in sight. I felt like we had reached the ends of the earth. We made our way onto one of the empty boats and decided to wait until the dust storm passed. We fell asleep and upon waking from our nap found everything, including ourselves, covered in a thick coat of gray dust! Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 Would I ever return to Chabahar again? Definitely! Chabahar has won itself a special place in my heart not just because I loved the food and its picture perfect sites but because of its unique culture that you cannot experience anywhere else in Iran.

A scoop of heaven in Shushtar


Khuzestan Province was one of my (Amir Sina) most favorite destinations in southern Iran. Khuzestan is the land of sun, ancient civilizations, oil, palm trees and dates. Shahin, a photojournalist, and I had been on a road trip in the south for several days and we had already traveled to a few cities including Dezful before we decided to stop in Shushtar.

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We took the scenic route to Shushtar, the city which some say has 7,000 years of history and is home to a Historical Hydraulic System that has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some even say the story of Shushtar goes back to the time of the legendary warrior king, Houshang the Demon Slayer, who according to legend defeated the Black Demon of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi’s Book of Kings, to become the ruler of the world. Houshang is said to have built Shushtar as a beautiful city but it fell into ruin and was rebuilt by the Sassanids.  

Our first stop was of course the Historical Hydraulic System of Shushtar – a network of watermills, weir bridges, dams, water channels, rivers, and moats along with a castle that controlled the flow of the operation. The oldest part of the Hydraulic System is a manmade river built by the Achaemenids (550-330 BC) named Gargar Channel.


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I was most interested in seeing Shadorvan Weir Bridge which locals know as Band-e Kaiser or Caesar’s Bridge. This bridge was built in 260 CE by Roman soldiers and engineers who were taken into captivity along with Emperor Valerian (reign 253–260 CE) after his defeat by Shapur I (241-272 CE). Looking at this astonishing arch bridge I could not help but wonder what it would have looked like if only it had not been damaged by severe floods and had remained intact. We used the morning sun to capture photos of the Hydraulic System and spent some time admiring this intricate network. Before we knew it was time for lunch.

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We asked around and were told Mostofi House is the best place for lunch in Shushtar. It was a perfect choice! A traditional Qajar mansion turned restaurant with a fabulous view of Shadorvan Bridge and mouthwatering Persian and local dishes, what more could one ask for!

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After a few more hours going around the city to GPS map the attractions, talk to hotels, and restaurants we were ready to head to our next destination. But before hitting the road we decided to try the famous buffalo milk ice cream of Shushtar. This creamy scoop of heaven was the perfect ending to our short Shushtar visit.


My advice:  if you decide to visit Shushtar just remember, summer may not be the best time for you. Fall and winter are the best seasons for Shushtar when you can make the most of the pleasantly mild climate and enjoy the unforgettable sights! Try the buffalo ice cream and of course if you can, watch the sun set over the Shushtar Hydraulic System!


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