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  • Shelley Dark

#15 dust of Iran to humidity of Oman

The excitement today on the way to Kashan was to be seeing a nuclear plant. Habib has been saying for days that we are going to see one, and we must NOT take a photo or the bus will be stopped, our cameras will be inspected, we will be held for days, and the seriousness of his face suggested that far worse could be on the cards. I think that after seeing us all in action this week he doesn't believe we can help ourselves. I have never considered that I might be excited about seeing a nuclear power plant but after the buildup, I was beside myself. Well, almost.

Habib has to stop every hundred kilometres or so to check in to police and/or highway officials with paperwork, so I think the tourist industry is highly regulated.

When we actually did pass the nuclear facility on a long flat plain, it turned out to be underground, so there was nothing really to see except more desert. The only evidence were gun mounds here and there with some very old looking guns covered with army camouflage netting draped over poles. A couple of soldiers standing about looking desultorily at the guns. I don't think they got the memo about the risk posed by passing tourists.

We stopped at the bottom of the red village of Abyeneh for a cup of Habib's coffee and some delicious pastries again. Over morning tea, Ali told us that petrol in Iran is 10c a litre, diesel 30c. Imagine.

On a nearby plane tree, a little graffiti. Hoda said it means 'meadow of wild flowers'. Even in Persian graffiti, there is poetry.

The village is perched on the side of a hil. It was a thriving village once, but the younger generation left for the big smoke, and it was almost abandoned. Those who are left depend on tourism. The hill is so steep in parts that the roof of one house is the back yard of another.

Ali took us on a hike in the heat through the village, then down bush tracks.

Past lilac-coloured flowers of salvia growing in a gully.

And the spent flower heads of a small clematis.

We crossed the gully and walked up a hill on the other side to look back at the village. It's quite camouflaged against the mountain behind. The red is a lovely contrast with the lavender mountains in the distance.

Way off on the other side high up beyond the village, I could see a white dot. When I zoomed in, a man was sitting on rocks, looking down. He'd had quite a climb. You can see traces of building there against the rocks.

It's cold here in winter. Animals are sheltered in caves. There's little doorways like this all over the lower hills.

Further up the hill behind us, you can trace the water by green growth. We walked back into the village.

This man was riding a donkey while his wife walked behind. Maybe she can't ride a donkey. I know I'd rather walk. I couldn't believe he had on a beanie and jumper in sweltering heat. I wondered why.

I spent a while trying to capture two wasps drinking from a tap. I suppose they are using it to make mud for a nest.

Old doorways in Abyeneh.

The man's donkey now parked in the street, snoozing.

Would you call these minimal windows? They're probably on the western side to keep out the heat.

I don't know how you'd keep whites white in this village.

Speed limits on the divided highway vary and closer to Kashan there were different speeds for different lanes. We were there by lunch time at a restaurant on the edge of town.

After lunch at a road restaurant we went to Tepe Sialk, the site of a 5500 year old ziggurat - it's the oldest known of these tiered pyramid-like mounds made by an ancient Sumerian civilisation. It's thought they were temples bringing these people closer to the gods. They chose this place because of the excellent water supply nearby: the Cheshmeh ye Soleiman or Solomon's Spring has been bringing water to this area from nearby mountains for thousands of years.

The archaeological dig in the 1930's was done by French nationals and most of the finds are in the Louvre. The ziggurat itself has been reduced in size by centuries of weathering. Today a really hot wind was blowing and the landscape felt desolate. I'm constantly reminded what things would look like without water.

One of the most famous gardens in Persia or Iran is the Fin Garden and it was on the agenda next. It also depends on the same qanat as the Sialk Ziggurat. Although you wouldn't know it from this photo because I stood and waited for an opportune moment, it was full of people on the hajj holiday, mostly locals picnicking and sitting on the sides of the shallow channels dangling their feet in the water. Guards were circulating telling children to get out of the channels. Why, I wondered. That's what they're for.

It has a typically Persian design, with the entrance in the middle of the bottom of this plan, a central viewing pavilion and swiftly flowing channels following the rectangular grid.

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